Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gay culture and style

This is an interesting article about recognizing and appreciating what can be deemed as gay culture.  The author celebrates things like irony, campiness, femininity, and other aspects of what has come to be associated with gay culture as just that--elements of a vibrant, separate, unique culture, and not stereotypes to be shunned by gays and non-gays alike.  His argument is that in the 21st century, society at large has accepted gay identity and gay sexuality, but not gay culture.  I guess an analogy would be if I were tolerant in an abstract way of blacks or people of another ethnic group, but disdained the music, language, food, and clothing that define these groups culturally.  Essentially the author of the article is reclaiming a place for gay style as a relevant social phenomenon that enriches not only the gay men that express it, but also the rest of society.  Gay culture looks at things from a different angle from the rest of society and thus forces everyone else to at least consider or acknowledge the insights of that different viewpoint.

I'm a pretty Spartan guy in many ways.  I don't like fuss, or style, or much of anything that goes outside of what I deem necessary and practical.  In the author's dichotomy, I am a content guy as opposed to a style guy.  I don't consider myself homophobic, but certain aspects of gay style have in the past seemed annoying or silly to me.  Hyperbolic drama, exaggerated femininity, obsession with physical image--these things seemed at best like a waste of time, and at worst like inauthentic, contrived behavioral tics.  That said, in my life I have enjoyed the company of many people who express just these traits, and my enjoyment was probably in large part because of these traits (despite my professed aversion to excesses of style and flair).  In light of this article, I have a better appreciation that gay style and culture as passed on through the generations is no more contrived or artificial that Masai culture or Midwestern culture or Vietnamese culture.  Perhaps I'll now be more tolerant of some things I'd prior considered frivolous, and I'll understand better why I so often admire and appreciate the individuals who embody gay style.  Their style is not indicative of a lack of content, but rather part of the content of the individual and the collective.  And my admiration for my gay friends living gay culture is thus not in spite of this style but in part thanks to it.

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