I’ve been many different gay men over the course of my life. Like most of us, I started off as the closeted gay man who sometimes overcompensated with my behavior so I wouldn’t appear feminine. I’ve also been the newly out gay man who overcompensated in the other direction and spent more than a few months flouncing around campus in misbegotten Chess King outfits.
I’ve been the activist gay man, with the meta twist that I posed as the activist gay man in the old Unofficial Gay Manual. I’ve been a party-focused gay man who transitioned into a respectably professional gay man. These days I’m a suburban gay man who occasionally dallies in being the ”I’m at a bar reliving my youth” gay man.
In effect, there is no one way to be gay. That doesn’t stop some people from insisting there is.
I have to say that Bret Easton Ellis is completely, incontrovertibly correct when lashing out at GLAAD and other keepers of the great gay ideal in his Out magazine essay, ”In the Reign of the Gay Magical Elves.” Looking at GLAAD’s decision to block him from attending the media watchdog group’s Los Angeles awards gala, Ellis laments, ”But being ‘real’ and ‘human’ (i.e. flawed) is not necessarily what The Gay Gatekeepers want straight culture to see.”
It’s a fair point. GLAAD’s biggest weakness, after obsessive celebrity worship, is its long-standing tendency to chastise prominent gay and lesbian people for speaking their minds in ways that make GLAAD sad. Aside from being rather infuriating for people who make their living speaking their minds, it completely misses the point: Bret Easton Ellis has the perfect right to be a big gay prick without speech police swooping in, sirens blaring. There are much bigger problems facing LGBT people in America than a gay Generation X writer making an AIDS joke.
What makes situations like this doubly frustrating is that by tsk-tsking Ellis and others for ”offensive” language GLAAD ends up shifting the argument away from what’s actually being said. And Ellis’s Out essay contains some prominent paragraphs that should remind us that while he has the perfect right to be a cantankerous, argumentative dick, every one else has the right to tell him he’s full of shit.
Ellis defends two instances of things he’s said via Twitter that brought the wrath of the ”gay gatekeepers,” his cracking of an AIDS joke about Glee and his musing that Matt Bomer couldn’t play the lead in the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey because Bomer is openly gay.
As for the first, it’s easy enough to knock down by pointing out that if you’re going to make an AIDS joke in 2013, at least make it funny. It’s why Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s ”Everyone Has AIDS” was hilarious while Ellis’s crack was just dumb. Gay people produced the cringingly hilarious Diseased Pariah News all the way back at the height of the AIDS crisis in the ’90s; we have high expectations for our humor.
Defending his comment on Bomer, Ellis writes, ”I thought this because of Matt’s easy openness with being gay … and with baggage that I believe would distract from the heavy sexual fantasy of that particular movie.” Translated from weaseling bullshit, that means Ellis doesn’t believe Bomer can play the role because he’s gay, which is insulting, wrong and, again, dumb.
We don’t need GLAAD or any other ”gatekeepers” to intervene on our behalf here. All of us good gays and bad gays and every gay in between are able to hash this out on Twitter and Facebook and gay magazines. Focus on actual homophobes, not homosexuals with bad attitudes.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com. Follow him on Twitter @seanbugg.