Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sporadic Thoughts: The Acceptable Gay Life?

[Editor's note: Sporadic Thoughts is a weekly column on the irreverent nature of gay life posted every weekend by PoliBoi Graham.]

I may be remembering a bit of historical fiction that exists only in my head, but was there not a time (long, long ago) when being a young gay person on the prowl was actually fun? Now everything has gotten a bit too serious. First dates with people my age have turned into potential trips to Planned Parenthood to discuss family planning, rather than potential trips to turn down the sheets together.

All the youthful hedonistic energy has been sapped out of the young gay dating scene. Someone that sleeps around is no longer a stud, but a slut to be avoided. People I meet for first dates are shocked when I tell them that I hate children and have no intention of having them. I am shocked that they would even bring up the little creatures on a first date. Young gay couples I know are moving in together at a record pace and some are even getting engaged!

Somehow being single has even become a disease. People want to know why you have it and why you cannot get rid of it.

I am single because I choose to be single. Being single is a choice I recently made, as I was myself once caught up in the madness that is still penetrating the minds of my fellow young gay comrades.

For quite a while I jumped from long-term relationship to long-term relationship. I did not do it because I necessarily wanted to, but because I felt I had to. It was not until I wound up with a failed relationship, a shared lease for a one-bedroom apartment and a dog that is the product of it that I realized I did not need to be in a relationship to be happy.

As a young gay person, I have found myself in quite a few bad relationships and I have stayed in them just for the sake of having a relationship. I now find a lot of my friends are doing the same. I am not sure what is leading my friends to make the choices that they make, but I can certainly speculate based on my own experience.

Family pressure is definitely a cause of the relationship-centric personality. As young gay people come out at a brisk pace, many are not avoiding the awkward conversations with their families about their sexuality. However, a tradeoff of this great step towards acceptance is that many young gays are also striving to find that perfect guy or gal to bring home to mom in order to wash away the stereotype she may or may not harbor that all gay people are promiscuous and incapable of settling down.

Another cause is certainly gay culture. No longer is it acceptable to just be young, gay and happy. Now you have to be young, gay, happy and engaged with kids on the way from some far away land.

Shows like Queer as Folk, which was popular among young gays, certainly defined the image of the distinguished and respectable gay. Most of the characters on this now defunct Showtime series were always hopping between relationships. The relationship-centric characters were usually portrayed as the happy ones. The character the audience was supposed to feel bad for was Brian Kinney. He was the perpetually single one who had no need for relationships. I actually think Kinney was the only one of the cast of characters that actually knew what he wanted out of life.

Then there is the political side of gay culture. This side also wants to project a certain image of gay people to the outside world. When the gay community's lobbyists go to bat for certain pieces of legislation, they generally want to talk about the gay families they are seeking to protect rather than the gay singles. The everyday people they send up to Congress from the gay community to speak on its behalf generally are the ones with life-partners and kids. The image that young gay people get from the gay politicos is that gay family life at any cost is more valuable and respected than the life of a bachelor or bachelorette who is not ready to settle.

The image that I want to project is that I am happy with who I am, single or otherwise. The image I want to project is that I am not willing to settle and I am not willing to fall prey to the forces that want me to. I may toe the line between being a slut and having fun, but at least I know I am having a blast. I am free from my own social construct, and now I want to spread the word among my young gay peers.

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