Had you asked me a few years back what I thought were the advantages of being half of a gay, childless couple, I’m pretty sure ”Not having to discuss the birds and the bees with a preteen” would have been among my top five. Naturally, life being the irony carousel that it is, when I was driving back from the grocery store over the holiday with my tweener nephew, a conversation about his first school dance took an abrupt turn into where babies come from.
This not being my primary field of expertise, I tried to focus on the basics, with helpful tips on the anatomy of the opposite sex such as, ”No, it’s not called a ‘virginia.”’ Okay, he may be pulling my leg a bit, but he’s about seven-minutes-and-counting from puberty so I’m not taking any chances because I have no interest in being a ”great uncle” anytime soon.
It’s unfamiliar territory for me, the impulse to make sure the kid doesn’t engage in some of the same behaviors I did as a teen — mostly drinking for my closeted teen self, but there were a couple of unprotected heterosexual incidents that mostly serve as a reminder that even as gay as I am my overall lifetime risk of procreation is actually greater than zero — which seems hypocritical, but also necessary. At least until he’s 18. Or preferably 21.
This feeling of being caught between my younger, more transgressive days and my settled-in, more conformist present isn’t a new contradiction for me, but the news out of San Francisco regarding the proposed ban on public nudity made it even more distinct in my mind, especially reading William Saletan’s take on it in Slate, under the headline, ”San Francisco’s nudity ban shows gay households aren’t making society queer. They’re making gays bourgeois.”
While the silly headline makes me want to strip right now, the column actually just makes the point that marriage equality activists — and its queer detractors — have been making for years, that marriage is an essentially conservative (in a classical sense, not current GOP sense) and assimilationist effort. The mistake, though, is that it doesn’t ”make” gays bourgeois. These so-called bourgeois gays, lesbians and bisexuals have been around forever. It was always going to be the fate of the gay movement that as radicals changed society enough for more people to come out of the closet, the ”gay movement” would become a lot less radical. Marriage equality exploded as an issue because so many gays and lesbians wanted it to, not because any political strategist or queer theorist decreed it to be so.
Anyway, to get back to nudity, which is way more titillating and fun, I suppose I now fall into the camp of people who think having a group of naked dudes hanging out in the neighborhood isn’t the best thing for a community. I’m all for nudist friendly places like beaches and parklands. I would hate to see bacchanalia like San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair forcibly covered up. But there has to be some level of give-and-take when it comes to determining what’s appropriate and not in the spaces we have to share with each other every day. Even in San Francisco.
This is a bit of an awkward position for me, given that I’ve been all over the continuum between transgressive and conformist. I’ve never been a nudist, but I have found myself in awkwardly public situations like wandering around Rosslyn on an early Sunday morning looking for a cab while wearing nothing but boxer-briefs, Doc Martens and a jean jacket.
Which, now that I think about it, should be another entry on my nephew’s growing ”Do as I say, not as I do” list.