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Bad habits → Even though the world often gives us a rough ride, our bitchiness doesn’t have to define us Story Paul Gallant
anadian gay men of a certain age have a few nasty things tucked in the back of their drawers. Shiny, stretchy and most certainly a fire hazard, 1990s club wear from retailers like Body Body Wear and Priape held us together— tightly together—at a time when gay life was exploding. The skin-tight sleeveless glitter tops in the drawer are mementos of a less hairy, less lumberjack-y era. Wearing them now? A much trickier proposition. When gay men first come out, they often embrace all sorts of trends and attitudes that are relatively harmless in the short term. But they get a little tired. Not just fashion crimes, either. We pick up other habits that are equally hard to get rid of.
“I think some men grow up and do leave their bad behaviour behind, but some men thrive on the drama and the nasty,” says Tyler Curry, a photographer and writer from Dallas, Texas. An article on his blog, tylercurryblog.com, maps out “the six gay men you never want to meet,” ranging from Dr. Sober/ Mr. Sloppy (a drunken lech) and the Serial Dater (a love addict) to the Mombie (a model zombie). Though some readers saw the piece as unfairly demonizing gay guys, Curry confesses that he himself has been every single one of the six types at one time or another in his life. “Looking back, I cringe at everything and laugh at everything.” The way society treats gay people—and how we treat each
other—can leave us with some bad habits. But, like the stretched out T-shirts we now wouldn’t be caught dead in, they don’t have to define us.
Snap judgments A counsellor for more than 30 years, Nelson Parker says one of the most common complaints he hears about gay life is that the community is judgmental. That might emerge from our own feelings of being judged by the straight world. Often expected to account for why we are different, gay men can develop a sharp eye for spotting—and a sharp tongue for pointing out—differences in others. “There’s humour that comes from oppression,” says Curry.
“There’s a release to being a little nasty because you can just get so fed up.” Bitchy humour is both an effective way of quickly making new connections—did you notice the run in that drag queen’s nylons, too?—and a defence mechanism to ward off other people’s judgments. “Gossip is illicit speculation, information, knowledge. It is an indispensable resource for those who are in any sense or measure disempowered,” wrote the American literary critic and historian Henry Abelove in his book Deep Gossip. But when people complain that it’s pushing them apart rather than uniting them, you have to wonder whether it can go too far. “It’s very easy to take for granted what we do like,” says
→ defence mechanism? In trying to be our best do we end up looking like everyone else? And if so, does that mean we end up conforming to a straight standard? inmagazine.ca
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IN Magazine: June 2014 Issue: 49 IN Magazine's June 2014 issue, featuring stories on gay and lesbian living.