Wednesday, 28 February 2018
John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail is trying to be nice when he says -- “Bars have closed, and bathhouses.” He goes on to say that Church Street is nevertheless still important because it’s a place to: “have a coffee, read a book...” among sympathetic friends.
It’s all very comforting to imagine that all gay men, lesbians and trans folk are ‘making love’ with their lifetime committed married ‘partners’ -- or even with someone they met on a ‘dating app’ -- in the wall-to-wall-carpeted privacy of their middle-class homes.
Well I, for one, am not comforted.
For though it's true that bars and bathhouses on Church Street have closed, it’s not true the present day purpose of Church Street is only to provide a place for people to have a coffee with friends.
What about Spa Xcess? What about Steamworks (an international chain of bathhouses that still flourishes all over North America and in Toronto?)
Woody’s and the Eagle pack ‘em in like sardines on weekends. What about the kids lining up to get into Crews and Woody's with their bisexual friends? And what about toilets in the business district downtown? And dark rooms? And what about all the orgies, crystal meth parties and condom-less sex that goes on in rented and private spaces?
So why this lie that we don’t need Church Street, except for ‘coffee’?
Well, it’s become politically correct to suggest that gay men are not having sex anymore outside of committed relationships. It’s so ‘retro’ to think of gay men as sexual outlaws. And gay men love to promote this lie because we like to think of ourselves as respectable, like those nice straight people.
The fact of the matter is that even in the Toronto ‘tolerance bubble’ kids still go through agonies coming out to their schools and their parents. And no queer couple is going to get away with necking in straight bars on Richmond Street. And if you step just slightly out of the bubble -- to Northern Ontario -- never mind Utah or Iran -- you stand a good chance of being beaten up or killed for being openly queer.
It doesn’t help to lie about the realities of gay life. The realities of gay life are not going away soon.
Though many wish for homophobia to disappear, wishing doesn’t make it so.
Like Peter Pan, I still believe in ‘fairies.’
And if you’re honest with yourself, so do you.
Saturday, 10 February 2018
Everything old is new again. I was chatting with a female friend of mine about the ‘Me Too’ movement, and I said ‘I think it’s becoming a movement about censorship.’ “Oh yes,” she said, nodding -- ‘it’s the Cavaliers vs the Roundheads all over again.”
I had to go Wikipedia and look up Cavaliers and Roundheads. It turns out that the Roundheads were the Puritan faction that tossed out King Charles I and the Royalist Cavaliers in 1649, and established The Commonwealth of England.
Those also closed down the theatres.
And that’s kind of what’s happening now.
The National Post tells us that comedy clubs are starting to post signs that say that ‘sexism racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, body shaming’ will not not be tolerated on their stages.
So what’s left that’s funny?
But seriously folks, I don’t mean to suggest that racist or homophobic or sexist comedy is the only comedy that’s funny. What I do mean to suggest is that the concerns of ‘social justice warriors,’ and the ‘Me Too’ movement -- as valid as they may be in the social sphere -- are starting to worm their way into the arts.
And art is not the same as social justice.
Because art is not real.
Shakespeare told us (sort of) that artists are all lovers and madman. The fact that Louis C.K. may be an asshole in real life does not make it right for you to limit distribution of his gorgeous, classic, Chekhovian TV shows. And yet this is the kind of thing people are talking about. I went to a queer conference a while back and somebody called for banning drag queens on the basis that their humour is ‘cruel.’ You’re damn right it’s cruel. I don’t know how to tell you this, but cruel is funny. In the wake of the public excoriation of Albert Schultz, Eva-Lynn Jagoe suggested in the Globe and Mail that we should reconsider the worth of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer prize winning play The Goat because ‘we have less sympathy for the man who has transgressive desires.’
I guess we’d better start banning work about ‘transgressive’ sexual desire.
It’s time to get rid of Nabokov, and Joyce, and while you’re at it, Shakespeare.
Yes folks, Puritanism is back; only it’s wearing a disguise. Don’t be fooled.
You may be against sexism, racism and homophobia, but that doesn’t mean you have to be against art.
Oh well. The Puritans didn’t rule England for long because they bored everyone to death.
Let’s hope the Puritan season lasts no longer here.