I’m sleeping with a straight. Well, okay, like my former lover in San Francisco wrote to me in an email recently: “Newsflash, if she’s sleeping with you, she’s not so straight.” And, to everyone’s surprise, it turns out that she’s not. My point, however, is not to graph an unhelpful hierarchy of straightness for this post. It’s to talk about my recent bout with homophobia. My own homophobia.
I’ve never really been into public displays of affection. Some might argue that this is a tactic often used to keep options open, but I’m genuinely not into it. It makes me uncomfortable. It’s annoying and dramatic. I didn’t enjoy it when I lived in what I call the “vacuum” queer communities like Seattle’s Capital Hill, or various San Francisco neighborhoods, or West Hollywood, places where one can almost forget that straights still rule most of the world. So, the fact that I still don’t like PDA can’t be entirely attributed to the fact that my present home is a small city with a nearly invisible and geographically scattered queer community in which I’m generally the only visibly queer person around. I simply just haven’t changed.
My new lover, however, is obsessed with her newfound identity. She wants to make-out in inconvenient places, to hold hands and other parts everywhere, to embrace in the grocery store. It’s not my thing, but I have to admit that my discomfort has alerted me to something else that’s going on.
We were friends for a few months before things took a slightly different direction, and we share some crossover in our academic communities as well as our acquaintance circles. Because I have lived in the aforementioned locations for the past decade, I haven’t really invested much attention in the fact that the straight world works economically very differently than the gays’ world and that many of the differences are based on sexed gender roles. Of course, many queers fall into (or consciously select) hetero-normative behaviors once in a relationship, and, of course, I’m absolutely stereotyping all straights into one neat category. There’s a very apparent and dominant system crystallizing around me, however, and it’s kind of unsettling. Straight, beautiful, feminine women get a lot of freebies.
Maybe someone should newsflash me again. I know this is old news. I also know that freebies are obviously available on a number of levels depending on factors as varied as attractiveness, attraction, wealth, need, ambition, deceitfulness, smarts, timing, etc. The micro-economy of freebie availability to stereotypically feminine and beautiful women, who have established sexual dynamics and roles with men is staggering, however, more so than I’ve ever paid attention to.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about it. Femme groups have held forums and debates on this very topic for years to discuss this and counter-topics, like how they are alternatively “taxed” in such an economy. Honestly, it’s never taken center-stage in my brain, but – as my faults tend to fall – now that it’s affecting my personal life, wow, I’m really interested.
Interested might not be the right word choice. I feel protective. It seems like a huge chunk of personal economy and, as a result, personal finance, to divorce oneself from such a system. My lover is doing it unabashedly, joyfully. I know how horrible I sound, but during my uncomfortable compromises of PDA, I am truly feeling hints of homophobia for the first time since I was seventeen years old. It’s terrifying to watch the volatile transition of someone’s immediate economy breaking down around them while another simultaneously constructs itself. More important than material things falling casualty to the situation, people and connections have made major shifts.
When I broach this topic with my lover, she seems either oblivious to what’s going on or it’s genuinely not bothering her; obviously she’s not as reliant on the “exchanges” as I would have myself believe. Her success is not invested in what I’m witnessing.
My personal homophobia has me recanting some of my favorite soap box topics, like why is the WNBA laden with closet-cases, and why is it still fashionable to have fake marriages in Hollywood? Obviously because people like me are afraid that if too much power exposed its queerness too quickly, the economy would crumble like it would have under Hillary’s original healthcare plan.
Speaking of basketball (sort of), a few weeks ago I was at the Tate Modern in London and found myself for the second time halted by an aquarium with three basketballs floating in it, officially known as Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Two Dr J Silver Series, Spalding NBA Tip-Off) 1985, by the artist Jeff Koons. The piece is supposed to be a commentary on the parallel between the way some groups use art and others sports for a climb in social status. Ironically, Koons was called “a decadent artist…He is another of those who serve the tacky rich,” by Mark Stevens of The New Republic.
According to the Tate website, the balls sink every six months and have to be reset. The perceived equilibrium is indeed an idealized utopia. Things shift, thankfully. Someone should also let the curator know, if they haven’t since my visit, that there’s some weird layer of film developing on the underside of Jeff’s balls. They may not be sinking yet, but something’s ready for a change.