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Sky Gilbert, University Research Chair in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies at Guelph University.
Sky Gilbert, University Research Chair in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies at Guelph University.

Sky Gilbert

If that's what it means to be gay, I quit Add to ...

I am no longer gay. I quit. But that doesn't mean I don't still adore my pink high heels (and the questionable stains on them). In fact, my unrepentant love for those smelly old shoes has very much to do with why I am defecting and/or just resigning from the club.

No, it's not just because I'm old and tired (although I am); it's because the love that dare not speak its name is now shouting it out from the rooftops. Gay is everywhere and, paradoxically, gay is also over. But the new gay that is simultaneously invisible and ubiquitous is not the gay I once knew.

I think it was Modern Family that did it. I flicked on the TV - as I always do when I hear of a new sitcom with gay characters - and what a shock! Not only is the gay couple on the show completely accepted by their family as a whole, but there is nothing the least bit gay about them. They are a pair of nice, overweight, unattractive middle-class men obsessed with their adopted Asian daughter. I found myself searching for a camp moment, but I'm afraid neither of them is any nellier than the straight husband on the show.

But, like most mainstream entertainment, Modern Family is merely a symptom of what's really going on. For years, gay neo-con Andrew Sullivan (he's the only gay man you are likely to see on CNN, ever) has been telling us that being gay is all about being a good citizen. In fact, if you speak to the leaders of most gay and lesbian political groups about what it means to be gay today, they will probably answer using the words "love" or "family" or "caring."

Well, the world of pretty rainbows, church on Sunday, monogamy, respectability and good citizenship is not the world I signed onto when I filled out my gay card.

How did this happen? Well, we live in a cyber-reality of Twitter, blogs and virtual sex. The great movements of the sixties - leftism, feminism, gay liberation and civil rights - are over. That doesn't mean we're done with class inequities, misogyny, racism or homophobia. But political correctness makes us think they're gone - and besides, we have the endlessly satisfying drug of technology to assuage any and all insecurities. Heck, these days no one interacts with anyone in the real world long enough to care about what goes on out there anyway.

In this contradictory era, there is a black U.S. president and yet police officers are still being accused of racial profiling. And Adam Lambert - the gayest American Idol contestant ever - was recently criticized by the gay community for wearing makeup and kissing a guy in his act. (Jennifer Vanasco, editor-in-chief of website 365gay.com, said Mr. Lambert tarnished the reputation of gays in the eyes of middle America, "who think gay life is exactly what he portrayed on the American Music Awards.")

The contradictions of postmodern culture don't stop there. Though some real-life gay men are adopting Asian children, some are so pressed by the new, perfect, sanitized gay ideal that they end up drowning themselves in suicidal drugs and unsafe sex.

Here's my own personal solution. I reject the gay world. I have a new identity: I'm an ESP (pronounced ESPIE). That means effeminate sexual person. I'm committed to things that are no longer gay: alternative sexual and romantic relationships (promiscuity) and gender play (I prefer my women to act like men and my men to act like women). Don't worry, you can be a butch woman and still be an ESPIE - all you have to do is commit to gender-inappropriate behaviour of any kind and enjoy sex for pleasure alone (please don't do it - yawn - just to beget children).

Lately, Toronto's gay press has been bemoaning straight forecasts of what some have called "the premature death of Church Street." One gay columnist says that, even if the condos drive the gays out of our neighbourhood, we will always have Church Street (sigh) in our hearts.

But it isn't just Church Street that's on the wane. When being gay is the same as being straight, there's no need for gay anything. Gay bars, books, gay magazines, gay newspapers - gay culture as we know it - will eventually disappear.

But, hey, I'm an ESPIE! So I don't care. And finally I can stop complaining.

Sky Gilbert is University Research Chair in Creative Writing and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. His latest poetry collection is A Nice Place to Visit.

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