Single is the New Gay
By Steven Bereznai
Now, as I look toward the next 10 years and beyond, I begin to wonder, What if this is it? What if Singlesville is my final destination? Is there room for me in a post-Stonewall era, where the push to partner with a man has replaced the pressure to marry a woman? Where being gay is fine but the answer 'No, I'm not dating anyone' receives looks of pity, and in my mom's eyes, fear that I will grow old and lonely, dying of AIDS from a presumed life of unsafe promiscuity? Again, not because I'm gay, but because I'm single and gay, and the old bird knows I must be getting my rocks off somehow.
Or maybe I'm projecting.
Maybe that's what I fear for myself.
And what if there is something wrong with me? Maybe I'm too materialistic. Or conceited. On the other hand, that could just be my cover for low self-esteem. Or maybe my personality's deficient. What if my smarts, looks, and wit simply aren't up to snuff? In retrospect, my improv teacher didn't say I was funny so much as she said I was good at following instructions.
Maybe I am damaged.
The more I grapple with these very real questions the more I find there are actual answers. Some are amorphous, others refreshingly simple, at least until they are applied to an uncooperative world that feels to me like an ever-shifting board game, Monopoly meets Life meets you sank my Battleship!, except all the players each seem to be following a different set of rules, moment to moment.
I'm referring of course to the former fuck buddy who fell through just when I was finally coming around to once more accepting his advances, to the best friend who had the nerve to get into a relationship and put his boyfriend's emotional needs ahead of mine, and let's not forget the biggest bitch of them all: HIV, raising the stakes and challenges in a sexual subculture where many recognize that to slide into a guy, or to be slid into, skin to skin, flesh to flesh, whatever the consequences, feels better than being sheathed, at least in the moment.
It can be ecstasy. Literally, figuratively, or in a pill. At other times, like a bad case of nonspecific urethritis, it burns.
And regardless of what Nietzsche might say, sometimes whatever doesn't kill you doesn't make you stronger. It just makes you limp.
And yet, even as I hobble across this minefield of gay love, putting my battered body, heart, and soul at ever-increasing risks, my stride lengthens, my confidence rises, my chakras grow strong.
Because to stay put, or worse, move backward, is, like quivering in the closet, far worse than facing whatever lies ahead.
And so I remove my emotional armor piece by piece, in therapy, in bars, in weekend naked workshops, with companions in the life, in improv class, with sex workers, on party drugs, in the arms of one-night stands and three-week fucks. How else do I get to the tender spots I once hoped a boyfriend would reach for me? And as this book has progressed I have felt a growing sense of peace. Thank you, yoga and Spirituality for Dummies. It's a quiet yet powerful feeling emanating from a powerful realization.
Single is the new gay.
This is not an all-encompassing truth, but there are striking parallels between the stigma of homos and that of singlehood, from their origins to identity politics to the role of nature versus nurture, not to mention the increasing pressure to pair with a man as the stigma of not marrying a woman decreases.
Clearly this thesis requires and assumes a certain level of acceptance of homosexuality as legitimate and moral and equal to heterosexuality. Obviously, this is not a universal understanding. As of print time there is not, and never has been, an openly gay athlete competing in the NHL or NFL. Olympic ice skaters are afraid to publicly come out. More severe, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 84 countries have laws criminalizing sexual acts between adults in private. During Jerusalem's 2005 Pride march, a stabber attacked three people. Amnesty International cites instances in Jamaica of gays and lesbians being murdered, raped, or chased from their homes or communities. In 2001 a gay man was beaten to death while cruising in Vancouver's Stanley Park. In Wyoming, in 1998, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was beaten with a pistol, tortured, and tied to a fence for 18 hours. He died five days later.
It almost seems in poor taste, and borderline whiny, to even be discussing gay singlehood as an issue beyond dinner-party kvetching. But then the same would have to be said about gay marriage. Battling for wedding bands, legal partner recognition, and a potential tax break can seem trivial when in some milieus fags and dykes fear and fight for their lives. And yet at the end of the day, the struggle is the same: for equality. The enemy is the same: fear and hate.
Different battles, same war.