Let’s hear it for gay accountants! I can’t believe how many of them I’ve met recently and how readily they confound the stereotypes of accountants, but also of gays!
This newfound breed of gay accountants has got me thinking about just how diverse the gay population is, in spite of the concentration on particular stereotypes of what it means to be gay, even in the gay media.
When the PM attended the Big Gay Out, for example, the mainstream media’s main coverage was of the glamorous drag queens who are good at capturing the limelight at gay events. There was virtually no coverage given to the large number of family groups (gay couples with their kids, for example) who are an increasingly common part of the main event in the gay calendar in Auckland.
We have some way to go to tell the story of just how diverse gay people are and the variety of contributions gays make to New Zealand. Over Easter, for example, we stayed with lesbian couple Jane and Denny, in their highly acclaimed vineyard Desert Heart in the heart of Central Otago (and who express have featured previously). Gays have made an extraordinary contribution to the wine and food industry in New Zealand, but nearby there were also gay petrolheads at Warbirds Over Wanaka. A week earlier in Auckland my good friend Murray resigned after 30 years as a senior engineer. His one regret? Having to intervene to stop a petition among the directors of his firm to oppose homosexual law reform in 1989. Such are the stories those of us who have worked in the corporate sector can tell.
I am always surprised at the number of gay couples I see at the Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival who I never see at other events during the year. I shouldn’t be surprised because they represent how Greg and I lived – mainly on the North Shore – for more than a decade, rarely encountering the “gay world” of which others (straights) assumed we were a part.
At the recent Tri-Nations dance party I was truly astounded. Some of the guys there would not have looked out of place at the Otorohanga stockyards earlier in the day. They never make it to page three of The Herald though, because they’re not wearing pink dresses and outrageous hairstyles. How perceptions among the straight population would change if they could see just how diverse we are!
I have always maintained that being gay questions the very basis of what it means to be human. Individual gays respond to this existential dilemma in many different ways (not all positive). Some of us embrace the sexual opportunities afforded by being gay by getting jobs that allow flexibile working hours (as any insomniac who has looked at how many people are on Grindr in the small hours can testify to), while others settle down with a partner and a pet or two (or increasingly, a child) or build beautiful gardens as their legacy to the world.
Some gay guys are happily single, others are partnered in a variety of forms of relationships and there are guys in long-term monogamous relationships, along with quite a few who choose to stay married (to their wives). There are gay guys living with HIV, many more without, and some living in sero-discordant relationships with all the challenges that poses.
In a population defined by its sexuality there is – yet again – no singular way of demonstrating how we are gay. In fact much of the last 30 years has been about exploring what it does mean to be gay, and our responses to that question, even sexually, are increasingly diverse. In some relationships anal sex is not a significant part of the sexual repertoire (contrary to common perceptions), and there are even gay guys who claim not to be particularly sexual at all.
Socially and ethnically we are probably as diverse now as the straight population, at least in Auckland. Cross-cultural relationships are increasingly common and we should also celebrate that among us now are the first generation of guys who have lived – as a result of Homosexual Law reform – openly gay lives (and don’t assume that there are not a number of younger guys interested in these more mature guys, either, just to confound another perception). Our organisations, from classic car clubs and phone counsellors to choirs and swimming groups reflect the variety of our lives and our passions.
Our responses to being gay are incredibly diverse and we need to recognise and celebrate that. We may be united by the love of the same sex, but there is no singular way of being gay. The young guy grappling with his obsession with his fellow students’ cocks at a high school in Taranaki needs to know that the drag queens hosting the arts festival there are just one part of gay life. Being gay does not mean that there is a particular way he has to be. He can be anything he wants. He may even want to be an accountant!
| Steven Rainbow