For Pride 2010, we asked an eclectic group for their take on Gay Pride. From living to loathing, the responses cover a wide spectrum - a rainbow of opinion, perhaps?
Faggotry as we know it today is still very new, and it probably won't last very long. It's a very temporary thing, I think! Some of what we understand as faggotry was invented before the last world war but much of it was codified after, when the ranks of city-living gays swelled (thanks to servicemembers who returned to the country but never went home). This is when it became more easy to enter into the class that could afford (financially or otherwise) some geographic mobility in the United States. The great cities are what made faggots, and I think today that's related to how we today look down on people who are left behind, outside of the big cities. We left! And mostly for good reasons. And so why shouldn't anyone else worth anything have left as well? Obviously it's a brittle piece of defensiveness in action, although some of it is true--I'd like to see my straight cousin S____ try and live in Manhattan, he'd totally die. But then I wouldn't do very well living in that shit show that is Arizona either, would I.
One of the positive benefits of the early gay relation to commercialism is that we retained a market for the handmade in America, as everything else became ugly and internationally mass-produced. Faggots commissioned architecture, and bought paintings and handmade clothing and quilts and furniture. The gays wanted the unique, and the special (even if it was, already, often a little overly trendy). But there is now so little left in our country that is made painstakingly or by hand, because the value of the time spent creating such a product makes it too expensive to be consumed by a country that is kept poor so that a very small class (a class that very, very rarely includes homosexuals, actually) can be made extravagantly rich.
But for many years, gay men harvested the remnants of an America that could no longer afford what was once commonplace. Now, I'm afraid, many of them have stopped. You and I both frequently look at a microcosm of well-off gay men on Fire Island; it has changed over time in many ways. One way is that now grown men dress in clothing that is designed for tweens, but this is only one small sad symptom.
Once upon a time, people built daring, gorgeous houses in the Pines. Horace Gifford, an architect, now deceased, who seems to have worked very infrequently off Fire Island, built a number of houses in the Pines and they are some of the most exceptional, handmade, faggoty modernist homes in the world. He built them, big and small, for men who believed in the value of the craft of a house, not so dissimilar from the way that straight people built their houses a hundred years ago. ("Horace was a friend, and he and I had a great working relationship. He would come up with ideas and I would draw them.")
I'm sure it was something of a competition back then, one's residence. Can you imagine commissioning Eero Saarinen to build you a small shack on the beach? But someone did, and it's still, largely, standing, toward the west side of the Pines. It is of course a gorgeous swooping thing. Sometime after the original house was built, someone crammed a second floor atop the building, and now it looks like some giant asshole took an enormous wooden dump on it. Each turd is in the shape of squared-off Burger King paper crowns.
The structures being built there now, though, makes that addition look like John Lautner's best. They are garbage, made out of garbage; tiny plastic pools sunk into crappy decks in the glare of horrid, boxy, dumb houses that most likely will never survive their first tropical storm. And in the houses, the plates are plastic and the glasses are plastic and the clothes are plastic and the music is plastic and the drugs, especially, the drugs are plastic.
You don't actually need money to have a beautiful, thoughtful life. You do, however, need to free your mind a little, and think of who you are, and then most likely not go purchase a t-shirt at Hollister. Which is not actually a terribly inexpensive thing anyway!
We urban faggots think a lot, despite, you know, the death of the planet and all, about what we wear and what we look like and what we smell like. That's great! We're all silly, pointless animals, animals who dress up and walk on two legs and make funny buildings and (like some other animals) sometimes put chemicals in our bodies for recreation. There's nothing actually to do at all on this planet but eat and screw and enjoy beautiful things and to spend our time in communities of people--now, more than ever, communities of people that we make ourselves. (Not even the straight people stay home on the farm anymore, but that's another story altogether, if a related one.) And since we're spared, for the most part, the very serious burdens of reproduction, our task on this planet is to decide what to do each day afresh. We're not going to live very long, you know!
So: how do I want to smell? Do I want to smell like everyone else?
We live at a critically amazing time. I've been convinced for most of my life that it's the last bit of time, but everyone knows that people from every century feel like this. But it's an especially trying time. Once, people like me were essentially the property of landowners, who "rented" some land to farm in exchange for a place to live. Then there came a period when people became the near-property of companies, and it was nearly a workable relationship. But that crumbled just as Stuyvesant Town crumbled. Now many people, and some of this is dependent on their income level, can choose or not choose to be the property of brands: Wal-Mart, Chase, Abercrombie, Philip Morris, Kiss My Face, Yale, The Huffington Post, Home Depot, Domino Sugar, Viacom, Manhunt, Apple, Bacardi. Faggots, it seems to me, in tribute to their proud, elegant, tasteful and outrageous history, should lead the way in renouncing corporate citizenships--instead of, as they so often are these days, mocking those who stand out while huddling for safety in a soft blanket of branded comfort.