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Blake Kanewischer

December 1997

BEARS, TOPS, BOTTOMS, CUBS, SLAVES, MASTERS: LABELS AND DIVISIONS

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." -- this popular childhood saying is meant to steel children against the names they'll be called as they grow up. We've all experienced it even before we knew we were queer. We've probably all been called "nerd", "weirdo", "four-eyes", or various other things over our lives.

Then, we dealt with the "faggot", "queer", "poofter", "queer bent bastard", etc. stage. That was fun, wasn't it? We had the intestinal fortitude to make it through a wall of hateful sayings and bashing. We survived...only to be thrust into a divisive, bitter, bitchy, and angry community.

Gay men and lesbians seem to have a natural dislike of each other. Part of the blame for this can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the first gay liberationists at Stonewall --almost uniformly, they were gay men, and more specifically, they were drag queens. Lesbians were essentially left out from the early movement -- and even today, continue to be left out from many aspects of the gay liberation movement. However, some of this is due to radical feminist dykes, who hate men, because of the patriarchal society they represent, and therefore, they refuse to associate with any XX chromosome-challenged person (men, in short). This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Bisexuals get more bad rep than probably any other sexual minority group. Straight people have to be "bi-curious", especially to fit in in today's trendy culture. If you're female and intend to hang out with the trendy Tommy-boys and girls, you'd damn well better be bisexual -- this curious stuff just doesn't cut it anymore for women. We fags and dykes tend to view bisexuals as fence-sitters. This is a ridiculous view. Due to our lack of understanding of a person's sexuality, we marginalize them -- exactly the same way that straight people marginalize fags and dykes! "Hello, pot...this is the kettle."

My apologies to the lesbians out there, but I'm not lesbian, so I'm not even going to try to tackle the divisions (if any) within the lesbian community. I'll deal with the gay community, which is bad enough.

Bears. Cubs. These terms refer to (generally) larger, hairier men and the men who love them (generally young twinks). These two terms are the cause of much of the negative self-image within the gay community, I would argue, especially the first one. If you're a bear, it's assumed that you're just an ugly fag who can't get a cute guy if he tried. Also, you're assumed to be older, hebephilic, and scum of the earth. Why is this? We have an obsession with the perfect surfer body. Guess what? It doesn't happen in real life. Cubs are looked upon as being somehow defective for not being attracted to the ideal surfer type. I know. I've seen it.

Tops. Bottoms. Is there anyone out there who hasn't seen the dichotomy between tops and bottoms? Tops are "more masculine", and bottoms are "more feminine". I've even heard it applied to oral sex, and not just anal sex. This floored me completely, because apparently, the act of giving a blowjob is feminine, and getting a blowjob is a perfectly masculine thing to do. I even know some people who go so far as to refuse to associate with anyone who isn't a top or bottom, as the case may be. And, then, of course, there are the "middles", who tend also to be viewed as fence-sitters. What's the matter with liking (so to speak) both ends of anal sex?

Slaves. Masters. Within the S&M and B&D communities, there is a distinction between being a slave and a master. "Master" status is a power thing. If you're a master, you call the shots. "Slaves" are those people who like to be dominated. Once again, we have the same problem as with tops and bottoms.

Drag Queens and straight-acting gay men. This is probably the worst of all. I know a great many gay men who are petrified of drag queens or even being seen with them because it's an affront to their masculinity. GET REAL! It's equally as much a part of masculinity to express your female side as it is to express your male side. I honestly don't know what the problem is here, as I've dated drag queens and straight-acting fags, in addition to faggy fags. It's all their personality. Take it or leave it, for crying out loud!

I guess, in short, we need to really take a look inside ourselves as an Oasis anniversary present to rid ourselves of more internalized homophobia. I would be truly happy if we didn't have to play out the fight between Rich Tafel and Urvashi Vaid in the gay media, or other gay, lesbian, and bisexual luminaries without fighting about how best to move the gay movement forward. Let's borrow a page from the Republican Party. We have a big tent. We have to.


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