By Jesse Archer
The 2008 International Mr. Leather convention is held at the Hyatt hotel in Chicago. At a gear party in the hotel ballroom, among the hockey players, generals, human pups, helmets, and hog-tied twinks, I spot a man gussied up in a black rubber suit. A molded rubber basin is fastened over his front, with a metal chain. Urinal man?
Tubes funnel from the basin down into long gaiter boots. His head is hooded and a heavy-duty gas mask covers his face, so I have no idea what he looks like. Every last inch of human skin is hidden beneath rubber. He's all urinal.
'That suit must have cost $3,000,' someone mutters casually, as if this is normal. Who am I to judge? It's a private party.
I walk over to urinal man and he greets me. 'What's happening?' Not much. I nod to the basin. 'You here for a fill up?' I ask. 'We're in a ballroom!' he huffs in muffled outrage. Right' we're in a ballroom and you are a human urinal. What a preposterous question.
Urinal man quickly got over his indignation. Later, in the ballroom bathroom, I find him on his knees and in heavy demand. Splish, splash, he was taking a bath! I took action shots and posted them on my blog because urinal man is a scream! I thought so, anyway. But the blog comments were extra pissy:
'Republican Party Campaign 2008 Commercial: 30 seconds of footage from the 2008 IML, interspersed with 30 seconds of fluffy white wedding ceremonies.'
Think what you will about water sports or election campaigns, but I spotted no 'Piss Player for McCain!' sticker on his outfit. And yet urinal man has been cast in a political debate. On a 60 second commercial! The comments continue:
'With terrific rights come terrific responsibilities. Fans of gay marriage can't have it both ways. You're either mainstream or you're a pissing stream. You can't be both. So make up your mind.'
Terrific responsibilities? Oink. Don't make me defend the piss pig.
Who insisted we pencil in Scantron bubbles endorsing either white weddings or golden showers? Why can't we have both? Whatever happened to D: all of the above?
Gay culture is at a crossroads. There are some who glory in being subversive and others eager to go mainstream. The problem isn't queers who want assimilation, but queers who want the rest of us to put away the rubber suits, the slings, the boas and to keep our kinks in the closet -- those who feel that if we all remain very, very quiet and only pee into porcelain, the popular people may knight us with their validation.
Disown your brother if the neighbors don't approve? Fall in line or be kept in perpetual time-out? This effort at image protection is an obsequious bow to injustice. It is sadly self-loathing. If we're denying equal rights to freaks, who decides what's a freak? Suburban mothers who drive mini-vans with fuzzy steering wheels probably scare the piss out of urinal man. Should they be able to marry?
The mistake is in believing we have to pick between deviance and conformity. Equality and assimilation are two separate ideas. If we spent less time monitoring and hushing one another, our combined collective voice might stop asking for acceptance and instead advance the real argument, which is this: Marriage is a basic civil right afforded to citizens of this country regardless of behavior.
There is no need to put a romanticized, retouched cover model onto this debate. It's not about gaining mainstream approval. Toothless crackheads aren't mainstream approved; neither are Scientologists or convicted criminals, and yet they can all marry. I could literally decapitate a stranger on the greyhound bus to Manitoba and still keep my (theoretical) wife. Once paroled, I could piss on her in the Hyatt hotel.
In Chicago, urinal man is in complete disguise. For all I know beneath the expensive rubber is a conservative congressman married to a woman with a fetish for denial. Alternately, he could be your run-of-the-mill piss bottom. And we'd never know his political position. He didn't say. Our job is not to convince him to play nice, but to ensure the others play fair. That is our terrific responsibility.