Recently, a Straight female reporter sat on my couch with her straight boyfriend at her side, asking me the usual questions. As I gave the usual answers, I watched her caressing her boyfriend's hand, staring at him with moon-glow eyes, occasionally coming out of her love trance long enough to formulate her next question. Then, laying her cloudy eyes to mine, she finally found the courage to speak those three little words everyone longs to hear from a stranger's lips... "Are you Gay?"
Oh my god, she's... like... asking for real!
Somehow I am always momentarily stunned after being asked this question, particularly since - to the best of my knowledge - an overwhelming amount of what one might label my 'project' has focussed on the deconstruction of 'authentic' identities including sexuality and gender. But the question has been asked, telling me that all of my Queer shenanigans have already been presumed to be ideological parlor tricks from a Gay boy too fussy to call myself what I am, or the manipulative and misdirected sympathies of a Straight boy riddled with guilt over the incongruities between my sexual politics and a biological imperative to breed. Clearly, if I am being asked this question by a journalist who claims she has followed my work for several years, then some critical parcel of information was not conveyed on my part and any answer I give now will fall upon deaf ears. But, like I said, she is asking the usual questions and I have my usual answer: the old 'shades of grey' metaphor to be calmly delivered with a shit-eating grin, "If Heterosexuality is white, and Homosexuality is black, then Queerness encompasses all of the shades of grey between!"
"Oh, you're Bi...," the journalist might reply.
"No, I am not Bisexual. I am Queer. The language of Bi-sexuality reinforces the binarism of Heterosexuality and Homosexuality. There are more than two forms of sexuality, and more than two genders."
"Oh," the journalist might giggle, thinking I am catching them in a technicality, "the third gender... like transvestites."
"Well, there are more than three genders...."
Pause. Sadly, I can tell my words are only heard as twists of logic, despite the fact that variations of sexuality and gender are, indeed, each greater than three. Maybe it's time for another shit-eating grin.
Don't let that rainbow flag fool you - the Gay Press rarely comprehends or promotes Queerness either. In fact, many writers and editors at Gay publications will delete the term "Queer" and replace it with "Gay" or "Lesbian," including in the context of a direct quote. Even Gay journalists sympathetic to the 'Queer cause' get it wrong. For example, while recalling the above interview to a Queer-friendly reporter who had just handed me a copy of his recent publication, I notice his face blush awkwardly. Later that evening I read the first line of his article describing me as a "Gay artist." Hmm... language possibly even culled from a Mille Plateaux press release....
Time and again, friends from around the world bring me anecdotes of people breathlessly telling the story that the "Gay Queen" Terre Thaemlitz is a fake who has been spotted side by side with a woman. Particularly offensive are those who bring such gossip to my more rigidly Gay- and Lesbian-identified friends, objectifying them as authentic Homosexuals expected to be surprised or enraged by my manipulation of the Homosexual community.
Once and for all, people, let me lay the question to rest:
Having been virtually born into a glass closet through which I was seen and segregated as both a Homo and a Girl for years prior to my having any subjective understanding of my own sexual desires, I have come to accept that my sexual identity (and at times gender) is a learned and perceived thing which is quite distinct from sexual acts in and of themselves. I have found nothing but alienation and suffering in my attempts to be singularly Heterosexual or Homosexual, both of which are poor reflections of my sexual activities. For example (and these are not simply academic ponderings):
People who do not know me often whisper that I am 'confused.' They may be confused by my inability to conform to their preconceptions about my sexuality, but I am not confused in the least. I know very much what types of people I like and what turns me on. I also know what typically turns me off. Apparently for many people, the fact that I do not fit the stereotype of a flaming drag queen pining after aloof muscle boys (who typically prefer other macho hunks anyway) makes me 'confused.' But my lack of attraction to manly men is no mystery to me - I bore the brunt of male violence throughout my childhood (and with less frequency, even today), finding my truest friends in women. So, as an adult, my physical and emotional attractions tend to favor women (femme or semi-butch) and femmes (male, Transsexual or female). This history of violence at the hands of super-hunks is also clearly related to my interest in Transgenderism and gender-fuck as ways of transforming my body-image away from conventions of manliness.
Meanwhile, does everyone really need to know exactly what is shoved up my ass, or up the ass of my partner, in order to determine if I am a card-carrying Gay? (Heaven forbid people admit that many Gay men never fuck in the ass, and that many Straight boys and girls do!) While I always try to be honest and open about my lovers to anyone who bothers to ask, is it really surprising that I do not go out of my way to advertise every single person I have had sex with simply to create statistics for others to evaluate my 'Gayness'? And does the fact that all of my long-term relationships thus far have been with women make me Straight? It didn't to the women from whom I separated after years together because they were sick and tired of my being a "fucking Queer." It didn't to the men who asked me to finally confront my "true Gayness" by stopping my relationships with women. It doesn't to the well-intentioned parents who puzzle their friends with pictures of their "Gay son and his girlfriend," or better yet, "Gay son and his wife."
However, you - my dear stranger - deserve an easy answer to the question at hand.
Am I Gay?No. I am happily Queer, without face or pride. I bring shame to the Gay name. I am a plague upon Straight culture everywhere. Now go and re-read all of my texts related to sexuality and gender, and try not to bother my friends with your gossip.
- November 21, 2000
Next in Terre's Rumour Mill Series: "Living Like A Millionaire On $15,000 A Year."