I tried being gay for a while. Then, one day, I gave up. “I’m not gay,” I’d tell my friends. “I’m postgay.”
It was half true at best. On one hand, I live a life that is only marginally dictated by my sexuality. Like the queers portrayed in postgay literature, film and television (see: Happy Endings, Six Feet Under), being a homo is just a character trait—not, if you will, the reason I’m in the story. To this end, I do not seek out gay spaces to drink, eat or live. (Well, sometimes to drink.) I do not vacation in Fire Island or Provincetown or Saugatuck. When drag queens tell jokes, I often don’t understand the punch line.
But the truth is, my postgay life—a result, I know, of a combination of luck and privilege—exists only in fiction. Only in the saccharine world of sitcoms can a swishy teenager walk the halls of high school without getting called a faggot. And just the other day I winced when a friend of mine—a friend of mine—used the pejorative gay—in my company—to describe a piece of furniture. Until the word gay ceases being used as a synonym for undesirable, until politicians stop running on platforms of barely veiled homophobia, until queers have equal civil rights, there’s no way to truly live postgay. Because even if you don’t make your sexuality the primary part of your person, somebody else will.
Often, that “somebody” is the gay community itself. We do this in the name of gay pride: To be proud of who we are, we will show our queerness to the world. We will refuse to hide our sexuality. And we will be loud about it. Decades ago, when America was even more backward on gay issues than it is now, this singular focus on broadcasting our sexuality was a smart, effective step toward acceptance. But if a postgay world is the goal, focusing on visibility is only a midpoint. And it is at this midpoint that the Pride movement seems stuck. Now, when I’m at a Pride event, I feel as if I’ve been reduced to a walking rainbow flag. There are countless opportunities to express my homosexuality—I can watch a go-go boy, have sex in a bathhouse, hear some jokes about being gay, buy some rainbow beads. But any part of my personality not directly related to my queerness is left out. That makes Pride a great place to be gay, but an impossible place to be anything more.
There are compelling arguments for showcasing our queerness to the world. Gay sex still makes some people uncomfortable, the trans community is wildly misunderstood, and visibility is still a tool that may help change these perceptions. But because this has been a tactic of the gay-rights movement for years, it’s time to push for more. A Pride celebration of the future might look more like the all-inclusive Chances parties held around the city. It would resist identifying the queers from the straights. It would embrace the idea of a fluid gender and fluid sexuality. The young, fit, white men we exalt during Pride would step down from the floats and enter the sidelines—and then, there would be no sidelines. Pride wouldn’t be just postgay—it’d be postrace, and postgender, and postclass and postsize. If this sounds like a ridiculous dreamworld, it is. But once, not long ago, a gaggle of go-go boys parading down Halsted Street was also just a dream. That dream has now been realized. Time to get some new ones.