My sister-in-law likes the show “Queer as Folk”. I thought I better see what the media had been feeding her, so I got a CD and watched a couple seasons.
My eyes narrowed as the story lines unfolded. At first my squinting was from trying to tell the characters apart. They all looked exactly alike; slim, smooth, and clean-shaven.
After several episodes, I thought, “Well, there’s nothing portrayed here I can say doesn’t happen. But. It gives the impression we live in this vibrant, interesting milieu of fun gay stuff going on all the time.”
“That we live gay lives.”
In reality, most of us exist awash in this ocean of straight books, movies, news, advertisement, assumptions, and foregone conclusions. We are, most of the time, diluted to invisibility.
In a library, we might be able to hunt up a few gay books, if they haven’t been censored out of existence.
On the newsstands, there might be a scattering of gay rags, thick with alcohol and tobacco ads, and showing people who look nothing like anybody I’ve ever met.
And on TV there’s… Well, there are a few others, and there’s “Queer as Folk”.
I watched the show under pensive brows.
The episodes presented one after another “true to life” angles of gaydom: Drag queens. Fat fantasies. Chatrooms. S&M.
Sanitized just enough for television. But lopped off and laid out like a beefsteak. Commercializing on our weirdness.
I had to admit it was well done, though.
Then, in one episode, a gay character says to this straight older man, “Well, you would have made a great bear!”
“Wha… What!” I cried.
That would be like, well, like nothing. Something equally bizarre as maybe Puerto Rican woman saying to a Chinese man (coyly, like a farewell complement), “Well, you would have made a great nigger!”
Complete lack of understanding.
Nobody aspires to be a bear. It’s something you finally resign yourself to, the consolation prize, after wondering for years why the gay subculture takes no notice of you, is incredulous that you are actually gay, and is totally clueless what you’re about.
We bears are very much the niggers of the gay world.
I have never seen anything about bears in The Advocate, for example, that wasn’t vaguely mocking, entirely baffled, or completely missed the point.
They could never get away with that towards, say, transgender people.
Bearish men are my natural sexual preference. This is possibly what The Advocate is most uncomprehending about; that such a thing could be.
I didn’t even know I was gay till I met a bear.
As the credits rolled, I calmed down.
I thought, “Well, maybe that scene in ‘Queer as Folk’ is not a departure from their usual excellent production.”
“It’s actually completely realistic.”
“It accurately portrays how utterly clueless a ‘mainstream’ gay man would be about bears!”