One Hand Clapping
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! October 3, 2002
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What minimum amount of gay community is necessary to put your politics, principles (or lack thereof), relationship practice, fashion choices and gender ambiguity right out on the big mainstream table? For me, it apparently takes more than whatever amount I generally carry with me in the pocket of my y-front underwear.
                This summer I made the deliberate choice to spend considerable money and time vacationing with my family. A confident queer, I never dreamt it would lead me to question who I am. Not: Should I be married? Not: Do I need a rambling, split level, 5 bedroom house in the suburbs? Not: Am I really gay? But: How gay am I, really?
                My family – all straight – accept that I’m gay with an outward comfort which is also as if, at the dinner party of life, they’ve been served a strange new dish they have no idea how to eat. So they eat it, politely, the same way they’ve eaten everything else that’s ever been on their plate.
                There are no inquiries or questions. There is no acknowledgement I’m different, that my underwear is different, that my life choices (beyond who gets in my bed) are different. We have conversations and plan activities just as if everyone involved is straight except that one of us is gay.
               It’s a common dilemma for most queer fish thrown onto the family shores of life. The fact that you’re gay effectively disappears. No gay jokes, no gay innuendo, no gay fashion solidarity, no gay cream for my coffee. As I trudged once more in my gay sandals down to the ungay beach from my ungay cabin beside an ungay lake, I asked myself if I were a flaming drag queen would I have more balls to gay-ify this resort? If it weren’t my family here but all people I didn’t know, would I be the unquietly queer, out-and-out dyke I am pretty much anywhere else?
               The problem is, it’s a solo effort, a community of one. (Well, and my daughter who, Gucci bless her, impatiently told her cousin to stop using the phrase “That’s so gay” for things he didn’t like.) So what do you do? Declare one morning it’s Gay Day? The canoes will be reserved for gay people (you). The lakeside swimming pool will be gays only (you). The hot tub will be an exclusive gay cruising zone (you), and the games room will be cleared for a big gay party bash at night (just you).
               In three weeks of vacation I had two “gay” moments, both from unlikely sources. At the Vancouver Folk Festival I chatted up a lively, tatooed boy-dyke and in twenty minutes had a more engaged and familiar conversation with a complete stranger than I’d had with much of my family in two weeks. Secondly, an Anglican priest who’d been a noviciate of my father’s came for lunch at our happy family resort and in less than five minutes we were discussing the church’s reluctance to sanctify gay & lesbian unions.
              Other than that, I sat silently through boring conversations about real estate values and CDs with parental advisories (my daughter needs her own advisory sticker other parents know how much I swear). I bit my tongue as non-monogamous liaisons were unanimously condemned, I curtailed my glee when mistaken by an old family acquaintance to be my sister’s elder son (which my sister assumed I would find insulting).
              I haven’t been so ungay since the time I wore that white dress with the matching shoes. It leaves me doubting my ability to uphold a gay identity if I never encountered another gay person. Would I just slink in the background muttering to myself about liberated sex, open relationships, gender fluidity and fruit cocktails? Or would I do what any sensible, self-preserving gay would do in the face of such smothering heterosexuality? Begin recruiting.

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No gay jokes, no gay innuendo, no gay fashion solidarity, no gay cream for my coffee.