IN my early twenties I worked in a restaurant where I was no stranger to another male coworker grabbing or slapping my ass. At the time I thought nothing of it, in fact I enjoyed it. What’s wrong with a little pick me up shared by a few men of the ever-exclusive gay club?
Today, things are different. That same slap, no matter whom is it at the other end, will be returned – but to a very different part of the body.
For me it was an evolution of how I saw/see myself. A painstaking process that’s included addiction, promiscuity and an all around loss of values I now once again hold dear.
I was already in the process of writing this amidst the allegations of Harvey Weinstein. I saw all the fingers pointing to this one man, which Mr. Weinstein truly deserves, yet I wondered when the fingers would start pointing in our own community where our sexuality seems to be at the forefront of everything we do.
And alas here we are today with allegations that a 26 – year old Kevin Spacey once tried to seduce a 14 – year old Anthony Rapp.
In just hours the statuses and tweets all begin to paint Mr. Kevin Spacey as this awful predator. Which he no doubt is, and deserves any condemnation he receives. Let me make that CLEAR.
Let me be also very clear. Kevin Spacey is not the only one. He is not one of ten. He is not one of a hundred. He is not just one of many in Hollywood. He is one of tens, maybe hundreds of thousands across the nation.
And though these predators are a problem, we as community have to wonder if they’re also the symptom of another type of problem we seem to gloss over time and time again.
As a 34 year old I can look back at my life, and now recognize many of it’s absurdities and naive-ties. I remember when I started doing what’s called “TFCD” modeling. This was basically a way to get free photos from a photographer who asked for your modeling services in exchange for a CD of select images of the shoot. It was a great way to begin a modelling portfolio.
Looking back at it now I am fairly certain many of the photos taken were the result of predatory behavior rather than a need to shoot another young male in his underwear for … an art exhibit? My very first shoot I can distinctly recall a photographer telling me to take off my underwear, after which he started to grease my ENTIRE body, and ALL of it’s parts.
“This must be part of it.” I thought. It was my first shoot, we had done most of the pictures, and in some bizarre rationalization I wanted to keep going with the shoot because … well … I wanted those images.
I had a need to show people how “sexy” I was. A need that went above any self respect I had or didn’t have of myself.
There’s something else I remember about that shoot too. Though I received a handful of shots in my underwear, it wasn’t even a thought of mine to post them on social media. It would have been unheard of and socially unacceptable. Peruse Instagram now and you’ll see those times have changed.
We as gays have a cloudy vision of what we want and who we are. We want to be taken seriously, we want to feel empowered, we get angry when people portray us as just sexual beings.
“We are MORE THAN THAT!” We scream.
That restaurant I worked at, there was something else interesting. Though the gay men were perfectly fine with being touched rather inappropriately, the woman made it quite clear that they had boundaries and weren’t afraid to express them. I recall slapping a girl’s rear, only to have her give me a very cold response.
“She needs to chill.” I thought.
Now I know better. I realize, I was the one that needed to chill. I was the one that needed to respect not only other’s bodies, but I needed to respect my own.
We can decide, are we a sexual culture or not? And are we OK with that? But we have to decide.
The HIV epidemic, for example. It’s a terrible story of our past. We frequently preach “use protection”, we lament “if only they had good medications”. Then we write if off as some sad story, and shrug. But we have to remember a valuable lesson here, HIV didn’t just spread from men kissing, from men holding hands, from men loving each other. It resulted from men engaging in risky behavior.
Behavior that I too have engaged in, and have paid severe consequences.
Google the word “Gay”. What comes up are a series of provocative photos instead of images celebrating the “love” and “community” we chant on the streets. Gay pride, for example. Yes, it’s a great event and very necessary, but we need to ask the question here, are we celebrating our sexuality or are we celebrating human beings who just happen to have a different type of sexuality?
I don’t write this to save or defend any current or future predators. I write this to defend ourselves. I write this so we as a community can hopefully begin to move forward in a way that’s a tad more self respecting. Because only then can we receive that respect we’ve worked years to gain.
We can blame Trump, we can blame Republicans for continuing to call us “sexual deviants”, but when we ourselves our uploading that same story to our social media and attaching a “#gay” hashtag, perhaps we need to start rewriting our own story.