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Homophobia’s Built Into Us, but Let’s Learn Some Male Love

A Gay woman resists the cops at the Stonewall Inn, 1969. (Bettye Lane)

I tried in my latest book, The Gospel According to Gay Guys, to write a novel with no homophobia.

It’s a difficult task. I didn’t want to write a book in which homophobes are the bad guys, because there are already too many books like that, and it’s too easy a story to tell.

Of course homophobia is bad, and the people who promote it, whether men or women, are bad guys. But we’ve seen that movie already; we’ve lived it. We don’t need to see it again on the big screen or the iPad. It doesn’t teach us anything; it doesn’t show us a world beyond the one we already live in.

I also didn’t want to write a book in which the Gay characters hold anti-Gay attitudes. That was a much harder task.

I didn’t want characters calling each other bitches at the first sign of conflict. I didn’t want them undermining each other’s masculinity. Because the one thing I think I know – the one thing I’ve learned in 40 years of activism and 60 years of life – is that we are men who are Gay.

We have more in common with other men than we do with women; that is my belief and my experience. I love women but I’m just not one.

We are incredibly diverse, from football stars to drag queens, and the ways we’re different from each other are as important as the ways we are the same. But I see us primarily as men who are Gay.

So I tried to write a positive book about guys who like men, without a single line that puts down anyone else.

I do have one minor homophobe, but Kent’s Uncle Robert is pretty much a token, to acknowledge that there are idiots in every family and every walk of life. He’s the family banker, and Jamie fires him once he gets control of the bank. (He also brings him back later in a diminished role, to illustrate the importance of forgiveness. I have had a terrible time with forgiveness, but Robert gave me a chance to learn a little generosity.)

I probably include way too much talk about how butch and handsome my main characters are – but that’s because I find us butch and handsome. Maybe I illustrate all this at too great length. I wrote, but cut out, a long scene of Kent and Jamie playing football; Kent is far the better athlete, but Jamie wins the game, and I decided late in the editing that a summary would do better than the play-by-play. The Gay fans of my previous books have always complained about “so much sports,” so I decided to spare them this time. I can’t help including sports, though, I was raised on them; most of us were. We’re men. We like competing at games, even if we don’t think our entire self-worth is determined by who can toss a ball.

There’s nothing wrong with sports, if you play them Gay. So I tried to this time. I hope that’s all right with my readers.

My big butch stereotype is that Kent’s a cop; he’s also a full human being. That’s what I think is important.

In the prequel, Murder at Willow Slough, he killed a bunch of guys to save Jamie’s life. He didn’t like doing it, but he also didn’t look back.

They both like Broadway musicals. They both like to fuck and get fucked. That’s how we really are; why not say so?

Still, I give them a dominant-submissive relationship, because that’s hot sex, and it’s what we really think about, and it gives me a chance to say some things about what I think is really going on in our relationships.

Kent calls Gay life “a cult of masculinity,” and that’s what I think it is.

What’s fascinating is that the masculine leader in one situation is probably the masculine follower in another.

We are all followers at some times and leaders at others.

It isn’t masculine to follow or lead; it’s human. In a Gay relationship, sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. Kent learns to enjoy both.

His formulation is that he “leads the physical and Jamie leads the mental.” But they’re more complicated than that; Jamie teaches Kent that he’s Gay.

That is, he likes dick too.

They get on wonderfully after that, and the conflict in the story comes from the outside. Inside their house they’re pretty congruent.

Still, the challenge was to write all this without reference to the stereotypes of male and female. And without the usual putdowns that equate submission with women. Women aren’t submissive, and Gay guys aren’t women; what stupid ideas.

It’s all over Gay porn, though. You’re either a stud or a bitch slut whore.

That isn’t good for our mental health. We’ve been taught to sexualize homophobia.

So I tried to write a book that doesn’t do that; a positive book where two guys groove on each other and celebrate male sexuality.

I don’t know whether I succeeded, that’s up to readers and critics, but that’s what I tried to do.

A great deal depends on cultural context; what is “mainstream Gay” in one culture is “way butch” or “way not” in another.

The year I turned 23 I lived in three different towns; West Lafayette, Indiana, a Big Ten college town (Purdue); New York City; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

It was weird for me; I went from mainstream Gay, to innocent Midwestern bottom, to Big Bad Butch in the course of a year.

I was still the same guy! In West Lafayette I was just Gay. In the leather scene in New York, they thought I was a little virgin pussyboy waiting to happen. In Charlotte the queens had fistfights, I was so butch.

Me??? It was disorienting. (I did like Charlotte, though. Me, butch all of a sudden, whoo!)

My point is this: most Gay men (and most Gay books) spend too much time comparing ourselves to heterosexuals.

It isn’t a proper comparison. Indeed it’s kind of homophobic.

If you like to get fucked, okay, you do; this doesn’t make you a woman.

We are not women. There are a lot of reasons to enjoy getting fucked, and none of them have to do with being women.

You are not a pig, a slut, a bitch, or any other epithet just because you like to get fucked. You’re a guy who likes to get fucked!

If you turn on to men, why wouldn’t you like sucking dick?

If you’re a man, why wouldn’t you like getting your dick sucked, especially since Gay guys can learn to be so good at it?

If you’re a man and you’ve got a pretty ass in front of you, why wouldn’t you fuck it?

I am totally appalled at the heterosexualization of homosexual sex. Yet that’s what porn pushes 24/7.

They want us to internalize homophobia, because they think that’s what gets us off.

This homophobia is built into us, by the hateful culture we grew up in. But change the culture, from West Lafayette to New York to Charlotte, and you change the homophobia.

I have looked at a great deal of pornography in the course of writing this book, and I don’t apologize for it. I was “doing research”! I was educating myself.

I was trying to write the hottest, sexiest, shoot-off love story ever – and then to put it in a context of love and even the Christian story of self-sacrifice, because I believe as Jesus said, “No greater love does a man have than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Jamie laid down his life in Murder at Willow Slough; then he lays down his life again for the hero who saved him – though in truth it was Jamie who saved Kent as much as the other way around. Jamie saved Kent from a life of empty heterosexuality, mostly because Kent didn’t know any better.

Then he takes one look at that little blond ass and everything changes.

You are not a bitch, you are not a whore; you’re a smart guy who likes dick. Who wouldn’t?++

(Tom of Finland)



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