The Queer Heterosexual, Redux
As Tristan's on vacation this week, we instead proudly offer "The Queer Heterosexual," one of her most popular columns, first published on April 30, 2003. Enjoy.
I have known few homosexuals who did not practice their tendencies. Such people are sinning against God and will lead to the ultimate destruction of the family and our nation. I am unalterably opposed to such things, and will do everything I can to restrict the freedom of these people to spread their contagious infection to the youth of our nation.
That's an oldie but goody from right-wing zealot Pat Robertson in the '90s, and unfortunately for him, the sinners have made some serious progress. There've been enormous strides in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil-rights movement since activism raised an angry fist at Stonewall in 1969. Today, young queer people can enjoy the fruits of the movement's labor, and I'm not just talking about the syndication of Will & Grace or the Gay Network coming soon from Showtime. We have more legal protections than ever before. We have strong, diverse communities, organizations, and media, and even a place at the table in Washington, D.C. The LGBT movement has also had broad, significant effects on sexualitynot just queer sexuality, but the sex lives of everyone.
My first bit of evidence: the Sex and the Girl Next-Door Revolution, or the expansion of clean, well-lit places to buy sex toys. Dildos and butt plugs are no longer relegated to behind-the-counter purchases at sleazy peep-show storefronts and wrong-side-of-town shops. Sex-positive, women-friendly stores like San Francisco's Good Vibrations, Seattle and New York's Toys in Babeland, and Boston's Grand Opening have created spaces where sex is openly displayed (tastefully, of course!), examined, explored, and enjoyed. Similar stores have appeared in dozens of other cities, from Los Angeles and Chicago to Madison and Iowa City. When customers leave these establishments, they don't just have shiny new dildos and tubes of lube; they are armed with erotic information, inspiration, and confidence. But while the founders, owners, and workers of these businesses overwhelmingly identify as queer, the majority of their customers reflect the majority of the populationthey're straight. When a dyke counsels a husband who asks, "What's the best kind of toy for stimulating my wife's clitoris during penetration?" she gives him advice from experience. A lesbian sex tip is transmitted to a straight man, and lines begin to blur.
Speaking of blurring rigid boundaries, queers investigate and interrogate gender constructs like nobody's business, and in some cases, we've even reinvented gender. From gay male bears, faeries, drag queens, and twinkies to lesbian butches, femmes, girlfags, and bois-with-an-i-not-with-a-y, we are at the forefront of the gender revolution thanks to our ability to self-identify and to create our own permutations of masculinity, femininity, androgyny, and beyond. See, when we get between the sheets, we don't have the man-fucks-woman model to rely on, so we have to make up our own. There is no equivalent penis-in-vagina intercourse, no dominant queer model of what sex should be. So we do, we get done, we get off, and we answer the question "Who's the top?" with a million different responses. All this gender fucking has definitely rubbed off on heteros, who are ditching the script in favor of writing their own. The roles of active initiator and penetrator are no longer solely the domain of men, nor are the qualities of receptivity and passivity for girls only. Nowhere is this more apparent than in what I identify as the Bend Over Boyfriend Archetype. Bend Over Boyfriend is the name of a video series that teaches women how to anally penetrate their male lovers, but it's also become a tagline to describe heterosexual men who aren't afraid to put their asses in the air for some good old-fashioned butt fucking. And who do you think is teaching straight women how to wield a strap-on dick like they own it and reassuring men that they can be macho and still take it up the ass? Queers, of course.
Once staunch separatists, queer people are flaunting our fluidity when it comes to gender and identity. Whereas in the late '80s and early '90s, the dominant LGBT narrative was a coming-out story, today it's more like "I'm a lesbian in a relationship with a gay-identified bi guy, so what does that make me?" Plus, the evolution of an out, proud, vocal, and visible transgender community has turned everything on its head, making the term "opposite sex" practically meaningless, or at best confusing. What's the opposite sex of a male-to-female transsexual? Is the lesbian lover of a male-to-female transgender person bisexual or something else entirely?
All these advances have led to greater dialogue and diversity within LGBT communities. But they have also ushered in a new identity: the Queer Heterosexual. How does one spot a QH? In some cases, it's based on either one or both partners having non-traditional gender expressions, like she's tough-as-nails butch (yes, straight women can be butchhave you been to Montana?) and he's girlish and lets her take charge (which may or may not include bending over), or they actively work against their assigned gender roles. Some queer heterosexuals are strongly aligned with queer community, culture, politics, and activism but happen to love and lust after people of a different gender. I also consider folks who embrace alternative models of sexuality and relationships (polyamory, non-monogamy, BDSM, cross-dressing) to be queer, since labeling them "straight," considering their lifestyle choices, seems inappropriate. Then there are those folks who may be straight-looking and straight-acting, but you can't in good conscience call them straight.
Being queer to me has always been about my community, my culture, and my way of looking at the world, not just who I love and who I fuck. So I gladly welcome the queer heterosexuals into the fold. It's the religious right's worst nightmare: We've infiltrated the ranks! Our men have taught your men how to dress better, and our women have sold your women devices to replace your men! And now that we're in your most private and sacred of spacesthe bedroomyou're having sex like queers and you don't even know it!
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.