June is LGBT Pride Month in America (now even by Presidential decree), and though we in New York City may no longer have acceptable dance clubs, affordable places to live or identifiably, unambiguously gay neighborhoods – all destroyed in the Great Baby Stroller Massacre of recent memory – we do our liquor-sodden, drugged-out best to live up to the challenge.
It is after all a full month. Endless days and nights stretching into the leaden summer heat with no end in sight. Not at all difficult to be cynical or even jaded about; both emotions, or points of view, that we New Yorkers are expected to embody with a legerdemain all but chiseled into law.
At the risk of losing both my Gay™ and City of New York Platinum Eyeroll Überbitch™ cards, I have to disagree; New York City Pride still makes me as giddy and excited as it did the first time I saw the spectacle of it, fresh off the plane from Europe and barely two days here in the City of Babylon. That would be the time I stood in front of Cartier, on Fifth Avenue in all its splendor with the parade going by, and wept like a baby; almost three decades on this earth, and for the first time in my adult life, I was home, in the warm embrace of a family yet to be made.
"In that teeming mass of humanity, a million strong this year, nothing matters except one simple fact: you belong . . "
Starry-eyed idealist, yes, guilty as charged. But the baseline, for me at least, has never changed; the exhilaration of being surrounded by your own flesh and blood, the kindred of your choice, on the world’s biggest stage. In that teeming mass of humanity, a million strong this year, nothing matters except one simple fact: you belong, I do, all of us, together. We have license to forget, for a moment, an hour or a day, all the artificial walls we build to keep each other, friend and foe alike, at a safe remove. To forget for the space of a weekend, a day or even a few hours the dissatisfactions, perils and hardships that still encumber us all. More simply, to just be.
At the very least, to piss off ratfuckers like this one, hovering over Folsom Street East for the duration. The point being something or other to do with history’s favorite, albeit long-deceased, gay Jew.
Or in my own personal case, rather more fleshly and less abstract, to see whether or not I can still pull off the being-almost-naked-in-public thing at the ripe age of forty four.
Enter the little jockstrap that could. And no, that lead picture is not of my body. Easy to tell, I don’t have tattoos.
But now we get to the heart of the matter. The jock did the job beyond my wildest expectations; storms of applause and disbelief.
Now, I’m vain to a degree where the extent of it would probably qualify for two or three deadly sins, not just the one allotted in the Catholic canon. And I do take off my clothes in public spaces with some frequency – thank you again, New York Eagle – but on a New York street during Pride? With rippling flesh by the square mile in all directions of the compass?
Took me a moment to figure it out; I wasn’t telegraphing "sexually available male’’. If a jockstrap worn in broad daylight – let alone one deliberately evocative of hyper-masculine American Football while providing all the rear coverage of a box of matches – has any message at all, it’s not “I do believe I’ve lost my trousers” or “Rather warm today, isn’t it?”, it’s more in the vein of “Somebody really needs to fuck my brains out before this is all over”.
Of course. What people were seeing wasn’t just the obvious, “gay man here”, it was “gay and a bottom, too”. At the tightly choreographed, airbrushed, family-friendly event that is New York City Pride.
The beauty of it all being that the reading is in fact entirely accurate. The convenient fiction of ‘versatile’ is one I gave up years ago; it could happen, sure, and has, but why do something you’re not interested in or in complete honestly not all that good at? The sad truth is that I’m a lousy top, and can’t even compensate for the manifest lack of skill with overwhelming material advantage.
As a bottom, well . . . . . different situation entirely.
And there I was, broadcasting this set of facts with as little delicacy as exists this side of a floodlit Times Square billboard, and to a larger audience. Small wonder in retrospect that I got a reaction.
We all know, don’t we, that men fuck, and that getting fucked makes us not men. Not ‘real men’, that is. We definitely don’t broadcast the silent predilection in society polite or otherwise, no matter what staggering percentage of us plays catcher. Loudly so if memory serves, in the privacy afforded by the paper-thin dividers of the local bathhouse. Or as I call it, the bottom cube farm.
In public fora, not so much.
When I was doing more public speaking, I used to do a little experiment. I’d be asked to address gay groups on the problem of gender. As they all looked at me expectantly, I would invite them to discuss their problem with gender.
This inevitably drew a lot of blank looks, especially with all-male groups. So I would ask them, “How many of you are gay?” They would all proudly raise their hands, proudly. Then I’d ask, “How many of you are bottoms?”
Everyone’s hand went down, fast. Really fast. So fast, in fact, that all the oxygen was suddenly sucked out of the room and we all had problems breathing.
Part of that is gay assimilation, heteronormativity in action. Why we have the time for that, I do not pretend to know or desire to understand. I blend in well enough, when I so choose, to know that this...
“A faggot is a homosexual gentleman who just left the room.”
… remains true enough in some quarters, even if you slap on an entire Brook’s Brothers showroom.
So why even bother?
At the end of the day, we need to please no one but ourselves and the people we love. If that’s not the message of Pride, what is?