My Big Gay Heart

Posted: September 23, 2010 in Identity, Masculinities, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Today, my constant companion, friendly Ghost and bete noir, The Guardian, published this Survey by the ONS.

It makes the shocking statement that the number of people who are, or who identify as gay has plummeted in the UK, to the tiny figure of 1. 5% of the population. Isn’t that a bit queer?

I can’t be bothered to analyse the data.  I did like this finding though:

‘The latest detailed figures show that gay people are much more likely to be in managerial or professional occupations – 49% compared with 30% for straight workers – and better educated, with 38% holding a degree’

which suggests to me that being ‘gay’ could just be another way of being ‘middle class’ and ‘respectable’

I am with Steve Zeeland, and his assertion that ‘sexual identity is a joke’. But I do find it funny, that in a culture where traditional tropes of ‘gayness’ seem to saturate every aspect of our cosmopolitan, latte sipping, condo-owning, Laboutins wearing, air-kissing, slash-fic loving, male-objectifying lives, that the numbers of people apparently actually admitting to being gay has apparently dwindled. Maybe being gay just isn’t risque enough any more, so even the gays don’t want anything to do with the label. Sebastian Horsley said we lie to two people in our lives, our partner and the police. I would add ‘survey researchers’ to that list, especially when it comes to identifying our sexualities.

I also discovered a new category of ‘pervert’ today: girlfags I am not quite sure what a girlfag is, though there is something quite appealing about the concept. I think girlfags are girls who love boys to be girls like their boys, or something. It covers a range of people who identify as women, but also who identify an attraction to and an interest in taking on ‘masculine identities’, including sometimes big phallic strap-ons, and fucking gay and queer men. Well I can identify with that. But to make this into yet another sexuality typology, and in doing so, to stereotype gay men as ‘feminine’ and to end up with an entry in the manual of psychiatry, I give girlfags a big fat FAIL.

Much more valuable, is this poem I read today Diary of a motel receptionist It speaks to me more than any survey or categorisation of people can, about loneliness, alienation, our search for belonging and human connection.

It reminded me of this film, Show Me Love by Lukas Moodysson, about two girls caught in that terrifying country called adolescence, in the Swedish suburbs, who find something they recognise in each other. I related so much to this film I was still sobbing visibly and audibly as I left the cinema, to the slight embarrassment of my polite, uptight, British cinema-going-latte-sipping-condo-owning compatriots.

I also disvovered that today is bisexual pride day. That just made me laugh. Especially as the colour to celebrate bisexuality is purple. I don’t know. The purple pound just doesn’t have the same ring to it as the big, Phallic Pink Pound does it? Bless.

The combination and collision of these findings, brought home to me something sobering. That no matter how ‘liberal’ we may be about sexuality, how ‘proud’ of who we are, how valiant we are in fighting for our ‘rights’ to be accepted as equals with our straight, hetero, respectable brothers and sisters. There is a function for our difference. It serves to show us to be lacking in some way, to be deviant, sick, to underline and emphasise and solidify the ‘normality’ and ‘health’ of everyone else. For me, there is nothing to be proud of, or ashamed of there. And nothing to want to hold onto, either, in a kind of ‘victim’ status. The pathologising of sexuality actually affects us all, however normal we are perceived to be, however many institutions we are allowed to join, or banners we can fly.

My Big Gay Heart will always be breaking. I think that’s what gay hearts do. But it won’t be fooled.

  1. Dave Weeden says:

    Ooh, methodological problem.

    The ONS said it was confident its survey had produced an accurate estimate based on a question of self-perceived sexual identity. Respondents were provided with a showcard containing four options: heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or other. They were asked which option best described themselves.

    Privacy from other household members was preserved by asking them to say “stop” when their option was reached. The ONS said a valid response was provided by 96% of those surveyed, with fewer than 4% refusing to respond to the question. The statisticians said this group could not be assumed to be secretly gay.

    From this, I gather that the survey people went round houses, so they had other information on those questioned, viz where they live. The census used to be careful only to ask very impersonal questions – people living in house, ages, occupations, all stuff which is public and largely almost obvious. I’m not surprised that 4% refused – also 1.5% + 4% roughly = 5% the figure which I think comes from Kinsey.

    I worked on the 1991 census, so I know a little about this.

  2. for me it is an ‘epistemological problem’ – not the method of the survey that is at fault but the whole principle of investigating sexuality via survey methods. I don’t think sexuality exists in categories!

  3. Hi =

    A reasonably accurate working definition of “girlfag” is “a woman who is attracted to gay men, who feels most at home around gay men, and who may (or may not) feel that she is a gay man herself.” Many of us who identify with the term feel it to be a middle ground between “fag hag” and “trans fag” – a cis woman who nonetheless feels more or less male and more or less at home with gay men. Many of us do go on to transition, but many others don’t. Some are attracted specifically to feminine men, others prefer our gay men on the butch side. All that I’ve talked to, which at this point is quite a few, say that we’re not attracted to a man specifically *because* he’s gay, but that gayness definitely puts a guy in the plus column as we parse our attractions. Those of us who partner off typically do so with bi-guys who are “gay enough” to fulfill our desires (that’s been my solution), or with a gay man who’s open to the possibility of partnering with a woman, or occasionally with another girlfag to roleplay as gay men.

    Hope this helps,
    Janet Hardy

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