Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm The Only Gay in The Village [muahahahahahahaha!!]

"I know that my children in later years, my transgender community will understand: We have to stand up and speak for ourselves! We have to fight for ourselves! We save their lives. We were the front line of the so-called 1969 rebellion of the Stonewall." — Sylvia Rivera from the documentary: Sylvia Rivera, A Trans Life Story


This post had to have the title it has. In my mind, it had this title for more than two weeks already, except I never got down to writing it. I have a lot on my mind in way of writing these days, except your mind and your writing, like the subtle scent of raspberries, gets crushed by surroundings and bigger events, and more powerful smells. Right now, as I sit in the evening shade at a table on the patio giving onto our backyard, as I type on a laptop that is not even mine, I think of alternative titles: "Post from a borrowed computer," "News of The Village and The (Other) Village," "I am broke and need money for a new computer," "Pride or Shame?" or better "Date no. 1-- The details!"

Last week, I spent my Friday afternoon in the (gay) village of Toronto with date No. 1 (again!!) So I guess it is high time to speak of the famous village of Toronto (and speak of date no. 1-- Yes, I will. So Ladies and Gentlemen, and Queers and Queers, please stop harassing me about it!!) What bothers me is that this post is not unfolding the way I wanted it to. My laptop screen has gone blank for days now, I feel handicapped, blind-folded almost, and totally out of place: I miss my virtual space, I cannot get work done properly, this makes me a tad stressed and I am too broke to even find a way to get my laptop repaired. It's funny (or may be not?) how an object gone can actually function like a phantom limb pinching through nonexistent life-tissues.

But the single mother has been nice enough and courteously offered me to use her old laptop (that her 8 years old generally plays on) till I am done with my paper-- for yes, I am on major research mode at the moment. All that to say that the pictures that I had taken to illustrate this post cannot be put up here since they are all on my (broken) computer, but I shall try my best to draw in broad strokes and finer ones, to conjure words as powerful as pigment so that you have an idea of my trip (now trips) to the village.

It may come across as rather surprising that I had never set foot in the gaybourhood of Toronto before. I mean how does a guy like me, who, throughout his teenage years, was force-fed with mouthfuls of the utopia idea of the gay villages in Montreal and Toronto not rush there when I've been here for 10 months already. (Ten months, doesn't it sound long? I've been here for 10 months already!) Well the answer may just be that I grew out of it, or that I am not a teenager anymore... Or, am I becoming too politically queer and too queerly political, or too radically queer and too queerly radical?! [The answer by the end of this piece if you keep on reading.]

Anyway, the (gay) village in Toronto is situated in the whereabouts of Church and Wellesley (which is very much downtown Toronto) and it has nothing to do with The Castro of sorts of the 70s as a ghettoized, politicized, out-of-the-norm urbanized space, as I had painted it in my mind. Not at all! Instead, as I paved my way through Church street, I was overwhelmed by a ridiculously gentrified space with the loathsome smell of consumerism. If disgust of the corporate there can be, the village in Toronto is where it reaches its climax. (Though there's the Pride coming up, but that's another story and we'll get to it soon.)

In order to be able to give structure to this post, I shall without further ado introduce date no. 1, for as a character (with whom I've had numerous arguments already) he seems central to my discussion of the gay village and the Pride. Date no. 1 is a graduate sociologist at the U of Toronto in Women and Gender Studies and he works on the class and race divisions (and citizenships) as represented within the Toronto Pride (ha! here you go!) To add to that, he is charming, gentlemanly (most of the times!), funny tall dark handsome bla bla bla... Well, no, actually, he is tall blond handsome, but that doesn't really matter, does it? The point is that Pride is the site of study for his thesis. Did I say that he actually lives in the village?!

Have you ever thought of being submerged under so much gayness such that you sweat gayness, you spit gay saliva and that you shave off gayness like hair off your face every-morning? Have you ever been so wrapped in the rainbow flag that your armpit smells like rainbow, that you take rainbow dirt off your toe-nails in the evenings and that your eyes can't distinguish colors anymore? Well, that's EXACTLY how you feel after an afternoon in the village. It's a traumatic overdose of corporate gayness. And when you're Queer (for I am queer and not gay, my blog is called "The Queer Behind The Mirror" and not "The Gay Behind The Mirror") at the end of the day, you just feel like screaming "I'M NOT GAY!!" and you empty your closet from all your clothes and you get back in and you hide there for the rest of your life till you decide to come out again and take action.

Coincidentally, while I was going through Date no. 1's book-shelf (I swear, I went to his place only to look at his book-shelf and nothing else happened. Erm... Kind of! Wink!), I found this very interesting book edited by Mark Sampson called Anti-Gay (1996) [click here for more, and there are some reviews here as well.] The book is all about the trash gay culture that I've been talking about to some of you over the past months. Far from being a sub-culture, it is more the mainstream middle/upper-middle class, highly pretentious, disgustingly consumerist gay culture that demands that as a gay man, you clone yourself into fashioning your body in a certain way (along with your other activities and above all: what you consume) in order to be accepted and be part of the mainstream. In the end, when you go to the gay village, if you've seen one man, you've seen them all.

What is of further interest here, however, is that if you've seen one "man," I said, you've seen it all! So "gay" in that sense has come to represent a homogeneous community that excludes women, that excludes trans subjects and I learnt from Date no. 1: that includes largely just white men. That's the point where a man like me ends up picking up a book like Anti-Gay and then screams: "I'm not gay!" Nonetheless, I remain queer (unless that gets appropriated as well!) Hopeful we may remain though, for I also found out that there is an entire collective shaping itself up on the west side of downtown Toronto and that they are calling themselves Queers and calling for a Gay Shame (as opposed to a Gay Pride) and their locality is called the Queer Village. I haven't been there yet, but that should be my next stop.

I thus learnt of various small pockets in Toronto involved with re-politicizing the Pride and what the Pride may just mean (Is there any meaning left at all?) The debate was highly ignited a few weeks ago through the public statement from the Toronto Pride committee that reiterated that the Toronto Pride does not have any affiliations to political entities or causes. Are you surprised and reeling of shock and probably wondering whether I (along with thousands of other people) read this bit correctly? If that's the case, you can check for yourself here. So what does that mean to have a depoliticized and apolitical Pride? Could it mean anything at all?

As well, I am still trying to make sense of the "LGBTTIQQ2S": Can somebody please help me with that? Is the act of adding more and more letters to the acronym a simple liberal act of elegance and praise of an inclusive nationalist discourse supporting so-called "multi-culturalism"? How far do we do in ringing our own (fake) bells?

The discussion went on feverishly (way too feverishly actually) with Date no. 1 as we were having a drink in one of the bars of the village last Friday. He argued that the combo "dress corporate+come to the pride+party+support the corporate+get drunk+have sex=how political action is to be seen in the Pride now." Now, for a man like me who claims never to have failed in gay (political) history, who is totally astounded that nobody even remembers Stonewall (it's just been 40 years for fuck's sake! 40 years and forgotten?!) and is shocked that nobody even remembers that the village in Toronto started through the "519" (a community centre which was the meeting place for various social and political groups) and as a reaction to raids that had happened in a Toronto bath-house in 1981; I AM APPALLED!

It enrages me almost. So off I went into the discussion of what constitutes politics and political action to start with (the act of reframing a certain mode of functioning and order, which the Pride doesn't not do but could do), about how the depoliticized and almost-conservative, totally homonormative space that the village is and that the Pride has become could not be called political... And the discussion went on.

By the end of the discussion which turned out to me a major argument, Date no. 1 said that he wouldn't mind being friends with me, that he is incredibly turned on by my brains, that he thinks I'm the best kisser he ever met but: "You're just so freaking opinionated. You know what? I REFUSE to date a guy like you!" And we hadn't even discussed things that I really feel for: like the post-colonial, war and militarization, race theory and racism, alternative histories, secularism (and the French laicite) or the one topic that makes me mad: whether women should be allowed to wear the veil or not?

So that's how yet another guy said he would refuse to date me because of my strong opinions about everything! That's how being so rigid in my thoughts, thinking processes and points of view brought about my downfall. I think I actually found my biggest flaw: I am too opinionated. But at the same time, I think that's the part of my personality that I like the most (more than my sarcasm, even!) What I think and what I believe in has been the result of years and years of thinking through the mess that is this world, and opened as I am to new ideas and possibilities and modes of thinking, I do think I am on the right track.

So to go back to the village and the Pride coming up, the feeling still is that we are not looking at the right things. How much more homonormative will we become? How depoliticized and apolitical will all action become? How much of history can actually be forgotten? What does an entire generation retain by watching Gus Van Sant's cinematic rendition of the life of Harvey Milk?

Nonetheless I am heading to the Trans Pride and all the Trans events of the coming Friday. One of the few things that I seem to still connect to. As to the Pride on Sunday... Well, let's see how my work goes throughout this week. If time off I need to take, time off I shall take.

To conclude, you might still be wondering why in the village would this post have the title that it has. Well here it goes: while going through the village the first time, I had an overdose of gayness. I mean, come on, in The (Other) Village, i.e. Peterborough, I am the only gay in The Village, ain't I? And I think I got used to be the only gay in The Village. I feel like a star of sorts and that allows me to always be the centre of attention! In the gay village of Toronto, I become just another HOT gay guy walking around!

That reminded me of Little Britain, that I found out, very few of you know about. Little Britain's adventures of Daffyd Thomas plays with the idea of being the only gay in the village, even when one is not the only gay in the village. (Please read here.)It's a brilliant parody of all those gay men who love to victimize themselves and have as much attention possible drawn to their being. Daffyd Thomas reminds me of Prof. Cao (read here, here and here.) Prof. Cao was a man whom we met in India, and he wanted to declare himself as the gay martyr of India. As a consequence, he always victimized himself and called himself "the only gay of the village." Daffyd Thomas is such a wonderful parody of such behavior.

I am leaving you here with a clip of Little Britain. We all deserve some British Comedy after all!

Drama Queen voice on: "But oh no! I am sure they will sue me and delete my blog! What else could I expect from those homophobes! They hate me. That's because I am the only gay in the village!"

1 comment:

Pascalou said...

I'm not hitting on you here, big boy. But hell, I could NOT date a guy who doesn't have a serious opinion on serious subjects. Ultra-opened-mindedness is a quality proudly worn by those whose personality is too weak or too selfish to take part in serious matters. Screw them all. I'm proud of you, Professor.