Coward

I have a choice to make. Next week is National Coming Out Day, and I have to decide whether to come out to coworkers and clients in my new (temporary, precarious) job.

I had a bad week at the job last week. People are sick and tired of me already. I have already said a bunch of things I would have been better off keeping to myself. So I think I am keeping my mouth shut and trying to repair some of the damage I have done up to this point.

I am somewhat angry at myself for making this decision, but I ought to be angrier at myself for messing up at work beforehand. I can try to pretend that everybody knows I am a queer already (as I have written before, I don’t exactly pass) but if I know one thing about straight people it is that they can be pretty oblivious to obvious things. So even though it ought to be apparent that I am a sexual deviant, I bet it isn’t. Therefore, the next time things go terribly for LGBTQ people in the world, you can blame me. It is my fault for not participating in National Coming Out Day.

I hope this ex-gay stuff starts working soon so I don’t have to deal with these kinds of quandaries anymore.

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Lesbians

Intrepid readers may recall my misadventures on Craigslist and how as a result I ran away screaming from the idea of ever having a sex partner ever. It is pretty clear that homosexuality is not doing much for me, so I decided to become an ex-gay. So far it is working out pretty decent. I have not had sex with a man even one time since making this decision.

Admittedly, it may be premature for me to assume this label. I have not gotten around to filling out the paperwork, and I have not made it out to any meetings (which is a shame — I hear the guys there have nice personalities, and that many of them are cute). But I am hoping that once I work through the process and engage in a few sessions of therapy I will be cured.

Unfortunately, becoming ex-gay will only address half the problem. The other half is lesbians. My batting average when it comes to women is not good. Probably half of the women I find attractive turn out to be lesbians, and the rest tend to have lesbionic tendencies. It isn’t that I seek out lesbians explicitly; it is just that certain types of people press my sexual buttons, and lesbians are in that set. (What a Shocking Disclosure. This would be #7, I think.)

Sometimes I worry that this is some kind of subliminated attraction to masculininity, and that I am consciously or unconsciously attracted to “mannish” ladies. This may be true, but I do not think it explains the whole story, and on a physical level I don’t find the super-butchy types do much for me.

Most of the women I find attractive tend to be strong and independent. They are the type of people who have their own interests and hobbies, and who do not depend on having a man around to complete their identities. I think these are the qualities that I find attractive in women. Sadly, there appears to be a relatively high correlation between being strong and independent and being lesbian.

This, of course, is an issue, because lesbians want nothing to do with me, and it appears that for the most part strong independent women don’t either. That reduces the dating pool significantly. Given that I am an abusive controlling monster who should never be in a relationship, I suppose that is for the best, but it still hurts. Furthermore it is gauche to make passes at people who clearly want nothing to do with you.

This does not stop me from trying, of course. As previously documented, I frequently substitute relationships with suspicious friendships and frequently these friendships are with strong, independent women who want nothing to do with me sexually.

I tend to come off as a creep around lesbians. I tend to explore ideas and debate concepts in a very male way, and almost all women (lesbian or not) have no patience for that. To the extent that I attempt to be humourous, I often get into trouble for making the wrong kinds of comments at the wrong times. These are not always chauvinistic pig comments, either. Quite frankly I am surprised that strong independent women are willing to associate with me at all.

From what I have been reading of the ex-gay literature, it seems that finding a woman and getting married seems to be part of the narrative. I hope that is not mandatory. Maybe after I am finished with the ex-gay process I can find an ex-straight group to finish the job.

Control

I had a anger flareup this evening. It was not directly related to my sexuality so it probably does not belong on this blog, but oh well.

The short story is that I had plans and was told to abandon them out of consideration for another’s needs. That put me in a position of debt, which made me grumpy. Any relationship in the world is going to have these kinds of conflicts, but my tolerance for them is small. So it is better that I am alone.

Framing this as a control issue is not wrong, but my angry insight this evening is that this was as much about autonomy as it is about control. There are many situations where I am happy to defer to the wishes of others. But I am not willing to have my autonomy limited. I was raised in an emotionally difficult environment. I have been gaslit many times. It won’t happen again.

This makes it difficult to stay in relationship and it makes it difficult to sustain employment. I started a short-term contract recently and have been struggling with the bureaucracy and the institution. Everywhere I look there are rules, rules, rules: no peeing on the floor, no picking my nose in public, and most obnoxiously holding the company line even when I strongly disagree with that line. But thems the tradeoffs. If you don’t follow the rules you don’t get paid.

Toeing the line is difficult enough in the workplace, and I think I have decided that I won’t put up with it in my personal relationships. Thus it is highly likely that I will be alone for the rest of my life, and that’s okay.

If I had one goal in life, it was to avoid ending up like my father. (Gee. That’s original.) He was (and probably still is) an angry, depressive man who — as far as I could tell — had zero friends, and thus put all of the burdens of human relationship onto his spouse. He grew more and more paranoid and got to the point where he could not work any more, but did not believe in psychiatry.

I thought I would be different, but as I age I am becoming more and more like him. (Gee. That’s original too.) I am angry and anxious to the point where it is difficult to hold down a job, and indeed this short-term contract may well be the last employment I ever have. I have few friends and am doing my level best to alienate the ones that remain. I demand control of situations and pretend I want autonomy, then stomp off when other people defy my wishes. I’m too cheap to go into therapy and too stubborn to go on SSRIs. The parallels are striking.

But I never married, and I never had kids. I avoided that much. If nothing else, the cycle ends with me.

Defined by HIV

(Programming note/content warning: this entry is about HIV/AIDS, and some readers may find the content more offputting than usual.)

Given the perverse afflictions I have exhaustively documented on this blog, it would be easy to conclude that my sexuality is defined by same-sex attraction. I don’t think this is true. I feel my sexuality is defined by HIV, and in particular the plague years of 1981-1996.

It’s fair to say that the plague years did not affect me directly. Had I been ten years older I might have been in the midst of it, but my adolescence touched on the tail end; I was not anything close to sexually active then. But the newspapers (remember newspapers?) ran lots of stories/fearmongering about the plague, and our sex ed classes implicitly or explicitly drove home the message that if we ever had sex with anybody ever we would get pregnant or get a disease. I remember one Health Studies class where our teacher told us that condoms did not do much good because they covered only penises, and in order to be safe we would need full-body coverage. (Little did I know that latex fetishes were a thing. I would be surprised if that teacher had one, though.) School sex-ed was not exactly abstinence only, and as far as I remember homosexuality was not explicitly condemned (because its existence was not even acknowledged), but the messages were harsh enough to scare me away from sex for years, and maybe for life. Although I was guilty of occasional fantasy at the time (and in later years more than occasional masturbation) I had no realistic intentions of actually sleeping with anybody. And why would I? Did I want to contract HIV?

Whether these hypothetical sex partners were male or female did not matter. Even lesbians were told to use dental dams religiously. I am fairly confident that by that time we knew that HIV was not transmitted via touch, but there continued to be fear (and newspaper stories) around dental work and kissing.

I think most people got out from beneath that shadow, which is why they are leading fabulous lives. I never have.

As I started reading more about homosexuality and gay culture, the shadow of HIV grew darker and darker. I am fascinated by the period between Stonewall and the plague years. They seem like a golden age to me, and not just because I am into 70s disco. For years I vacillated between envy for the sexual experimentation of the time and bitter judgement. Didn’t that generation know what all of these concurrent sex partners would lead to? Didn’t they see the plague coming? The answer, of course, is “no”. I dislike when people conflate the abundant casual sex of the era with “love”, and I think that abundant casual sex has its drawbacks (emotional callousness, anyone?) but I no longer think the casual sex was malevolent. I am not immune to the spirit of my times either. If I had been born 10 or 20 years earlier, I would very likely be dead of AIDS now.

Because I have not been personally touched, I have no right in allowing the plague years to define me, but they do. Mostly I feel a combination of horror and sadness and bitterness. I feel horror and sadness when I think of what people of the time had to live through, of watching their friends and loved ones sicken and die, or worrying who was next, of being terrified of this virus and its presumed death sentence. As it stands I am paralyzed by anxiety; I do not know how I would have gotten through. Maybe I would have done what some other survivors did: drop all associations with the LBGTQ community and resign myself to singleness and celibacy and loneliness. Some people leapt into the fray via activismn and hospice care. I would not have been one of them. I have never shown such bravery, and I doubt I would have been any braver in those circumstances.

My feelings of bitterness are even more self-centred. HIV/AIDS robbed me of a generation (maybe two generations) of elders. Putting aside my attractions to older men, I feel that I have been robbed of the wisdom and support members of those generations could have offered.

As years have gone by the conversation around HIV has shifted, and I have been left behind. First we talked about serosorting, and then there was a backlash against serosorting. I remember when people started actively advocating for barebacking, which horrified me. Now the anti-stigmatization pendulum is in full swing, and people who are reluctant to sleep with HIV+ people are seen as ignorant at best and bigoted at worst. We are endlessly lectured that sleeping with HIV+ people who are on meds and have undetectable viral loads is safer than sleeping with people who claim to be negative but may just be unaware of their status. I am the target for this social shaming campaign. And on some level I get it. The stigma is real, and it’s awful to read accounts from HIV+ bloggers who get rejected for disclosing their status. But the argument that I am a bigot just makes me dig in my heels, and the assertions that people who say they are negative are riskier than poz people makes me want to refrain from sex altogether. Being unloveable (and unfuckable) I have not had to face the decision of whether to have sex with an HIV+ partner, and as selfish as it is, I feel fortunate never having been put in that situation.

We used to talk about limiting concurrent partners, about limiting riskier sex behaviours, on insisting on condoms and safer sex practices. Now we talk about HIV being a chronic disease and not a death sentence, about Truvada (which is super-expensive, if you haven’t noticed), and how being uncomfortable with sleeping with HIV+ men is completely unreasonable. And I’m not on board. I have been left behind.

I don’t want to contract HIV. Chronic condition or not, being HIV+ seems like an enormous hassle. It seems as if managing the condition requires discipline, responsibility and finances I don’t have. Fortunately, I do not think that there are many people out there who want to see me infected.

And as our efforts transition from paranoia to anti-stigmatization, the elephant remains in the room. As HIV has become more managable, our sexual mores and habits are reverting to those golden days of the 1970s. Casual sex is acceptable again. Having multiple concurrent partners is seen as progressive, as polyamory slowly gains social acceptance. None of us wants to say it out loud, but I think many of us (especially those of us who were shaped by the plague years) worry that there might be another plague sooner or later, and that it will spread just as quickly as HIV did. Nobody wants this to happen, but the fear that it might gnaws deep within me.

Straight Guys

When I enlisted as a homosexual, I thought I would have license to be attracted to men. I should have read the fine print; straight guys are off-limits. Keeping within the letter of the law is difficult, however. Straight guys are irresistable. They have so much to offer: Their indifference towards musical theatre and skin care products! Their gruff voices! Their enthusiasm for grilling animal flesh on a BBQ, and their disdain for all other kitchen tasks! Their fascination with sportsball and mechanical things! Their beliefs that they are totally capable of athletic prowess regardless of age and pot bellies! Also they sleep with women, which is pretty hot. I wish this did not have to be Shocking Disclosure of Sexual Perversion #6, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

You might accuse me of romanticizing straight guys, or even exoticizing them. That’s fair, I guess (although to be fair: straight guys are in fact exotic). But despite my taboo fantasies, even I understand that straight guys are a lot of work. You have to cook for them and clean up after them. You have to remind them to get to the doctor when they are unwell. You have to attend to their emotional needs despite their inability to articulate those emotions. They tend to spend their disposable income (and sometimes non-disposable income!) on toys. Having a straight guy reminds me of owning a pet reptile: they may be pretty to look at, but they are utterly dependent on you and show you little affection in return.

Most of all, straight guys want nothing to do with me. They are interested in women, not me. That’s part of the reason they are off-limits, I guess. The other part, of course, is internalized homophobia. I plead guilty to all charges. When I think of the archetype of “man” in my head, what comes to mind is a butch straight guy. I think I am not alone in this. There is a reason that many of us look for “straight-acting” fellows in our dating profiles.

In response, many of us employ strategies to butch up. We grow facial hair and go to the gym. We deepen our voices and curtail our mannerisms. We dress in baseball caps and attempt to develop an interest in sportsball. For all our efforts, there is something to be said for how effortlessly straight guys act butch without even trying.

Homosexuals have their charms, but it feels unfair that the kinds of people I am attracted to the most (straight guys, lesbians, happily married couples) are exactly those who are off-limits. As I have expressed many times before in this blog, that makes life awkward, especially given that I do not want to creep people out.

Mama always said to stay away from the straight guys. She was right. As I learned the hard way, they will break your heart every time.

Tumblr’s Golden Age is Over

Every popular website has its golden age. The golden age of Tumblr has ended. I saw today that pornographic Tumblrs now require an account to access. Anonymous perverts like me are now locked out. (Yes. I could sign up for an account. I won’t.)

Frankly I am surprised it took so long. I was shocked that porn Tumblrs were permitted to display their wares without click-throughs or age verification. Forget Playgirls and video stores; Tumblr unleashed a mountain of porn that was scarcely accessible even a few years earlier. I was not able to decide whether this was the new normal or a temporary deluge before Tumblr opted to monetize its network effects. I guess we know the answer now.

It’s fine. Most porn is boring, and because I am a paranoid I archived a bunch of less-boring stuff on my computer. (Don’t you judge me. Are your hard drives pristine?) If there is one thing I have learned about the Internet it is that everything you like is ephemeral, and your chances of (a) refinding obscure content or (b) being able to access it if you have URLs bookmarked are much slimmer than you might expect.

I am sure that some other shiny social network will come along and offer even greater access to immodestly dressed people for a while. I think it is unlikely I will learn about it because I am a dinosaur. I only learned about Tumblr because a WordPress blogger once linked to the hot-men-50 Tumblr (bless you, Buddy Bear). As I age and further resist technology, I think my chances of discovering the latest treasure troves diminish further and further.

As far as I know, there are still other sites where one might find videos of immodestly-dressed people without logins (Xhamster and XTube both come to mind). These sites offer lots of exposed skin, but finding the skin I like is a different matter. Tumblr was bad for a lot of things, but one thing it did well was aggregating and concentrating porn that catered to particular perversions. I could start at a blog that did not match my tastes particularly closely, but on those occasions when I was really drawn to a picture or video, I could follow “reblogged from” links upstream to discover much richer sources. There was inevitably still a lot of boring nonsense to sort through (which is when the /archive url came in handy) but I am aware of no other site which made tracking down my perversions easier. After locating a handful of prolific posters whose sexual tastes were close to my own, I was set.

The fact that several of these prolific posters enjoyed large followings was a surprising bonus. I am a freak, but worldwide it seems that hundreds (or thousands?) of people are similarly freakish. In some weird way that made me feel less alone.

Body Hair

Today I listened to an upsetting podcast about body hair. Apparently men who suffer hair loss feel less masculine, and women mostly hate their body hair to the point where they routinely get painful waxes on their pubic areas.

Add to that the scourge of posters I have been seeing around town urging men to get their backs waxed, and I feel compelled to make a public declaration (aka Shocking Disclosure of Sexual Perversion #5): body hair, especially for men.

The degree to which I am susceptible to this perversion is downright embarrassing. Show me a middle-aged man with a broad, furry chest and I melt. I am eternally grateful that most men have the decency to wear shirts in this country, although far too many of them leave their top buttons undone.

Chest hair is the big turn-on for me, but arm hair, leg hair, and back hair all light my fire as well. Then there is facial hair, to which I am definitely susceptible (hello, Fearsome) but which to my surprise I have discovered is not absolutely necessary for a man to be a dreamboat. Even more surprising, head hair is even less crucial: there are bald or balding men who turn my crank, and ones with full luscious manes can spur impure thoughts as well.

I am privileged to have some body hair and some facial hair, although not nearly enough to be attractive. But after listening to the podcast segment where a man with alopecia lamented having no body hair, I realize just how dysphoric I would feel if I was trapped in a hairless body.

Mind! I make no claims that people with body hair are more masculine than people without. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and apparently when it comes to men, the furrier the better. I may have seen one fellow on the Internet whose furriness exceeded even my attractiveness threshold, but even he was pretty okay.

I do not have the same turn-ons around body hair on women that I do for men, but unlike the guests on the upsetting podcast, I am not revolted by female body hair either. Female facial hair usually does not do much for me (although some pretty hot women have had a bit of peach fuzz) but pubic hair is a delight, and armpit hair and leg hair on women is fine for me. I am not in the target market, however, so my opinion does not count.

All the same, the body policing of female body hair makes me angry, and it makes me sad that women endure such expense and discomfort to conform to male standards of beauty (which, as it turns out, I do not share). I wish that accepting one’s body hair was an acceptable option for women in this culture, as opposed to being a phony choice that results in social sanction if disobeyed.

There is no question in my mind that my views are biased because of Perversion #5. If I was normal and thought that body hair was disgusting the way regular people do, my opinions would no doubt be different. That in itself is pretty messed up.

Craigslist and Internalized Homophobia

My delightful commentariat agreed that broke neurotic homos looking for love ought to try Craigslist, so I hopped on the site closest to Lurkville and took a look-see. Oy vey. I wish I owned a closet so that I could have run screaming back into it, slamming the door shut behind me.

I’m trying to disentangle the antipathy I felt while browsing the site. I returned a second time as research (not “research”) for this entry, and it is still a mess. Expect this blog entry to be even less coherent than usual.

I don’t know what else I was expecting, but clearly the m4m sections of Craigslist are oriented towards hookups. (Even the “strictly platonic” sections aren’t.) That’s one strike, but I get the feeling that it is unavoidable in the m4m universe.

There are a few people looking for less hookup-y setups, and they stick out like sore thumbs. I find myself wondering whether these people are aware of what Craigslist is for, which is unfair because Craigslist is supposed to be for relationships, not just hookups.

Most of the posters want stats and pics. Stats I can deal with (sort of — my stats are underwhelming). Pics? Although pictures and even Youtube video of me exist on the Internet, I am pretty paranoid about not having my face on the Information Superhighway, whether in a gay context or otherwise. To my knowledge I have never taken a selfie. Clearly this is a dealbreaker when looking for looooooove; everybody (including me!) wants some idea of what they are getting into when answering a personals ad.

But there are pics and there are pics. Many of these Internet strangers want pictures of private body parts, and/or pictures where the subjects are immodestly dressed. Some people even post pictures on their profiles which contain both their faces and their immodestly-dressed bodies. That seems insane to me. But again it seems par for the course.

None of this is surprising. What surprised me was how much antipathy I felt browsing the profiles, even for people who ticked some of my boxes. I don’t like drama, and human relationships are full of drama. When I read a hookup ad my anxieties turned towards creepy people and disease. When I read a non-hookup ad they turned towards irritations and arguments. This is some combination of misanthropy, homophobia and rationalization, but it surprised me nonetheless.

Then there were the long disclaimers about no-shows and creeps and “endless emails”, which made participating in this community feel like an enormous amount of hassle. I have enough hassle these days looking for work and trying to find roommates; my tolerance for dealing with strangers is exhausted.

Most of these people are not creeps. When I get out of my head enough to interact with others, it occurs to me that most people are mostly good most of the time. There are probably several people who would make good friends and reasonable sexual partners. But everybody has drama, and I just don’t want to get involved with that drama.

On the positive side, I did run across ads that reflected some of my own perversions. These people were not looking for people like me, but it is somewhat comforting to know that I am not the only deviant in town.

But (and this is where my confessions get particularly uncomfortable) even though I want to see other people’s pictures and even though I appreciate that other people are looking for similar things to what I fantasize about, I feel deep fear about other people knowing that I am looking for these things. Being recognised on such sites by people I know in my daily life would be embarrassing, to say the least. Let’s call it what it is: internalized homophobia. I can rationalize this by saying that I don’t want it to affect my next job (there is some chance I would be teaching, and my students or administration could come across these activities), but I do not know how much I believe that. Certainly people can and do get fired from their jobs for their personal lives, but there are also lots of people in similar positions who actively look for looooooove on the Internets. Honestly, I would be embarrassed to post an explicit ad on Craigslist, and that is evidence enough that I should stay away.

I hate this. I hate these vacillations. I may be in a space now where I rationally and emotionally understand that I ought to be alone, but the part of me that feels lonely and craves human touch refuses to concede defeat. I’m over 30; by now my libido should have shrivelled up and left me in peace.

If nothing else, I think that Craigslist is probably the wrong forum for me. I doubt there is a right forum. In the past I have considered OKCupid, but I doubt that would work any better. Being on that site would still involve posting pictures and interacting with other human beings.

Broke and Broken

Dating costs money. I guess I am too much of a cheapskate to get laid.

I suppose that young and attractive people can find sexual partners without money, via sugar daddies and sugar mommies. But I am neither young nore attractive.

Although it is not strictly true, I consider myself to be on a tight budget and a fixed income. I have not had a paycheque in almost eight months. Even when I had a paycheque, I did not have much disposable income because I felt obligated to put half of what I made in the bank. The good part of that is that I can continue to live without a paycheque for a while without cutting back on my expenses too drastically. The bad part is that I have to give up on a lot of things, many of which seem to be necessary when finding a romantic/sexual partner.

I don’t have the budget for a cellphone plan. In principle I might be able to get a smartphone and use wifi only, but that would be a big expense (and I would worry about cracking the screen and having to repair the thing or get it replaced). Thus many of the hookup/dating apps (Grindr, Scruff, etc) are out of my reach.

I have a food budget and can even waste a few dollars (like, $5-10 a week?) on junk food without having panic attacks. But the idea of spending $20 or more on a single meal seems prohibitive. The idea of spending $60-100 on an outing (which is what seems to be involved in taking a date out to a nice restaurant) is a big expense — one that I might afford once or twice a year, but not something I could afford with any regularity. But part of the dating scene is convincing a potential partner that you could be a good provider, and part of that is showing off status symbols like fancy dinners. All of that is out of reach for me. That does not take into account the transportation and clothing required to impress others.

In the good old days people went to bars and nightclubs to seek out sexual partners. Putting aside the cost for a moment, I am such a prude that I don’t consume alcohol, and I have never felt comfortable in such environments (among other things, loud music hurts my ears). Sometimes I think that these objections are subconscious defenses against me trying to find a partner, but regardless they feel real to me.

Many people meet at parties. I don’t get invited to many parties, and despite associating with some LGBTQ people at the community centre, I especially don’t get invited to parties with many other LGBTQ people. It takes a certain amount of money to be a good party attendee (eg bringing gifts for the host). Also parties are boring, but if my goal was to find a mate I guess I would have to get over that.

People suggest that getting involved with the LGBTQ community is a good way to meet potential sex partners. From my experiences with the Lurkville LGBTQ community centre, that does not appear to have panned out.

In the worst case I suppose that I could hire a prostitute, but let’s be real: if I am not willing to pay for dinner at a nice restaurant then I would hardly be willing to pay a sex worker for sex, even if I felt that sex was sufficient to meet my loneliness needs.

It may be the case that I am the only single, financially insecure, socially anxious, stay-at-home-homo out there, and that finding mates is a solved problem for everybody else. Or maybe homosexuals like me are just not cut out to find sexual partners, and thus are destined to be evolutionary dead ends. I guess in many ways this is a solved problem; if nothing else Craigslist provided people with mechanisms for arranging hookups relatively cheaply. (Is Craigslist still a thing?)

The solution to meeting people is probably staring me right in the face. But I am pretty sure that I am the biggest barrier to me finding some kind of sex partner. If there was some other way to meet potential partners that even somebody on my budget could afford, no doubt I would find some other reason to reject it. The very fact that this hypothetical mechanism could lead to sex is probably sufficient for me to reject it, given my paranoia around disease.

Putting aside the infeasibility of anybody finding me attractive enough to sleep with, it is unclear that I am willing to put in the effort of even looking for a partner. In that case I should stop whining and be okay with being celibate for the rest of my days. Instead I vacillate. As the immortal lyrics of Paradise By the Dashboard Light phrase it: “What’s it going to be, boy? Yes or no? What’s it going to be? Yes… or…”

Activism Failure

Lately I have made the mistake of reading several books written by members of the queer radical left (News flash: lesbian separatists are still around. And they write books. Who knew?).

Although I spent many of my formative years associating with those in the radical left, their arguments and tactics irritate and often enrage me. Their “analysis” usually boils down to “we hate successful people”. True to form, those on the queer radical left long for the good old days when homosexuality was despised. They feel contempt for white queers (especially white male queers) striving for social acceptance. They lament “straight privilege”. They go out of their way to disrupt and disgust mainstream society. So it is no surprise that they despise gay marriage. They hate all marriage because marriage is a patriarchial institution, and they especially hate gay marriage because it affords some queers a bunch of privilege and acceptance that are denied to other groups (transpeople, people of colour, and poor people).

Man, I don’t know what to think. I have said before and will repeat ad-nauseum: I try not to judge other people’s kinks, and I am genuinely happy for those blogger-buddies who find meaning and support in the patriarchial oppressive institution of marriage. But a bunch of the queer radical left arguments against middle-class gays and against gay marriage ring true to me.

Back when we were fighting for gay marriage, Dan Savage related sob story after sob story of loving partners who were denied basic courtesies because they were not married. Partners could not visit their loved ones in hospital. They could not jointly adopt bio-children. They would lose their houses when a partner (in whose name the title was signed) died, and the evil biofamily would automatically inherit the assets. It was very Stone Butch Blues. Dan Savage and his army argued that granting full marriage rights to gay couples would right these injustices.

Meanwhile, the radical left was attacking marriage. They questioned why this set of basic privileges should be granted only to those who were married. What about triads? What about polyamourous marriages? Wnat about people who had no stable partner, but who had definite wishes about giving their chosen families — and not the biofamilies that had all too often disowned them — say in what happened to their lives and assets. When these criticisms were acknowledged at all, they were often dismissed with a “marriage first, and then we will work on nontraditional arrangements” attitude.

Now we have gay marriage, and as time passes its existence becomes less precarious. I doubt even President Trump (bless his heart) is going to overturn it now. So when are we going to make sure the same kinds of sob stores Dan Savage was relating during the gay marriage fight are not happening to people who aren’t married?

Oh right. We’re not going to work on that now, because the middle-class gays have what they want, and enthusiasm for extending these privileges to other groups has evaporated. I cannot think of a single campaign seeking to decouple the privileges of marriage from the institution of marriage. Funny how that works.

It reminds me a lot of the HIV/AIDS activism fight. When successful, white, North American gay men were dropping right and left, there was a lot of energy to pour into activism. Not everybody in ACT-UP was rich or successful or white, but I would argue that the presence of the mainstream in the movement made a big difference. Then 1996 rolled around and the antiretroviral cocktails came out. Then AIDS became less of a first world middle class gay problem and more of a poor straight third world problem. Mysteriously, our enthusiasm for activism on behalf of those groups mysteriously evaporated, leaving the heavy lifting to a handful of people like Stephen Lewis. Access to cheap retrovirals overseas has been a huge issue for decades, but without the same kind of pressure ACT-UP was able to apply in North America, governments and Big Pharma have dragged their feet, at the cost of millions of lives. That is not to say that Western gays have abandoned the fight entirely; we still show up to World AIDS Day and donate to red-ribbon charities, but we have not taken the fight overseas.

The reasoning is simple: once we get what we want, our activism drops. “Respectable” gay couples wanted gay marriage, and they got it. I am not innocent in this either, of course; I am angry that nobody is advocating for non-marrieds to get married people’s privileges because I am probably never getting married, but I still don’t want my biofamily to automatically take control of my life decisions and assets when I am incapacitated.

As much as I do not want to admit it, I think the queer radical left has been accurate in its criticisms of assimilation with respect to gay marriage. Will we ever see progress on nontraditional arrangements? Unless the poly community makes it happen I do not think it will happen, and I do not see enough social acceptance of polyamory for anything to happen for a while.

But there are other struggles which have some momentum, and for which comfortable middle-class homos could participate:

  • Societal rights and acceptance of transpeople, including non-discrimination legislation and an end to using idiotic bathroom issues to wedge voters.
  • Addressing widespread homelessness and poverty among LGBTQ communities, especially with respect to non-white communities.
  • Addressing misogyny within mainstream gay culture.
  • Breaking down class and racial barriers in LGBTQ communities and organizing.
  • Advocating for LGBTQ rights where they are being suppressed, and offering sanctuary to those affected by repressive laws.

Will we take on any of these challenges? Until/unless they affect us personally, I doubt it.