ADDENDUM TO THE LAST COLUMN
Last month, I wrote about the links between the pop group Hanson and cultural attitudes towards homosexuality. Since then, two more issues have come to my attention which reaffirm my belief in their connection:
First, apparently a dance remix of MMMBop has been showing up in gay dance clubs, but NOT in straight ones. I think that the DJ's and audience have bought into the marketing of Hanson towards a gay male audience.
Second, the Hanson brothers appeared in one of those "Milk Moustache" ads sponsored by the Dairy Council. Do I need to say more? These ads are just a mainstreamed version of the porno cum-shot. The National Organization for Women protested the ads in their first year because they simultaneously infantilized and sexualized women -- so now the ads are featuring young boys? I think the criticism still holds. Somewhere, some photographer was having a lot of fun: "Okay, boys, now smear this cream on your lips." What is that white stuff anyway? Half-and-half? Condensed milk? I dunno.
Okay, I'm done free-associating on the homoerotic implication of Hanson. Now it's time for an actual column about...
BEING OUT OF THE CLOSET
I came out of the closet over five years ago. I started by telling my friends, my parents, people I bumped into at parties, etc. But I ultimately decided to just stop "coming out." I haven't actually said the words "I'm gay" for a long time. Instead, I decided to treat everyone as thought they already knew that I was gay, and simply not censor my speech at all. Innumerable people found out about my homosexuality when I started bitching about my ex-boyfriends. "Ex-BOY-friend?" they would usually ask. "Uh-huh. (insert name of latest here)'s being a complete bitch." And then everything would be cool. Or a really cute guy would walk past, and I'd say "Oh my, look at that" "What?" "The blonde -- with the backpack" "Ohhhh.." and the light of comprehension dawns.
I've always figured that the more people who know that I'm gay, the better my chances are for getting a date. So I was probably the most openly gay man on campus -- I was president of the gay student group, I was in the school newspaper, blah blah blah. But now I've moved, and I've had to start all over again because no-one down here knows anything about me. My complete honesty non-censorship policy is working fine - anyone I interact with socially will discover that I'm gay within a reasonable amount of time. But most of my interactions with other people come in smaller doses -- for instance, when I'm at work. Should I be out to these people? This is where it gets a little more complicated.
I make sandwiches for minimum wage. It's a terrible job, but it pays the bills. It also means that I meet a lot of people, and to relieve boredom I chat with them while I prepare the order. I've had a couple of people ask me "So, are you married?" -- to which I smile and say "Oh no, not now, not ever." Should I add the information "- I'm gay"? or is that irrelevant? If the issue ever comes up directly I'll be honest, but that very rarely happens.
My sexual orientation is personal information. But it's also a political issue. Plus, I've started to get fed up with heterosexism. I don't know why, usually I just figure that 90% of the world is straight, so of course that's what people are going to assume. But it's started to get to me. Like that ad for Coke: "this is the can that got the cash that bought the gas that took the boys to meet the girls who changed the lives of both the guys who bought the Coke." You've seen this ad on MTV, right? Well, I thought boy #2 was pretty cute. Why couldn't the two boys use the money to get dinner together? or a hotel room? It annoys me that everyone assumes that all boys like girls. Most do, but not all. I don't. But the only way to reduce heterosexism is to challenge it. So should I take every opportunity to let people know that I am not straight? If I want to combat heterosexism, then yes. But at the same time, all I really want to do is make this person a sandwich and get them the hell out of my store.
Amusing anecdote: Three very large, drunken fellows came in late one night. They were all excited, yelling and talking, so (while making their order) I asked "So, what have you boys been up to tonight?" "We've been to a strip club, man," one of them replied. "Oh, which one? Topppers?" -- mentioning the only strip club I've seen in town. "No man, Cheslea's. Is Toppers any good?" "I don't know -- I don't go to strip clubs." "Aw, come on man, why not?" "I'm gay. I don't like girls." "For real?" "Yup." (throwing up his hands) "That's cool, that's cool. You like dick, whatever, I don't care." "You want onions on this?"
And that was pretty much it. I also came out to a bunch of guys who'd just accidentally been to a gay bar -- they wanted directions to another bar "not one of those fag places." They took it pretty well - they even apologized if I'd been offended.
So right now I'm steering a middle road - telling people explicitly that I'm gay when it comes up, but not going out of my way to bring the subject up. Maybe I should wear a little pink triangle on my uniform -- but then, I DO live in Georgia. I don't want to get killed a psycho redneck when I'm working alone at night. It could happen.
Well, I guess that's about all for this month. No real conclusions, I guess. For National Coming Out Day I wore my Pansy Division T-shirt, but that's nothing unusual for me. Any advice, or thoughts about being out at work? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org