Proust's law: you always get what you want when you no longer want it.
Gay is everywhere. Canada's new loonie celebrates 50 years of official gaydom, Ontario lived under 4 years with open lesbian premier Kathleen Wynne. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves at the crowds at Toronto's Gay Pride Parade, like Queen Elizabeth, along with Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (Much love and happy pride to all!), and Toronto Mayor John Tory. The marchers were probably less than 10,000, but spectators 50,000+.
The police were denied their own delegation, resented for taking so long to find serial killer Bruce McArthur, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to murdering eight men with ties to the gay village. The sole dissenting political voice was Ontario Premier Doug Ford, fresh from an election victory that was subtley anti-gay, who refused to participate in the march. He covered himself in the now stridently pro-gay media, by attending a small gathering in York Region earlier in 'GayPride Month' for the de rigueur photo-op.
The over-the-top celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York (150,000 marchers, 3m spectators), the birthplace of World Gay Pride, was preceded by the Queer Liberation March, sans corporate floats and police, protesting the gentrification of the event and the movement in general.
All the celebratory marches ignore the stark truth that the height of gaylib was long ago, 1978 (novelists Holleran, Kramer, photographer Mapplethorpe, choreographer Joffrey). The next 40 years has been a slow motion hangover, the homosexualization of America, which has left the US in a moral mess.
Who better to turn to for assessing the state of the union than Edmund White, author of The Joy of Gay Sex (1977), who lived through those 50 years and has written more than anyone else about it?
New York was, since the end of WWII, the mecca of the western world in all facets of life -- intellectuals, artists, in entertainment and theatre. It still is, the dream for all. In the third volume of his quasi-memoirs, The Farewell Symphony, Edmund White claims that a quarter of Greenwich Village are gay, though statistics for metropolitan New York suggest 4%, not much more than the 3% norm. The Manhattan neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and Harlem were home to a sizable homosexual population after WWI, and then again after WWII, when men and women who had served in the military took advantage of the opportunity to settle in larger cities. Suddenly, it was possible for small town boys and girls to shed their straitlaced surroundings and 'let it all hang out.'
Edmund White , who moved there in the 1960s, writes:
We assumed there was going to be a future and that it would get more and more extravagant. We saw gay men as a vanguard that society would inevitably follow. We thought 'the couple' would disappear and be replaced by new, polyvalent molecules of affection or Whitmanesque adhesiveness.*
White has almost nothing to say about lesbians, whose lifestyle has never been promiscuous to the same degree as men. Not surprisingly for a male-dominated world, it is gay men who have been the shapers of gay society, the ones to point the finger at.
White describes a memorable evening in his radical new lifestyle:
I was having sex with a sleepy-eyed Native American I'd met through Kevin. He and I would make love to a blond steward from Norway---and sometimes with a hairless translator from the French, who affected a crewcut and policeman's shiny shoes. At other times we were joined by a Kennedy-like gay political leader who'd rush in wearing a white shirt and rep tie and would have to keep checking his messages. We were friends and lovers, more friends than lovers, and our long evenings of pasta, Puccini and sex felt as mellow as vintage Bordeaux held up to a flame and as exhilarating as a hit play in previews.*
It all came crashing down in 1981 with the onslaught of AIDS. This plague was originally called GRID (gay-related immuno deficiency), but renamed Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in 1982 to avoid pointing fingers.
The real culprit of AIDS of course is gaydom itself, more accurately, male gaydom, which celebrated/ celebrates promiscuity, dismissed/ dismisses old truths and customs, determined to convert the heterosexual world into a new gender-fluidity of 'Whitmanesque adhesiveness', where love is a quaint custom, where sex rules, now openly, and anything goes.
White is a documenter of this transition, born in 1940, beginning his writing career in the 1970s. He is torn between celebrating gaydom's rise, and bemoaning its inherent dangers to society and what it means to be human. Though HIV positive by 1980, he is one of the lucky survivors from that gruesome period. He describes his closest acquaintances (friends?) in Symphony and then sees them die off one after the other.
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