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January 22, 2006

Jimbo to Jeff Gannon: Please Go Do Drag

Casually sifting through the Opinion section of this week's Washington Blade looking for shirtless pictures of the publication's editor, I see another flathering frothy opinion piece by Jeff/James/Guckert/Gannon/Whatever featuring scintillating insights on gay culture like this:

In the gay ghettos of most major cities, revelers could grind the night away in a sea of shirtless, drugged-out narcissists presided over by an overabundance of drag queens and a smattering of porn stars who look like Tarzan but act like Jane.

Jeffrey, Jeffrey, Jeffrey. I shake my head ruefully in your direction. Where do I start with this statement and the cascade of even more presumptuous comments you make about "gay culture"? And how the hell can this crap you write get put in print? There are so many things wrong with the statements you wrote in that column it is clear that you have more issues than National Geographic. And no, I don't think you are "self loathing," as it's clear you really love yourself a lot. I guess the best way to help your emotionally retarded self is to channel my inner Rose Nylund again and tell you a story about when I was a student at St. Olaf. So sit down and get yourself comfortable...

I remember thinking like you once - when I was 20. I had just come out to family and friends and was still dealing with who I was and what I was going to do about it. While my memory rarely serves me, I do have a distinct recollection of standing in the downstairs bar of the Hotel Washington in Madison, Wisconsin, which has since burned down (I didn't do it). The bar in the basement was called 'Rods', and as I looked around at the cocktail and leather queens I almost projected my thoughts audibly:

"I'm not like these people."

Well, yes and no. Now that I'm 35 and old and crotchety, I don't think like that anymore. The "I'm not like these people" period is just one of the phases of coming out - a process which takes far longer than you think and has many more stages than just coming out to friends and family or to the general public as a prostitute. Some people, like you Jeff, get stuck at this phase. Like the dude in that one Star Trek movie who didn't come out of the transporter beam quite right, you're a mess right now.

Of course you are not like other people, you are a unique individual, Jeffrey. But then again you have similarities with other people too, and we all want to be part of a community - it comforts us to have a posse. Some of us buy heavily into a concept of what being gay is, while others, like you, keep to the outskirts like a hyena, moving in for a taste here and there as you describe in your recent piece. I see people like that all the time, always on the periphery, never joining in the fun, whether it be dancing, drinking or even simply talking. They seem very afraid that they will possibly sell out their soul or something?

Yes, some gay people and some circles of gay friends are on lots of drugs, narcissistic, into self-humiliating leather scenes, are drag queens, and all the things you say you saw on New Year's Eve. On that same night I was having a quiet dinner at Logan Tavern with my friends, none of whom are on drugs or are drag queens. But I have had evenings like you described, and gosh darnit I had a frikkin' blast doing it too.

It took me a while to figure out that being gay isn't so different than being straight - it's just more fabulous but with a small group of uptight religious crazy people screaming at you all the time. Each aspect of the "gay community" that you describe is a choice - like a smorgasbord or buffet table, you can take any part of it or leave it. Some of it is quite tasty, while other dishes leave a bad taste in your mouth. I'm not going to load up your plate for you, but I suggest you just buck up and get your plate and load up for a taste or two from the buffet line. I can promise it is tastier than the one over there, but first you have to try it.

No one is making anyone go to a gay bar three nights a week, subscribe to a Sir/boy lifestyle or to have several drag outfits. But I recommend everyone try it. None of these things will stick to you like a herpie sore forever - they are all interest-free commitments you can withdraw from at any time.

And you can come back to some aspects of your pre-coming out phase. Right around 2000 or so I was thinking, "Gee, I sure miss backpacking, birdwatching - and fishing too! I used to really enjoy doing that back in college, but I never do it anymore. I'd like to do that again once in a while." I realized that I had kind of dropped a lot of things I used to do in lieu of going out, partying and doing the gay scene, which was a lot of fun but was starting to get boring. I still do the gay stuff once in a while, but not in fifth gear like I used to. I find it to be hard work. And now I'm doing things once in a while that I remembered I used to like to do, and I enjoy doing them. I guess it's because I'm getting older, but I think it's also having realized that no one is making you do anything "gay", you aren't required to do any of this stuff, and I don't think there is really this horrid "gay community" that you disparage so badly, Jeffrey. There is a wide range of options for you to take part in and subscribe to, but some of them won't jive with you. But to say that all gay people act a certain way or do a narrow selection of things is pretty retarded. Plus, you really don't know what being a drag queen is like until you've tried. So get your ass down to the Goodwill and look for a cheap cocktail dress before the next Drag Race in October. I assure you it will be fun, but no one is stapling the dress to your body permanently, so relax. Some insight and perspective would do you good.

Posted by jimbo at January 22, 2006 6:49 PM

Comments

Great post Jimbo. I came out late but I've had those "I'm not like these people" moments several times. And I agree, by tipping your toe into a couple of different areas it gives you some exposure to how and why some people find some different areas exciting or alluring or fulfilling. And with that exposure I think comes a little more understanding and tolerance. Which is a good thing.

Posted by: trey at January 22, 2006 10:06 PM

I've been looking for shirtless, drugged out narcissists here in Tucson and darn, I can't find any. Maybe because I'm too busy doing my own things (writing, researching, making yummy chocolate chip cookies). Jeffrey's little article reminds me of the March on Washington in 1993 where most everybody tried to be straight-laced and upright kinda guys. There were only a handful of leather/drag queens. Funny though, when I turned on the television that night those handful were the only ones that got media attention.

Posted by: homer at January 22, 2006 11:10 PM

here, here!

and incidently, if you ever want to meet a 5'7", 24yo, queer and slightly Jewish (though still Sicilian) version of Sophia Petrillo, I'm your man.

Posted by: Paul at January 22, 2006 11:54 PM

I love moralizing coming from the mouth of this guy. You know what he did when he used to live up in Philly, before he became a media sensation down here in DC? He ran a liquor store and sponsored the local gay softball team. Is there anything wrong with this? Well, no. Except he would often give alcohol to young, underage kids on the team and take advantage of them. Well known open secret up there.

So yeah Jeff, keep moralizing. We're listening.

Posted by: Dan at January 22, 2006 11:58 PM

Dear Jeff:

I feel the same way you do - I especially can't stand hookers, or "escorts". They're the worst, huh? What leeches.

Yours in solidarity,

Johnny

Posted by: johnny at January 23, 2006 2:58 AM

Was that Rose Nylund or Counselor Deanna Troi you were channeling there? Because I see you in a seafoam green dress with an asymmetrical collar that accentuates your cleavage as you impart this wisdom--all the while being completely empathic, of course.

Or maybe that was just because of the reference to the transporter beam.

Posted by: Jeffrey at January 23, 2006 10:27 AM

The question is - is there any backlash there when they publish his opinions?

Posted by: sam at January 23, 2006 11:12 AM

Great post Jimbo. I fear that I too toss around "self-loathing" a bit too freely sometimes, but then again I've always considered it to be our (the homos) defining characteristic.

Posted by: Joe.My.God. at January 23, 2006 11:49 AM

"and has many more stages than just coming out to friends and family or to the general public as a prostitute."

Love it! Awesome post!

Posted by: Herb at January 23, 2006 12:28 PM

Also check on: self-loathing jews and young women with negative self-images (due to prevailing media imagery).

Fight the patriarchy! :)

Posted by: Dan at January 23, 2006 2:27 PM

I think you're right about acceptance. After reading his article though, I also think that despite his inability to see the positives about "Gay Culture", he is quite correct to point out the superficiality, narcissism, and general overemphasis on sex. Though- who the hell is he to be talking. Isn't this the conservative mouth-piece/whore? Values? OK Jeff, show me yours maybe I'll show you mine. I guess the point is we as a group can do better- but we are only going to do so through self-acceptance and reaching beyond a superficial society. Well written Jimbo!

Posted by: 'monster at January 23, 2006 4:04 PM

He makes one good point - I think gays do struggle with keeping a positive self-image... but it is usually because of guys like HIM - APOLOGISTS for the backwards-minded conservative culture that keeps too many GLBT people in the closet for that much longer - if not forever.

While he rails against the "in-your-face" and defiant slice of the gay culture (i.e. the drag queens, dykes on bikes, radical fairies etc or anyone who doesn't appear "normal") he conveniently leaves out all the bland parts of "gay culture" - the quiet unaffected couples in Vermont, the Cape or just down the street - who struggle with the same crap everybody else does, have the white picket fence etc... ok so many they have more cats than most - but like everything - pick a stereotype to represent a group and of course you just weaken your position.

If you ask me it is these people who just prattle on and lament how they are persecuted because they just happen to be part of a political movement associated with "normalcy"- they are the problem not the drag queens or even muscletwinks!

Posted by: TOS at January 23, 2006 9:59 PM

Well said Jimbo....that guy is such a fracking dork!

Posted by: moby at January 24, 2006 3:05 AM

I never fully understood certain aspects of "gay culture" But then again like level minded thinking people, I know that what I see on TV or read in papers/magazines is not all half nekkid men and drag queens. Just like not all those that are Goth look like an extra from a Siouxsie & the Banshees video.

Most of us gay folk lead pretty boring uneventful lives. And just like straight folk, some of us like to party to disco, while others party to Rammstien;-)

Posted by: Dax at January 25, 2006 7:40 PM