Beyond Gay Marriage

A circle of friends point toward the next battle for acceptance

Watch the news reports on gay marriage and you'd think the queer community had magically morphed into a Noah's Ark of same-sex couples—all conveniently packaged two by two, a place for everything and everything in its place. Fit neatly into one of these circumscribed categories and maybe we'll make room for you at the dinner table.

Now consider this proverbial wrench: a Brooklyn-based group of lesbian, gay, transgender, and straight friends who hang out, make out, and uphold an anything-goes policy on who gets with whom. A lesbian can kiss a gay man, a transgender can sleep with a straight woman—without fear of the reproach they might receive elsewhere from members of the queer and straight communities alike.

"A lot of queer culture can be hung up on identity," confesses Jude River Allan, 25, a sweet, cuddly cub who used to bartend at the Hole, where many of the friends first met. "Dykes can be hung up on other dykes if they have sex with men. Fags can be hung up on other fags if they have sex with women. Dykes and fags can be transphobic when there are trannies around."

One bed, many half-naked people
photo: Tina Zimmer/www.tinazimmer.com
One bed, many half-naked people

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  • In this crew, which is tantamount to a "subculture within a subculture," explains River, "you can do whatever you want, and none of us are going to have issue with it."

    Not a minor point, when many of the friends share a frustration at being shoved into either/or categories meant to dictate their sexual behavior round-the-clock—categories that often prove inadequate. "I don't identify as a man or a woman," says Isabelle, 24, a transgender Bowie-like beauty with peroxide-white hair and sensibly high patent heels. "I shift around. I mostly sleep with women, but not exclusively. When I sleep with a straight woman, there's a skepticism from the queer community, from moving within the straight world. . . . I've had experiences where gay men were stressed-out by the fact that I sleep with women."

    Taryn Wilder, 29, a foxy fire-breathing bartender at Lucky 13 with a Chrissie Hynde shag, just doesn't appreciate the lesbian-sisterhood beatdown whenever she or anyone she knows strays outside the limits. "I just want go out and have a good time," she says. "I don't ever want to have to be what somebody else says I am." Says River: "I've had numerous gay men friends tell me they still fantasize about having sex with women, but it's not something they'd say around each other for fear of the reaction."

    Although the friends are openly affectionate with each other, to River, it's more "free queer love" than actual polyamory. Some are in monogamous relationships; others are not. What they do share is an almost familial closeness and, according to Isabelle, "a respect for one another's individual exploration." For Dario Speedwagon, 42, a DJ who lives with his boyfriend and jokingly declares himself "king of the lesbians," making out is just "affection within the group."

    "We all think of each other as sexy, and that's part of what keeps us going," River says. "We have the support from each other. It's OK to be overweight, to have piercings, to have tattoos. Just as long as you're happy with it, we are." Still, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that most possess the taut skin and tight bodies of the under-30 set—even those over 40—and that most hail from Williamsburg, the magical land where ugly folk get sucked up by manholes and spit back out in Hackensack.

    What all appreciate, above their mutual comeliness, is the acceptance and diversity within the circle. Miguel McNamara, 22, a Museum of Sex employee who just moved from Minneapolis a few months ago, explains, "It's a relief to see gays, lesbians, trannies, bisexuals hanging out together, having fun together, and creating a really queer space." It's not a world you necessarily encounter elsewhere: "I've been to some lesbian clubs," says Trish, the cross- dressing baby of the group, "and it'd all be very feminine. And I'd walk in, and they wouldn't know what to think of me." Dario avoids Chelsea because, he says, "I want boys, I want girls, I want a mix of both."

    Unable to find that one venue that satisfies all their Citysearch needs—"too many spaces and events in most cities are so gender segregated," complains Miguel—the crew can often be found on Sundays at Metropolitan for the afternoon BBQ and Dario's TNT party in the evening, occasional Tuesdays at Bar 13 for Snapshot, Fridays at Fun, and Thursdays at Don Hill's for 'Stache, hosted by Tommy, Zach, and Duch. "Everyone flocks to our group," says Dario. "It's a group that you can't fit into a stereotype."

    It's also a reminder of some gnawing issues both the queer and straight communities can't afford to ignore: an alienating fractiousness within New York nightlife, stereotyping within as well as outside the queer community, and the perception of sexuality in absolutes.

    The battle for gay marriage is just the beginning.


    Miguel: I prefer to identify either as a queer boy or simply as outrageous.

    Everyone touts the idea of monogamy or commitment at the same time that rates of adultery are soaring. It becomes rather not an ideal, but an impossibility through which we masochistically beat ourselves up when we don't measure up.

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