Saturday, March 10, 2007

Where are all the leather daddies?

I'm sad that John Inman died. I have happy memories of watching Are You Being Served when I was growing up. Despite the "camp" persona, and the fact he denied that Mr Humphries was gay (!), I guess we can make allowances because it was the 1970s and Gay Liberation was just starting to get under way. For anyone to be gay or gay-coded in the media in those days, it was remarkably brave and forward-thinking.

Camp gay stereotypes like that don't annoy me as much as they used to about 5-10 years ago when I would bristle at any representation that seemed to confirm prejudices. Some gay men are camp, some aren't. And I think there are places for both sorts of representations in the world. What I dislike more is people complaining that they don't like camp gay men, or "straight-acting" men for that matter - though "straight-acting" is ultimately an inaccurate term - "approximating traditional masculinity" is what they actually mean. I still get a bit dismayed when people continually make the error of conflating sexuality (gay/straight) and gender (masculine/feminine) together.

I think I am a bit camp. If hear my voice on an answerphone it sounds camp to me, not like how I think I sound like. I saw Dreamgirls 3 times. I like the Golden Girls, Ab Fab, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and kitsch stuff. It's a part of me. But that's not all there is. I also like and do stuff that people probably wouldn't think as camp - Clint Eastwood movies, putting up flatpak furniture, steakhouses (!) I wear boring brown old men's slip-on shoes, my hair is always a mess (and not in a carefully constructed way), I like to be the driver, I can't/won't cook and I'm not very good at housework. At least I find it very easy to adapt to the people I'm around, because I can draw on lots of different interests and parts of myself.

Something that does continue to bother me though, is commerical gay culture. I don't go on "the scene" very often, have never been on a Pride March (now called Mardi Gras) and would never buy a product just because it was gay (though when I was 20 I did used to always try and stay in gay guesthouses and eat at gay restaurants. I stopped because on the whole, I wasn't that impressed with the service.)

This website for Pink Mortgage Services is something that I find a bit sad. Look at the pictures it has:

I guess they're trying to show that there are different types of gay people, which is good. But it's a bit over-kill and relies on stereotyped categorises that I don't think are that common really (the site claims to have 95% gay and lesbian clients - though I couldn't find any pictures of women there). And for the men, if you are not a muscled clubber on GHB, a drag queen, S/M leather daddy or bear, then how are you supposed to feel represented by this company? (I guess at least the "bear" is pushing a child along, which acknowledges that gay people can be fathers or uncles or whatever, but he's still in the background of the picture).

I don't know any of those sorts of people. OK, I live in Bristol which is not as big as London, but it's still fairly cosmopolitan. Most gay people I know look just like everyone else. They'd walk past you on the street and you'd never know they were gay. Maybe if you chatted with them for a bit, or if they told you, then you'd realise they were gay. But maybe not. I sometimes feel that the "invisible gay majority" is the last under-represented group left. And it's also the most important one - because if the invisible gay majority starts being recognised by the mainstream media and the gay media, then everyone will realise we are not stereotypes - we're just people.


Old Cheeser said...

I was sad to hear about John Inman's passing too, having just written a post on the same subject!

Considering my own tastes and likes I guess I must be "camp" too, although like yourself I'd like to think that I'm into other things which wouldn't be construed the same way.

Those pictures for the mortgage company are certainly very gaudy and I know what you mean about stereotyping. What about your average looking fella or gal? We don't all have pumped up chests and show off our bodies like that (I certainly don't think anyone would want to see mine!!)What about a bit of realistic representation?? I agree with your final point.

Fin De Fichier said...

I always wanted to post to one of the trashier gay dating sites - like - a profile where I say I was straight acting. And then when someone contacted me to meet for sex, say, "Dude, that's gross, I don't have gay sex. I'm straight acting. Didn't you see my profile?"
As it is I think I'll eventually post a profile at No nude pictures allowed. The one your grandma in heaven won't be embarrassed to see.

jetpack said...

those naff old gay stereotypes annoy the hell out of me but what is more depressing is the huge number of gay folk who, in a desperate bid for identity, will only do business with companies or buy products that feature rainbow colours and or a shiny torso displayed somewhere prominently (see just about any ad in Gay times magazine) thus approving and funding the perpetuation of those lazy stereotypes. We all say we wanted to be treated just like anyone else but when it comes down to it, quite a large proportion don't want to give up their little ghetto or be considered ordinary...

Tom SF said...

and would never buy a product just because it was gay

Does this include admittance into certain cinemas?