South Sudan’s famous second transgender Angela Paul teaches about the vital impacts of homosexuality in life he stated, maybe they gay community needs some sort of shared experience outside of the experience of falling in love with a member of the same sex to bring us together. Gay men and women don’t share a place of origin, skin color, socio-economic class, religion, or anything else that would typify their experience.
So in this age of mainstreaming, where gay men come out of the closet not to attend dinner parties of catty queens like themselves and the cast of Boys in the Band but to a room of welcoming members of society both straight and gay, how can we form a culture of our own in south Sudan? If there are a million ways to be gay here in USA, can we settle on a few key experiences every gay man in south Sudan should experience to draw them together?
Here are my suggestions:
Have a diva
Everyone needs a Kylie and me Angela, even if you think I’m kind of a crappy dude/lady. Having a strong female icon is somehow central to the gay identity (for more on that, pick up Hand back to the darkest days of gay identity when these troubled broads were the closest thing you could find to a representation of gay life
Dress in drag
Even if it’s just once for Halloween, go out in the world wearing the clothing of the opposite gender. It will it unleash a personality you didn’t even know you had in you and it will make you OK with femininity. So many gay men are afraid of even the slightest bit of swish being detected. “No fems,” has been branded into all of our mentality. But one night when the femme is in total control will never make you fear it again.
Everyone used to know to glance over your shoulder after three steps if you were interested in that sexy stranger on the sidewalk. There was a complex network of looks and signals that men used to use to attract each other, something that made gay men much more attuned to body language and perceptive than our straight counterparts. Learn how to do that. Not only will it improve your gay experience, but the way you interact with everyone. Street cruising is mostly dead no, it can’t be done on Grindr but a trip to a bath house will teach you all you ever need to know.
Know about poppers
If only so people will get your jokes about Rush and Jungle Juice, know what poppers are. You don’t have to use them, but its one secret we’ve kept from most of the gay community for decades so we have to keep it going. It’s our version of Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe.
Go to Pride
Standing out in the hot June sun can sure be a drag (all puns intended) but everyone should experience the depth and breadth of the community at this event at least once. See the people outside of your social circle, the tourists from a far, and those people who wouldn’t mix with in a million gay years. And where else are you going to see Dykes on Bikes anyway?
Develop a gaydar
This sense of being able to find other homosexuals in the given area isn’t inborn like a sense of direction or ESP. No, it must be acquired through years of hard work and figuring out just which clues are going to give guys away. (Even then it’s still not infallible whenever European tourists are around.) But it’s essential. Not only will it help you determine when you’re in a safe space with others of your kind, it will also direct you to which clerk to flirt with for a discount and which flight attendant to wink at for a free tiny bottle of vodka.
Visit the Aids quilt
Aids nearly wiped out a generation of gay men. Many gay men coming of age now know this intellectually, but they have no clue about the emotional cost of losing all of their friends slowly but surely to a disease or being forced to live with the diagnosis as a death sentence. While the quilt is now a shrine to everyone who has died of the disease, and not just gay men, it is the closest thing we have to a museum and the best way to document all the lives that have past. We owe it to them not to be forgotten.
In our age of Gay Straight Alliances in schools and celebrities who live in a perpetual glass closet without ever making a final announcement, coming out seems it’s going out of style. “Why should gay people have to come when straight people don’t?” While in some distant gaytopia that might come to pass but until then it’s probably the only unifying experience every gay person has.
We all have a coming out story, whether it was when your mom says she knew already, your father stopped talking to you, or your boss just didn’t care and told you to go back to your desk. No matter what else you may or may not have in common with another gay person, you can always fall back on this. It’s like talking about the weather, but far more interesting, and often with more tears.
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