5 Feb 2009

Gay culture has to de-sexify

or: An open letter to the ones fighting for marriage equality

The gay movies I saw as a teenager around 5 years ago were all about one topic: sex. If it's about first sexual experiences, sexual relationships or the gay clubbing world with lots of random encounters (think Queer as Folk).
My university (the School of African and Oriental Studies, London) recently hosted a lecture about the rising gay culture in Bangkok and all the gay-themed Thai movies that are becoming so popular are somehow telling a story that just cannot be without the display of sex.
The lecturer was also showing us the variety of gay print publications (he said there are somewhat close to 50 magazines in Thailand alone I believe), 90% with shirtless men on the cover from my judgement.

So gays are becoming more visible. Good isn't it? I say no, because there is something that bother me a lot: All the sex!
To be fair, on the first look, a homoSEXual differs from the rest by definition for that he doesn't have sex with the opposite gender but rather the same. So is it mainly about sex? I dare to believe our same-sex relationships are not just that but like anyone elses including zoo-visits, jealousy dramas, self-cooked dinners together and romantic text-messaging.

What annoys is that through that sex-image we like to display in our (sub-)culture a major part of society associates gays with sex (and thus fun, joy, promiscuity, anti-conservative, family-unfriendly). And this the reason why conservatives fight politically against our right to marry for example. It is because gay relationship seem to be about self-centred, physical and shameless enjoyment that families feel they need to protect marriage and children.

And that is a fatal misconception! Studies show that same-sex couples want to have a family home in stable relationships (in some countries the willingness to marry is higher than among straights) and many want to adopt. But these rights (marrying & adopting) are denied in most of the world's countries (only six out of 195 countries have gender-neutral marriage laws). Opposition in the rest of the world has strong feelings against the rights of same-sex couples as the case of Proposition 8 (a referendum in California weather to allow gay marrriage) showed. It was the most expensively fought civil right issue in the history of the US with millions spend on campaigns on both sides.
However, I begin to think that gays are partly to blame for that strong oppostion. We need to show ourselves as we are, like holding hands with the loved-one on the street, cuddling to a romantic movie in cinema and anywhere and anytime, not just walking around half-naked and snogging at Gay Pride and Mardi Gras. That is the wrong showing-off.

It is also up to us gays themselves to change society's negative perception . And once gays understand that, I will look forward to the day when homosexual couples are not only displayed in sex-themed gay films or as comic contribution in main-stream media but also in secondary roles as normal couples just like there are pictures of opposite-sex couples every minute on TV without a funny side to it.