Laurence Fishburne gazes benevolently at Keanu Reeves through last season’s bug-eyed alien sunglasses. He smiles and speaks in that silky, seductive, come-hither timbre:
“Take the blue pill, and you make a conscious choice to live as you live, knowing the choice was yours and you accepted the burden. Take the red pill, and you go to sleep; none of the heartache ever happened. When you wake up, you’ll be straight.”
Whoa there. This shit just got serious.
Every one of us has been asked this question (usually by our mothers about five minutes after we come out): If you had the option, right now, to become a heterosexual, would you do it?
The question nicely presupposes that homosexuality is an orientation, not a preference. Taking that for granted, however, if homosexuality were a choice — a one-time-only, all-sales-final, no-refunds-ever kind of choice — what would you choose? I mean, that’s an easy question, right?
Guys are so hot.
Who’d want to be attracted to chicks? I mean boobs are soft and cuddly, but everything else is just scary.
From what I can tell, straight people don’t even understand each other. They’re like really slow children from different planets trying to figure out which puzzle pieces fit where.
All those weird hormones I don’t have. All those weird organs I don’t have. All that weird PMS … well, no, my friends say I’m permanently pre-menstrual.
And when a chick puts out, she’s a slut. But when dudes put out, they’re studs. Obviously, studs are more appealing.
And I do want a baby someday, but I don’t want to have to worry about getting a girl pregnant every time I kiss her. That’s what the nuns taught me: When you kiss a girl, you get her pregnant. And then you have to get married. They didn’t say anything about kissing boys, and marrying them is out of the question. Score.
So, seriously, who’d want to take that red pill?
When this column first began, a gay undergraduate e-mailed me with a polite request that I stop contributing to the body of evidence in support of the conservative stereotype that gays are all rabid nymphomaniacs. Because the column openly acknowledges that gay people do indeed enjoy sex, he claims the column interferes with social assimilation of the gay community. Far fewer liberal-minded straight men and women would make the same critique of a heterosexual sex column.
Straight dudes who pound their hos are awesome. Gay men who make love to their life partners are unnatural and undeserving … of publicly sanctioned families … of protection from workplace prejudice … of economic equality. Since sex is what makes straights so squeamish, there are some people, even within the gay community, who would prefer that we didn’t have so much sex, or at least that we didn’t talk about it so openly.
The gay man who requests that I refrain from discussing sex uses the same logic as the straight man who pretends to be “tolerant” — “I don’t care if you’re gay, just don’t rub it in my face.”
Like whoa. This shit just got seriously serious.
We, as a gay community, cannot respect conservative stereotypes by living our lives according to their rules at a substandard level of citizenship. Unless we respect ourselves as their equals, we’ll never earn that same respect from them. If homosexual sex continued to exist in the late-night, speak-easy atmosphere of hushed tones and diverted glances, it would never become “normal.”
But I could never judge someone for taking the red pill.
We live in an age where equal rights for women and black Americans are still works in progress. The glass ceiling for women’s wages squeaks slowly skyward. The Klan still exists.
Equal rights for homosexuals are little more than a distant dream. Gandhi once said, “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” Our fight won’t even begin until the Conservative Christian Right acknowledges that we exist. We’ve been fighting, and they’ve been laughing, and they’re still trying like hell to ignore our legitimacy and pretend we’re a perversion. The current struggle for gay rights is pre-Plessy v. Ferguson, not to mention Brown v. Board of Education; we can’t even dream of “separate but equal” until equality itself becomes a realistic goal.
If you could avoid the snap judgments, the constant struggle for acceptance, the futile attempts to project an identity that includes sexuality but isn’t subsumed by it, if you could do all that, damn wouldn’t that rock. So I could never judge someone for taking the red pill.
But I would never take it myself. How can I ever expect a conservative society to acknowledge my existence if I’m unwilling to acknowledge it myself? How can I demand equal treatment rather than substandard assimilation if I’m willing to give it all up under Laurence Fishburne’s quick and piercing gaze? Homosexuality isn’t a choice, but I choose homosexuality anyway. And the Bush administration drove me to it. Now who’s corrupting the nation’s youth?
If I were willing to take that red pill, I wouldn’t be man enough to dream of an equal future. Just now it’s more of a desert mirage of what’s to come: a more fabulous world, where everything looks a bit like Chelsea and everyone’s hairdos are awesome. Maybe my grandson will take a boy to the 7th grade sock hop, not to mention the senior prom. For him, a declaration of sexuality might be as boring as defining his hair color. Brown with auburn undertones. Gay with an appreciation for the feminine aesthetic.
If I were willing to simply disappear, the mirage could vanish along with me. If I chose the red pill, I would give in to society’s attempt to ignore homosexuality out of existence.
Being me and being gay are inextricable at this point in my life. My sexual identity and my psychological development are irreparably intertwined. If I hadn’t gone to prom with a girl because there was no one else to go with … If I hadn’t polished my own perception of sexual identity so that I could confidently come out … If I hadn’t been forced to formulate heteronormative bonds with Catholic school prep boys, I wouldn’t be me.
My sexuality makes me more psychologically mature, politically savvy and socially aware. And of course I’m more sexually liberated. Gay men, like blondes, do have more fun. Seriously, you straight guys should try it some time. You’re totally missing out.
Chad Callaghan needs a rant every now and then. It’s healthy.