Saturday, July 23, 2005

Gay Heaven

I'll admit it. I was trolling Craigslist: looking at apt. listings, jobs, and not looking for chicks, per se, but I did want to know if Mango, the infamous girlie "tea dance," i.e. afternoon party, was going on, and where better to find out than the "women seeking women section." That's where I stumbled across the following anonymous posting in response to someone who had written, "WOW! when i moved here i thought i would be in gay heaven. but i was very wrong. i moved here from an area in america where there are no open homos. i am from the upper midwest. i came here expecting something better than where i left."

While I can sympathize with the gal I've dubbed, "Disappointed from Dubuque," my beliefs are more in line with this savvy someone's response:

First of all, SF hasn't been "gay heaven" for a long time. Basically since the dot-commers chased a lot of community out. It's still more of a mecca for gay white men, but a lot of women and men of color couldn't afford to stay here. Some of us have been here long enough that we're either in rent controlled apts. or have had time to establish ourseleves in business, careers, or whatever.

Secondly, I've been here almost 20 years, but I grew up in a small town in the midwest also. I think what you desire out of the community is an unrealistic, idealistic fantasy. It sounds great, however, the fact is, we DO come from different backgrounds, religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), education levels, socio-economic classes, cultures, political backgrounds. We DO have different morals, standards, goals, and desires.

Not all of us think the gay marriage issue is the most important issue in the world right now. Some of us don't want to emulate heterosexual marriage. Some of us would rather put our energy and resources into other things going on in the world like all the innocent people being killed, and who we put into office, and AIDS in Africa, and alternative fuel sources etc. Some of our community are actually Republicans, and I for one, will never see eye-to-eye with them and have no desire to stand next to them in the fight for them to get married when I can't stand anything they represent.

There are thousands of "straight" bars in this City and people can choose where they want to hang out based on whether they are with like-minded people, the kind of music they play there, the dress, the bartenders etc. We, lesbians, [however] have limited places to go, and sometimes it's difficult because the minute you start talking to someone you realize you have absolutely nothing in common other than you're both homosexual. She starts talking about some kind of music you've never heard of, the latest reality show, the latest pop idol etc., but has no clue as to who Karl Rove is and doesn't care. Maybe all she's interested in is what kind of car you drive and when you tell her you got rid of your car and bike/walk everywhere in the City, she doesn't understand that it has nothing to do with your income level and rolls her eyes. Do I have to like that person? Do I have to support her?

Do I have to support the Republican woman who voted for the Governator and wants to cut back education, police and fire-fighter funding? Do I have to support the woman who can't hold down a job, has two kids at home but is out drinking and doing lines in the bathroom? (nothing against drinking and doing lines). Do I have to support the ftm who hits on my girlfriend and grabs her ass and acts more misogynistic than any of our straight male friends? Do I have to support the woman who approaches me and tells me her boyfriend is at home and wants her to pick up a woman so he can watch us? (unless you're into that).

Basically, I do not like all the lesbians or gay men in this City and don't feel any connection to them. I hate the Castro with all its homogenized shallowness. I love this City and have a lot of friends of all sexual identities, ages, races, and sexes, and we support each other in our goals and dreams and day-to-day troubles because we share the same ones. I do not share the same everything with the entire lesbian community so I cannot support the entire lesbian community. So ... that's my rant for today and now I'm going out to enjoy this gorgeous weather with the people—straight, bi, and gay—in my life. Hopefully you will find your group of peeps.

He he he. I'm so glad I'm not the only disgruntled dyke in town. : )

On the subject of gay marriage, I'm all for it ... but it's a mixed bag. I have concluded that for gay people of my generation and younger, it's not something we were pre-disposed to think about as a realistic possibility, and so we're not trained in the longevity department, i.e. we don't necessarily have the "'til death do us part" mentality. Sure, I know all about the divorce rate in this country, and yes, I know there are plenty of gay couples who have been together for years and years, but my personal experiences in SF lead me to believe that we homos are time bombs ready to go off at the slightest trigger when it comes to commitment.

I will allow for the fact that quite possibly it's just me. I haven't made it more than six months with anyone out here, with the average being about six to eight weeks. The one woman with whom I really thought and felt I could and would want to be with—we lasted about four months. When I relay these facts, people often say "well, you must be a commitment-phobe." Usually, they don't know that I had much longer relationships in my 20s. Years not months, i.e. real relationships. I don't know what the hell to call my experiences these days; to use the term "relationships" to describe my SF liasions would be stretching things wider than the elastic on Fat Albert's pants.

I also like the part Miss Anon wrote about how "maybe all she's interested in is what kind of car you drive and when you tell her you got rid of your car and bike/walk everywhere in the City, she doesn't understand that it has nothing to do with your income level and rolls her eyes." I recently was on the 5th or 6th date with a girl who seemed simpatico until I "forced" her to walk from 14th & Market to my place in the Mission—about 10 blocks. She got pissed, and whined the whole time, telling me I need to get a car. Then she exclaimed, "Walking reminds me of when I was 15 and didn't have a car." I responded, "Walking reminds me of the 15 years my mother slowly lost the ability to walk—before she died last year." You like that? I got plenty of 'em. War stories.

Sigh. Gay heaven. I don't know about that. Though, like Anon, I also despise the Castro, I'd much rather it exist than not. Put it this way: We have our freedoms in SF, that's for sure. I don't take them for granted, but they come with a high price as do most things in this city. I may sound bitter about it, and sometimes I am, but lately I've just been working on accepting the situation as it is and taking it from there. In other words, I'm working at making my peace with it: the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference as they say. I hope "Disappointed" is able to make her peace with things here. I'll be rooting for her. Hell, I'm rooting for myself:

"One wonders. One doesn't quite understand. But the truth is that the intimacy and closeness was all an intricate hoax, an ingenious dream, a subtle but half-hearted mirage. That is what I thought once I'd entered the city. And so I concluded: don't be strong; don't be alone; don't be proud; it's your only chance ever to understand anything at all. Be fragile, be tender, humiliate yourself, and let the discoloration of dream close in on you. Do that, and oddly enough you'll remain healthy; you'll be yourself; you'll discover the best way to live in this particular most fruitless and tantalizing of possible worlds. The reality becomes a cruel dream while the dream fades into a tender man-made reality."
—Frederic Prokosch
The Asiatics


Anonymous Swingingpuss said...

Seems that 'Disappointed' thought life was all "Queer As Folk" style in SFO and everyone lived the high life. Sad, but reality does bite.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Marriage is not only important, it is essential. Most of us
never felt that it would be possible to achieve. My partner and I used to live in the Castro 15 years ago. We met in college and this year, we celebrated our 30th year together, and you don't even want to know the
crap we went through with family and friends for it all to work.

We wonder why gays and lesbians don't commit and are so promiscuous. Perhaps one reason is that society has given us no reason to commit to each other. In fact, they have done everything in their power, short of passing a law against being homosexual, to see to it that the state and federal government in no way, shape, or form, gives any acknowledgment to our relationships. Why then is it so hard to understand, that we don't either?

I want marriage for two reasons.

1) to prevent my greedy family, who has sworn to take "my half" of the holdings my partner and I have spent a lifetime building, from breaking up what will be left of the home we made together when I die. Our lawyer tells us that she can draw up all the necessary documents such as wills, power of attorney, etc.. (there are 12 of them in all), but she adds, "At the time the documents are executed," (one of us dies), "it all depends on how the court will view your relationship. A will can be
contested and if the court is not sympathetic to the relationship, can rule for the family. There really is nothing as strong in these issues as marriage." And this was from a lesbian lawyer who specializes in the
legal rights of gay couples.

2) to give acknowledgment that our relationship matters". It's important.

I agree that "marriage" has a lot of baggage. But, you didn't expect a relationship to be all cookies and milk, did you? It's time for our community to be honest with itself. We either want to be part of society as equals, or we don't. If we don't, they we should be willing to accept
second-class status, along with the labels of "faggot", "dyke", "queers", etc., along with the gratuitous violence upon our community that comes from being viewed as society's trash.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Clayton Kroh said...

I've heard some gay men and lesbians, when asked to help support marriage equality, respond, "Well, I don't want to get married" as a reason not to help--or even bother to learn what's going on.

The marriage issue in the U.S. isn't just about being able to marry legally, it is about all gay rights. The core battle ground happens to be around the issue of marriage, whether you want or plan to marry or not.

If we are ambivalent and allow marriage to be closed off to us, it will cement the view that simply being gay is wrong, and the few rights you do have as an individual (if you live in a progressive state) will be open to attack.

I come from Virginia originally, and I wonder sometimes if gay people truly realize that it is LEGAL in that state (and many others) for your landlord to evict you if he finds out you're gay, and that your employer can fire you for being gay--and you have no legal recourse.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Bob A. Booey said...

Wow, what a great piece and discussion. Keep that rainbow
flying, MPHO. Chicks are hot :)

Your girlfriend whining about having to walk resonates with all us straight dudes. Funny stuff. I love that Prokosch quote.

The gay marriage issue is complicated. We should of course have full legal recognition of gays and legalize gay marriage so we get rid of the last few remnants of anti-gay discrimination codified in the law. Read Dr. Carmine's excellent piece on this site advocating that gays repudiate marriage altogether, an argument other scholars like William Rubenstein have made convincingly. I think a lot of interesting though has
come out of queer theory and from gay scholars about how legal regimes of sexuality are constraining in the norms they would place on gays and might reflect the very underside of the stereotypes that plague gay men
especially. If the stereotype is that gay men have anonymous, risky sex and avoid monogamy, then straight society's extension of gay marriage rights might inevitably result in a policing of gay monogamy and fidelity, complete with financial obligations. I think there's also a real problem with gay adoptions here: once gay marriage is legal (and it will be someday), why is it that we'll strongly prefer gay married couples to adopt over long-term committed gay couples who don't choose to marry? Some things to think about for gay activists and straights who support
their struggle.

And finally, for you and Natalie and the other lesbians on the site [cross-posted at see], I do have one caveat: don't go for the butch chicks. I mean, as long as you're into chicks, be with the hot, girly girl lipstick lesbians. Otherwise, you might as well be with a dude, ya know?

That is all.

9:28 PM  
Blogger mpho said...

Misery loves company, Bob! No, I agree with you; I gotta keep my sense of humor about otherwise the days and nights would be long and dark with no respite. I couldn't find the Carmine post that you referred to, but I'd like to read/link it.

Like Clayton and Bill, I believe the sanctioning of gay marriage is important for many reasons. Nonetheless, it doesn't touch upon me directly. I never had those kind of dreams, but I wouldn't want to keep it from anyone else. And maybe my luck will change and I'll be eating these words--at the altar. Riiiiiiiiight. Ha ha ha ahhhh.

You might have to eat your words too, though Bob. particularly, the ones about butch chicks. gina gershon in bound to name one and i'll stop just at one 'cause that's not even the point. i might *be* one of those butch chicks. or the girly girl lipstick lesbians might remind me too much of mommy dearest. or, or, or... actually, i'm an equal opportunity employer, but i have to stand up for those who might be offended by your tongue-in-cheekiness. but thanks for the sentiment. i know what you mean.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous natalie davis said...

Trust me, Mr. Booey, being with a "butch chick," in my experience, is nothing like being with a dude. And some of us choose partners on the basis of the individual's qualities, not because of their clothing or hairdo or whatever. Those who think that it's about emulating another gender (and I don't believe you are one of these people) don't get it.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I must say it's refreshing to hear from a rugged
individualist type lesbian who doesn't follow the group identity mindset, clinging to victimhood. It strikes me as a healthy, proud stance.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Bob A. Booey said...


Gina Gershon is SO not butch. She's hot and very femme, no matter how short they cut her hair for some movie. I can totally understand why you gravitate toward the girly lesbians yourself. Natalie and mpho, can we set up a lovematch? Natalie likes butch chicks, MPHO is a butch who likes girlies. I kid, I kid :)

Here's the link to Dr. Carmine's take on your topic:

9:48 AM  
Blogger mpho said...

Hey Bob,

Now we're really getting off topic but I will say two things. One is that when I mentioned Gina Gershon I was referring to the character she played and believe me, she was butch. This is dicey because then we start to get into what defines butch, femme, androgyne and the gradations--soft butch, hard femme, etc. and I really don't want to go there right now. Maybe in another fresh post.

Second, I know you're kidding, but your comments will get you thrown to the gender/orientation lions for good reasons.

Among other things, I never said I was butch, nor am I saying that I'm not, the point being that you don't know what I am until I tell you what I am and all I've said is that I like women. As for taste, sure I have been tantalized by the sort of lipstick femme that you have conjured--the kind that often feeds straight guy fantasies. I've dated butch women too. Charms come in all sizes, shapes, forms, and types of underwear. I am one of those who, as Natalie put it, choose partners on the basis of the individual's qualities. I date women because regardless of what kind of label you put on them, there are immense differences between women and "dudes." I'll leave it at that 'cause I'm diplomatic like that : )

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Bob A. Booey said...

Mpho, I hear ya :) I'm just playing dumb. I'm plenty dumb on my own, but I know these things are fluid. I mean, sometimes I switch it up from skinny blondes with fake boobs to skinny brunettes with fake boobs to tall, skinny blondes with small boobs to tall, skinny brunettes with small boobs. See the variety of my depth and the depth of my variety? :)

Is it just me or are fake cans less prevalent among the woman-on-woman population? More importantly (and more seriously), let us know what you think of Dr. Carmine's thoughts.

That is all.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Natalie davis said...

Like Dr. Carmine, I am all for the lifelong commitment between two people who love each other. I also believe the government ought to be out of the marriage business -- if it is a sacrament, leave it to the churches, those that discriminate and those that do not. But since the gummint insists on having its grubby hands in the marriage mix by conferring upon it the status of legal contract, then legal marriage should not discriminate against citizen couples on the basis of sexual orientation.

As far as "gay heaven," or what any person sees as a heavenly life, different individuals require different things. Some people want to be surrounded with people just like them; others do not. Some people crave monomamous relationships, though only of the serial variety (Brad Pitt, perhaps?) and others like playing the field. Many people want one partner for life. And there are some who are better off alone, with no relationship beyond friendship, no romance, no sex. Orientation isn't the issue here -- the issue is what individuals want and how they wish to live their lives.

11:46 AM  
Blogger mpho said...

Actually the real issue, ie. what i had intended, is that lots of people move to SF with the delusion that the so-called "gay capital of the world" will be experienced as "gay heaven."

For a lot of us, it is heaven--in the sense that many of the issues become nonissues: 99% of the time, we can be out at work or walk down the street holding hands with someone of the same gender or speak to our medical physicians candidly, etc. Most of our neighbors won't freak out, and we don't have to put up w/ an excess of derogatory comments or behavior.

In other words, we're not ostracized so much--at least not by straight people. But oddly, we often ostracize ourselves. For one thing, the lesbian and gay male communities are extremely segregated. I can't speak for the guys (case in point: I don't even have any gay guy friends out here), but among dykes, there is a tenuous sense of community that (for me) has only felt genuine and nurturing during certain times of the year, like the weeks leading up to gay pride.

The rest of the time we judge ourselves by the same things that straight people use to judge themselves and everyone else--class, ethnicity, age, physical appearance (fit or fat, ugly or pretty), etc. Plus there are qualities to judge that are unique to lesbians (butch or femme or boi etc.) or to gays at large.

The result is that if you have other reasons to be in SF, it *can* be heaven. If you come here only because you're gay and you expect to receive the welcome of a prodigal son or daughter, you'll probably be disappointed.

Also, dating can be difficult here. Happy couplings do abound, but oddly, I had better "luck" in the midwest than I do out here, and I'm convinced that the larger dating pool is partially the cause. There's less reason to stay together (if you think suitable partners are a dime a dozen), esp. if you haven't grown up with the notion of growing into a life-long commitment with another person. Outside the gates of "heaven," people have to stick together. The sense of "community" is often stronger, it's easier (and perhaps more important) to forge strong bonds within intimate relationships. You don't take people or rights for granted as much as when you're faced with feast not famine.

I've said many times, I didn't move to SF because I'm gay, but I tend to stay because I am. I wouldn't trade my freedoms, but there is a trade-off and those who are fresh off have an adjustment period in which they first learn the trade-offs and then have to decide whether the exchange meets their needs and desires.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Zenslinger said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Zenslinger said...

I think Mpho hit it pretty solid when she said the Midwest gay shouldn't expect to be treated like a prodigal son or daughter on arrival. My impression from the gay men's community is the average wide-eyed naif will get a skeptical glance and receive the message that he needs to get to the gym more often.

The segregation issue applies to straights as well. I have not made any real gay friends since coming to San Franicsco over five years ago. I wouldn't dream of going into a gay bar as I would in other cities. I think for a lot of gay-friendly straight men like me, there is some frission to be had in the flattering attention you receive as an object of desire, when women aren't apt to treat any but the most attractive men that way. But here, you won't get that attention, or any sense of gratitude for being gay friendly, because you're just not needed -- it's that "larger dating pool" Mpho referred to. The notion of trying to convert a straight man to be gay is still a cherished stereotype, but I doubt it's practiced much here. Of course, straight men feeling flattered by gay men's attention and being smug in their own acceptance of homosexuality aren't too much of a loss -- notions more appropriate to the college years.

But even so, it's odd that gay friendliness is almost obsolete here, engendering a feeling that borders on rejection.

A lot of this is a matter of perspective for San Francisco residents. The lack of discrimination does make it seem like a gay heaven to a lot of gays (as it did to my friend I talked about in a comment on "Gay Fried") -- it's just that you get used to it and move on to the more complicated issues, I suppose.

5:00 PM  

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