The opening anecdote in that now-deleted The New Republic hit piece on Pete Buttigieg was so outrageously cruel, that I barely skimmed the rest of the article, which was some vaguely defined bromide against Neoliberalism and assimilation. (You can read a great takedown of it by Andy J Carr here). The thing that stood out was the author’s insistence that being an East Village ACT-UP style gay was the one Correct Way to be Gay.
I remember the Doc Marten, tight jean, activist t-shirt crowd well enough. I had a boyfriend who lived on Long Island and would frequently visit him up there and go out to the East Village. I remember calling those type of gays “clones.” I distinctly remember them being cliquish, gatekeeping and mostly monochromatic. It was like High School the Sequel. It was not a nurturing and welcoming community.
I have always been The Wrong Kind of Gay. I have never been offered the keys to the kingdom of circuit parties, and Fire Island getaways. Part of it has to do with race. Part of it has to with the fact I’m outside the gay ideal. I’m 5’2, have been told that I remind people of Alfonso Riberio, the buttmonkey of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I will never been a tall black Adonis. When I went to clubs and bars, I was, at best, invisible. At its worst, I subjected to thoughtless cruelty and juvenile lookism.
Picture it: Halloween in San Francisco’s Castro. The parade of over-the-top costumes. I think I saw a few Siegfried and Roy outfits, guys walking around with stuffed tigers attacking them. I remember one person dressed up as Hurricane Katrina, an elaborate concoction of paper maiche buildings under water with a phalanx of cotton clouds dyed virulently gray hovering above his head. I remember a man dressed as a flaccid penis, bravely trundling up and down the treacherously steep hill.
I was dressed as the Masque of the Red Death, in a crimson floating satin robe, my face corpsepainted black and white in the semblance of a skull. I remember feeling euphoric, glad to be a part of the pageantry.
Then a drunken guy bumped up against me. We’ll call him Chad. No big deal. It was a crowded space. But when Chad regained his equilibrium, he looked at me, and said to his group of friends, “Look! It’s Gary Coleman!” Then he and his group disappeared into the crowd. I forget what this drunk guy was wearing, and what he looked like, but he and his group were white, blandly handsome and of average (acceptable) height.
This stark reminder of how I was the Wrong Kind of Gay was hardly new. In my adulthood, the only grownups who commented on my diminutive stature were gay men. *Grown* gay men—of all colors. The notion that there is or was a utopian brotherhood of queerness is false.
If snap judgements, identity-policing and name-calling are Correct, I’m ecstatic to be Wrong. Not all of the activist t-shirts in the world can disguise moral vacuity or cruelty.