Category Archives: Queer … Plus All Those Acronyms
Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me is a slight book, and its breeziness and lack of depth will either strike a reader as charming and flâneur-like or will be irritating in the extreme.
What is called a memoir is actually little more than a commonplace book, including extracts of diaries, snippets of conversation, and notes taken with studied casualness and later transcribed into the text. The low point of this approach comes when Hayes describes replacing Sacks’ typewriter ribbon. Testing the new ribbon, the latter strikes random keys and types nonsense phrases, all of which Hayes dutifully reproduces in a two-page spread. It’s hard to avoid the sense that one is watching a doting mother hang her two-year-old’s incomprehensible fingerpainting in an expensive frame over the family mantle.
Throughout Insomniac City, in fact, Oliver Sacks is constantly performing Oliver Sacks for the delectation of his amanuensis Hayes; and Hayes never stops elbowing the reader to say, “Isn’t Oliver wonderful? Doesn’t he have a brilliant mind?” Anecdotes about “the great man” abound, but they remain sterile.
On his own, Hayes eccentrically tools around New York having “experiences,” offering $20 bills to homeless people and chatting with strangers, the quintessential ecotourist in other people’s existences.
The glimpses that Hayes offers into his and Sacks’ intimate relationship are tantalizing but vague, with a kind of maidenly lack of specificity that is out-of-place in a book whose entire purpose for existing is the relationship between the two men. Hayes is, after all, the reason that Sacks ended a period of celibacy that spanned more than 30 years, about which the public is evidently going to learn nothing more in this lifetime. Sacks doesn’t say much about it in his autobiography, published shortly before his death, and Hayes follows suit.
There would have been no need for pornographic detail, surely, but a bit more candor about the late-in-life relationship of two men, one of whom was nearly 40 years older than the other, would have been both useful and appropriate.
Instead, Insomniac City feels oddly and, one suspects, deliberately de-gayed to serve the needs of its high-end mainstream publisher and of its hip and urbane “New Yorker” public who are surrounded by gay people but really don’t want to talk about them all that much.
Hayes is too in love with his own beautiful little phrases to focus on substance, and, apart from noting that the prose is ornate, a reader might be forgiven for wondering why so much air has been pumped into the spaces between the words.
In the end, Insomniac City feels very much like “Oliver Sacks: The Souvenir Program,” pretty, superficial, and forgettable.
After Orlando, we weren’t all “#JeSuisCharlie.”
We weren’t all “#WeAreParis.”
The hashtags #WeAreGay and #WeAreLesbian, never mind #WeAreQueer or #WeAreTrans, never “trended.”
The Eiffel Tower, the White House, Facebook profiles didn’t get painted in the rainbow colors of the gay-pride flag.
There was very little #GayLivesMatter (6,920 hits for that hashtag online; 588,000 for #JeSuisCharlie”; 414,000 for #BlackLivesMatter).
Let me be clear: I don’t actually wish for any those things.
I am deeply ambivalent about—no, I’m completely appalled by—the way social media turn tragedy into a brand that people can wear, for a time, like a designer label. Until that fashion goes out of style.
And I understand that #BlackLivesMatter has a genuine social agenda, whereas #GayLivesMatter, to the extent that it exists, is nothing more than a virtual slogan. There’s no comparison really. I don’t argue otherwise.
But it is one week later, and the attack on queer people at a nightclub in Orlando is already fading from the media. Cecil the Lion got more time.
Republicans have succeeded—I think we have to acknowledge this—in shifting the discourse from queer bashing to “terrorism.” They’ve managed to whitewash and straightwash the 102 victims so that they are simply “human” and no longer queer, no longer brown.
Or they were brown alone and “only some” were gay, as Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) put it three days after the attack. Because that would have made things worse. Or better. I can’t tell.
We have to admit that Trump’s message that he will stamp out “radical Islam”—and, thus, would be best for the gays (though he promises to undo marriage equality and opposes all federal anti-discrimination legislation)—has won him voters among gay people.
But still. It is one week later.
I don’t want everyone to “BeOrlando.” Rainbow colors on everything wouldn’t make me feel better, wouldn’t make anyone feel better, wouldn’t bring anyone back, wouldn’t heal the wounded, wouldn’t make gay bars feel safe again, wouldn’t make life feel safe again, wouldn’t take away the sting of hearing over and over how we deserved to die/deserve to die porque la Biblia dice así….
So no, I don’t want memes or hashtags or gay-flag profile generators. I’m not trying to guilt-trip anyone into doing those things now, and I don’t think less of anyone for not doing them sooner.
All I’m saying is that I noticed.
My rhetorical question for Tuesday morning: If Omar Mateen had been inspired to kill queers by the teachings of the Westboro Baptist Church rather than by the teachings of ISIS, would we be calling the Orlando massacre an act of “terrorism”?
The United States of NRA want us to believe in terrorism because that makes us feel scared. We’ll accept the lack of gun regulation—hell, we might even buy a gun. We’ll accept unfettered
spying intelligence-gathering on American citizens.
Anything, in fact, as long as it doesn’t require addressing why so many Americans hate—hate women, hate queer people, hate transgender people, hate black and brown people—enough to kill them.
The media and too much of the public—dragged along by the idiot rhetoric of self-serving politicians—continue to insist that Islam and Muslims are the problem.
They refuse to acknowledge that the real problem was hating queer people.
Because, in a lot of cases, that would require them to bomb themselves.
After appearing first in this-is-barely-journalism online scandal sheets like Towleroad, reports of Marco Rubio’s alleged “gay past” have now made it all the way to the Washington Post, and more’s the pity.
The “story,” to the extent one can be said to exist, is a masterpiece of innuendo, insinuation, and plain, old nudge-nudge-wink-wink gossip. In May 1990, when he was 18 years old, Rubio “was arrested for being in a crime-plagued public park after closing time.”
The “crime-plagued park,” also described as “notorious” (code-word alert) in the screechy reports now zooming around the internet, as well as “a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes and gang members,” was also apparently known for sexual encounters between men in which many things may have changed hands, but cash was not one of them.
In specific, however, what Rubio was actually arrested for was drinking beer inside a closed car with a friend. He never went to court; he was never convicted of anything; the charges were eventually dismissed.
The court file, meanwhile “been has destroyed,” the Washington Post says, in one of those irresponsible uses of the passive voice in English that strongly implies an ominous conspiracy (just in time for the new X-Files), but ignores the near certainty that most twenty-five-year-old records for misdemeanor arrests in which the charges were dismissed have also been destroyed. (But “destroyed” sounds so much more dramatic than “sent to the shredder because we needed the space.”)
Since this not-really-a-story broke, the queer media in particular has been throwing around phrases like “closet queen” and “hypocrisy” like there’s no tomorrow.
And they ought to be ashamed of themselves.
First of all, there is absolutely no reason to think that Rubio was in the park because he was having sex with, intended to have sex with, or even wanted to have sex with, another man.
There is no proof that he was there for some reason other than to drink beer in public at an age when he wasn’t legally entitled to do so.
And no one has said any different—at least not anyone who has talked so far.
Second, let’s suppose it’s true. Let’s suppose he was there to cruise for dick. Are we really arguing that a teenager who, at 18-going-on-19, might have been living the vida loca couldn’t grow up to be heterosexual? Or might not have decided, for religious or other reasons, that whatever he was doing, or thinking about doing, with other men, he ought to quit it?
In other words, can we stop insisting on the one-drop (of semen) rule?
Third, and most importantly, Marco Rubio is evil. He is a right-wing, Christian fundamentalist, anti-abortion horror show who denies both rape and climate change with approximately equal enthusiasm.
But the great thing about the American Dream is that none of that is any obstacle to becoming one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse!
No, you can be one of the most terrifying politicians to have come along since the McCarthy era and still be a) a closeted homosexual; b) an out homosexual; c) a heterosexual; d) someone who used to be gay but isn’t anymore; e) a homosexually-oriented but exclusively heterosexual-behaving man or woman; f) a man or woman with naughty erotic fantasies that are, in any case, nobody else’s business; or g) all of the above at different points in time.
In the meanwhile, getting all Dowager Countess of Grantham-sniffy over his supposed “gay past” is just a way to imply that there’s something inherently shameful and indecent about being gay.
Anyone worried about the potential victory of the Tea Party Jihad in America should be shaking with Chikungunya-fever-like chills over Rubio’s politics. The man is despicable.
But not because of a little (alleged) adolescent fellatio.
Residence: The Kingdom of Heaven
• Defying authority, including the State Governor and the Supreme Court of the United States
• Using taxpayer money to fund a frivolous, pointless legal defense
• Deciding which parts of the U.S. Constitution apply to me
• Defining the “laws of nature”
• Religious fundamentalism
• Damning people to hellfire for all eternity
• Chambray skirts
Memberships and Awards
• Member, The Liberty Council, a recognized hate group
• Commendation from The Family Foundation, a recognized hate group
• Commendation from the Clay Mills Road Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, where the National Young Fundamentalist Conference’s “blackface boxing” matches are always a crowd-pleaser