The story popped on my Twitter feed this morning and it's absolutely consumed me since. Paul Aguirre-Livingston writes of the "Dawn of a new gay," for The Grid, a weekly "city magazine" in Toronto, giving presumably straight readers an insider's view from the cutting edge of gay life: "post-mos."
"Post-mos don’t hang rainbow flags in their windows or plaster them on their bumpers. We don’t march in Pride and we probably never will. (After-parties only, please.) We don’t torture ourselves to fit in with other gays. In fact, most of us have come to resent the stereotypes and the ideals associated with preceding gay generations. It’s not that we hate gay culture; we just don’t have that much in common with it anymore. To be a twentysomething gay man in Toronto in 2011 is to be free from persecution and social pressures to conform. It’s also, in most ways, not about being gay at all."
I get the “post-mo” reference, but in in the late ’90s and early 2000s it was called post-gay. I’ve always called it “alt-gay,” but recently, the colloquialism might be “gay hipster.”
This alternative queer movement is either a reflection of an over-arching counter- culture of new-fangled collective individuality or it could be a new phase of our own gay movement: a counter-culture within a counter-culture.
Maybe it’s a little bit of both. After all, tight jeans and funky glasses weren’t reborn in a vacuum.
I’d like to think that our evolution as a gay culture should celebrate coming far enough to develop a counter-culture. After all, you can’t have outsiders without established insiders and for gays, just like the black civil rights movement and the women’s movement, our leaders had to fight for their place at the table.
Of course, now that we’ve been at the table for a while, it’s becoming more en vogue to eat in the kitchen.
But in the (non) gay (non) scene in Canada, the kitchen sounds pretty freaking fabulous.
Born from the rib of “mutant” feminist Spice Girls and learning how to be “sexually confident” from Britney Spears, this new breed of wireless gay texters and internet daters missed the most depressing era of our movement and is looking forward like it never happened.
“Will & Grace, in retrospect, had been speaking very much to another generation’s hopes and realities—the generation that watched their friends die during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s, and walked alongside Madonna’s dancers in those bouts of political consciousness. Those gays, at one point in their lives, had longed for the right to hold hands in public and ask each other out in coffee shops. But by the time we were ready to take the reins, the post-mo had a different agenda: no agenda at all. We simply arrived at the end of the fight to reap the fruits of another generation’s labour.”
Canadians enjoy gay marriage, universal healthcare and, at least in Toronto, can move easily between gay and straight worlds.
Is this the first generation to benefit from gay privilege?
Alt-gay in Atlanta
Canada’s gays are lucky, as the author of this new “post-mo” manifesto mentions. And in many ways, Atlantans share similar cultural luck. Many of us moved here in order to prove that it really does get better… somewhere.
I see a lot of similarities in this rather off-putting utopia Aguirre-Livingston describes in his “post-mo” story and the culture being built here — in several different ways — in Atlanta.
I cut my teeth over the I-20 bridge in East Atlanta with folks who effortlessly navigated gay life outside the mainstream. It wasn’t an act of defiance, flippant at the history that allowed their expression, it was just an honest post-gay existence.
As the areas around Atlanta become more openly gay-friendly, there’s an even newer kind of alt-gay that embraces life outside a gay bubble: gay singles living professional lives where being gay is a footnote, families proudly living where PTA participation comes before Pride festivals.
Maybe it’s the alt-alt-gay culture.
But we can’t fall into the Toronto trap. It’s easy to carve a life out of the hand we’ve been dealt. Many of us work in gay-friendly places and walk down streets where holding hands with a same-sex partner is expected and beautiful. Many of us don’t want to get married or have children. For some of us, modern gay life is easy.
That’s no reason to be satisfied with the status quo. It’s dangerous to confuse complacency or detachment with freedom.
Even if we work in accepting offices, we should still be fighting for ENDA. Even if we didn’t see a generation of gay men die of HIV/AIDS, we should still work publicly and in our own beds to prevent the spread of HIV. Even if we don’t want to get married, we should still fight for those rights, particularly because so many other benefits come from the recognition of our marriages: health care, tax benefits and ultimately equality.
Sure, Canada has solved a lot of these issues with progressive legislation, but it’s apparently created a judgmental gay culture of outsiders who are too cool for passe things like Gay Pride and even condom use.
When we reach true freedom, and not the kind you can celebrate by shucking norms and disowning trite gay heritage, will we have the strength to be better than this?
Will we protect the threads that barely hold us together, or are we already beginning to unravel?