In Defence of Deviance

Toronto’s PRIDE 2017 celebrated diversity and inclusion. Yet some people—even some gay men—still think that’s a shame.

Men, men, men!  Not a flicker of humor in a back room full of us!  Forever shooting our wads, then rolling away from the damp spot and falling asleep; forever forgetting that ejaculation is for Christmas, but a snuggle is for life.

trudeau pride
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Toronto Pride Parade, June 25, 2017.  [From]

I’ve come fresh from Pink News online, the British gay rag that’s the equivalent of Canada’s Xtra (but with better fashion and that string of pearls that you didn’t buy at Winners, but inherited from Great-Aunt Prunella) where the headline read—and you may want to sit down for this bit, lest you collapse onto your vitrine filled with Lalique crystal—

Men tell homophobic jokes because of their own fragile masculinity, study finds.

Well, slice me to ribbons under the Queen streetcar!  That gem ranks as news right up there with “Sun Rises in East” and “Dog Bites Intruder, Then Pees on Carpet”.

Personally, I’m gobsmacked.

So imagine our surprise when a whole Ford F-150-full of fragile masculine egos came out to defend themselves against the “feminists” who designed and conducted the study.

madonna quote(Feminist in this context fulfills the same function as Nazi does elsewhere, describing as it does not an actual specimen of the genre but a scarecrow, only dressed up in dungarees and a tool belt instead of black leather and jackboots;  and instead of translating as “someone I disapprove of on principle”, it reads, “women I’m extra scared of”.)
Take a gander, or maybe a gender, at this response:

The folks who are most threatened and defensive are the writers and editors at PN who relentlessly push effeminacy and gender deviance whilst denigrating traditional masculinity and manhood. It’s almost as if they know that they are failures as men and want to use sexual orientation as an excuse. But decades of studies have shown that effeminacy manifests only in a minority of gay and bi men. So sexual orientation is no excuse for their personal failure to function as men.

And here’s my response to that :

“Gender deviance”? Holy Krafft-Ebing,

where’s my laudanum? I may have an attack of the vapours!

Pride 2014 / Photo by David Roddis.

I did live in Britain for 16 years and I read Pink News all the time. But that was pre-Internet, so perhaps their relentless pushing of effeminacy was less effective; I’m pretty sure I have at least half a testicle lying around somewhere.

A man is a man is a man, to rewrite Gertrude Stein; if you got the right bits and feel comfortable with them, that’s all it takes. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, that’s called “gender dysphoria” according to the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, the DSM-5, and the word dysphoria in the new edition refers to the anxiety caused by SOCIETAL pressures and the prejudice coming from those who do not accept “deviance” – and what an extraordinarily, umm, nostalgic word choice, by the way.

Nostalgic, or bathetic to the point of laughter, conjuring up as it does the kind of sleazy soft porn novels my dad would have read in the ’50s: “They’re wild! They’re dangerous! They’re: DEVIANT DAUGHTERS!”

But back to your ridiculousness: Men learn how to be men; it’s not innate and it’s not written somewhere in a manual. We learn from fathers, mentors, leaders, heroes (and sometimes the wrong heroes: the most superficially impressive instead of the wisest).

The problem is evident: We men more often than not learn from walking, talking, blustering, posturing models of manhood who have mastered nothing but bravado. We think they’re the reference, but in fact they’ve had a few of the most important pages ripped out.

It’s as though we’re seated at a formal dinner and, at a loss, look to the distinguished older guy on our right; then, following his brave example, we mix our petits pois with the mashed potatoes, then shovel them in with the grapefruit spoon.

Not pretty.

To call a man a failure because he does not fulfill your checklist of “real manhood” tells us perhaps a bit more than you would have us know. That checklist is nothing other than plain old garden-variety homophobia — dressed up in its “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells” best, maybe, but homophobia all the same.

Normal is the average of deviance — Rita Mae Brown

In fact, what you have angrily and perversely crossed off your list is exactly what a man needs: everything you label “effeminate”. But a tablespoon, or more, of “effeminacy” does a man good. Women, you might have noticed, have a refining effect on men; or perhaps their presence helps men lower their guard and discover their own sensitivity, intuition, esthetic sense, all those things we’re taught to push aside by other men who are afraid and unsure of themselves.

So, put a little more mascara on, sweetie.  Slip into your silk peignoir and take a night off. I hereby relieve you of what must be a thankless, lonely burden: of being the self-appointed arbiter of what’s butch.  Us real men will decide that for ourselves.

Real men are works in progress, and we haven’t explored even the first ten percent of what we might become.


Dedicated to every drag queen in
plexiglass pumps who ever threw shade;

every Quentin Crisp who “didn’t know how to
be any other way”; and

to the little boy who chose the Kewpie Doll
as his prize at the fair—me.

Never change.

Pride 2014 / Photos by David Roddis

» Link to the Pink News article  (opens in a new window)

I’m flippant, now take me seriously.

Just to make sure your heads keep spinning slowly like the restaurant in the CN Tower, I occasionally change tack and go all serious on you.  If my suspicions are correct, and they are at least once a decade, this probably happens just at the moment you’ve finally decided never to expect anything from me except sophomoric toilet humor at a level that would make Benny Hill sound like Roland Barthes.

Deal with it, sister.

So what’s on your mind?  you sigh.   (And please, do continue texting while I explain! That’s awesome!)

Male identity is the name of the game.  Since you asked.

human-ovum-structureOh, my fur and whiskers… So many situations in my life are, and have been, the result of men and their – our – lizard brains, and I speak only partly anatomically.

Male identity is a very fragile thing – just ask any woman, especially Camille Paglia. There’s a reason why nuclear warheads are shaped the way they are… or, to paraphrase Freud,

“sometimes a W-40 IS just a phallic substitute devised by a group of Pentagon meth-heads who can barely squeeze into existence one sponge-y, fleeting hard-on between them.”

(FYI, when I’m on form I like to say the above bit in Austrian-inflected German. Kills them in Des Moines.)

A man who doubts his masculinity or who has poor self-esteem has to be handled carefully, because he is potentially dangerous. He is threatened to the very core of his soul and he will inevitably try to assert his territory, or destroy “the enemy”, or even himself.

All because he is, or thinks he is, less than a man or weak.  A pussy.  And most men have zero insight into themselves and their feelings, partly because we’re relentlessly, from the moment we’re born, taught this as an essential strategy, so ain’t that handy. Thanks, society!

A W-40 warhead: The spongey, fleeting hard-on of male identity.  Since you asked.
A W-40 warhead: The spongey, fleeting hard-on of male identity. Since you asked.

As a gay man, I dealt with this issue starting way back, cause I was automatically called “effeminate”, queer, faggot, a big girl’s blouse; and mostly was excluded and shunned by other guys who were my peers. Although I hate like hell to admit any benefit to this, it made me stronger, because I had to make my peace with this isolation — which I accomplished by employing various combinations of sitting by myself in a corner, hysterical crying, and the obsessive reading and re-reading of “Jane Eyre”.

So many times did I crack open the covers of that incomparable pot-boiler, with its plot-by-numbers cautionary tale of lust punished and sanctimony triumphant, that within six months I identified totally with its prim heroine; if my sister hadn’t called me a “sissy” for wanting to sew, I probably would have run up an historically accurate nineteenth-century governess’s uniform, complete with rustling petticoats and crisp, cambric bib, for “Show and Tell”.

So it was, in the end, bizarrely, little Janet herself who took me firmly by the hand and led me into self-confidence and “manhood” –

– in my own mind, which is all that matters, though that pain of being excluded and shunned, the pain that only children can inflict on other children, still lives inside me.

(Think John Hurt in “Alien”, except the hideous creature that bursts forth has been hand-sewn with sequins and edged with piping in a contrasting shade.  It’s just, I dunno – what I do.)

So, when the men in your life are acting like assholes, realize for a moment that they are scared little boys and in psychic pain. It may or may not be worthwhile figuring out a way forward – if you’re being abused, verbally, physically or emotionally, do not tolerate this one more second – and you may not give a damn, but if you do need a way forward this might just give you an inkling.

But you know some people.  Give them an inkling and they’ll take a mile.

This whole sorry affair of creeping male flaccidity can best be summed up by my dyke friend Dominique, who, in exasperation at some business deal or other, is wont to exclaim:

“Men!  Men and zair leettle preecks…!”

She’s from Paris.