Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On "The Trouble With Gay Men"

I had an opportunity to catch part of the broadcast of Stonewall co-founder Simon Fanshawe's documentary "The Trouble With Gay Men" earlier this week. While I did not see the entire show (and plan to tape and view the Saturday morning re-broadcast), it did seem that the documentary was a bit disjointed in parts and lacked a consistent central message.

However, Fanshawe did bring up two issues which are persistent bugbears in the gay community -- the near-epidemic use of drugs in the urban club and bar scenes, as well as the "promiscuity/monogamy divide." While I am not going to comment on the virtue of his presentation of the content in this post, I do note that the debate he's attempting to participate within is an old one -- and the same old retorts of years past are emerging from the more libertine corners of gay culture.

Let's face it, gay culture is not very friendly -- and is very Darwinian. Most gay men in the urban scene "know what they want," and more often than not, it's not a coffee with an interesting fellow they've met over a discussion about the latest exhibition at the Tate. This sex-oriented urban culture, when mixed with drug use, results in a deadly cocktail, as the soaring rate of HIV infections amongst gay men in Britain indicates quite starkly.

Common sense, and the experience of many gay men, suggests that perhaps monogamous relationships aren't such a bad idea, especially amongst seronegative persons. They effectively halt the spread of HIV, they're lower risk (when truly monogamous), they help individuals achieve greater stability in life (when healthier relationships), and studies have even indicated that people of all genders in long-term relationships are both happier in life (on average) and earn slightly greater sums of money.

So why is this idea so relentlessly attacked by the usual suspects in the urban scene? I have no idea. It's not as though gays are being forced into long term relationships, they're simply being invited by many other gays to consider the possibility. However, there's often so little a place for monogamous gay couples within much of gay culture (and most certainly the gay media) that unsurprisingly, many (if not most) simply choose to "drop out" of gay life after establishing long-term bonds. Hence, the stereotype of the "boring suburban gay homemakers." I suspect many of those folks simply don't find gay venues to be very welcoming once they're coupled and it's clear they're just after socialising rather than eros. This is "tolerance and diversity?" We can do much, much better, I think.

I do know that such virulent rejection of coupled gays, and rejection of new ideas about stable and self-affirming gay relationships in the age of HIV and other debilitating STDs is a tragedy. As is the situation of the man who buys into the high-fashion, high-drama, low-commitment mythology and discovers that, 20 years or two stone later, he's now one of the "undesirable trolls" cast out into the outer darkness of urban gay life -- devoid of mainstream participation because he's no longer "hot" or "in style."

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