Howdy, Michael C. Bryan here and welcome to another episode of The Michael C. Bryan Hour- where nothing is taboo. Disclaimer: things might get provocative. Discretion is advised.
The other day I attended a panel in Manhattan where the heads of the largest media corporations in the world talked about the future of digital media.
Although the rhetoric was as circular as a political debate (well-intended but numbing babble about the same questions over and over) the bottom line was that the world is changing and we either blend or change with it, or we dig out feet into the ground and refuse to expand. As my dead mother would have said, “No shit, Sherlock.” Refusal to blend with now and the future has always been the issue for most people stuck in the past. I wanted something new and all I was hearing was the same old, same old.
I was a tad bored and tired (it was 8AM mind you) until one rather tall and good-looking executive (wearing very sexy, black motorcycle boots) said, “We’re no longer living in a binary world. Everything now is non-binary. We either embrace that truth and evolve, or we stay stagnant and totally lose touch with the world.”
I got an intellectual chubby when I heard that, and not only because the guy saying it had really big boots (*cough, cough*) but because prior I had interviewed my friend Drew who, up until only a few years ago, had the exterior of a biological female and is now externally (he’s always been internally) a male.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a non-binary life, meaning, a life which is a blending of more than one gender and one sexual identity. While those two things are very different (gender and sexual identity, like nature versus nurture and Madonna versus Beyoncé) there is something so very right about men becoming more whole by embracing their femininity and women embracing their masculinity.
I write this knowing if there is one button that can be pressed with a lot of people, it’s by someone whose gender isn’t entirely clear. It freaks people out. It makes us question our own gender, what it means to be our own gender and what our sexual desires are. We don’t like not being clear if someone is male or female. When someone lives in that rare land of ambiguity it makes people uncomfortable because it causes them to feel unstable sexually. Not for many of my friends, but I suspect even some of them don’t do well with it. My favorite comment when I talk about my friends who happen to be transgender is “Oh, I’m okay with it” as if my friends needed them to be okay with their fluid gender identification. Reminds me of the old saying, “Oh, some of my best friends are gay”, followed by the “I’m okay with it” as if it needed a stamp of approval. Can only imagine some of the conversations David Bowie sat back and marveled at years ago.
While I’ve never questioned my gender, I’ve had lots of great sex with drag queens and I’ve dressed in drag myself. I can’t say I’ve have a fetish for heels and stockings, but I also can’t say I don’t. Years ago when I was living in the east village in Manhattan I knew this guy I’ll call Carl. He was from a prominent family, flamingly gay and had a fabulous, broken down apartment in the east village. All of the apartments in the east village that are of the older variety seem two seconds away from bursting into flames. His was no exception. Huge and sprawling and dirty and cavernous. It was dark and full of shadows and wonderful.
Carl was a slightly infamous drag queen in Manhattan. Always with bushy eyebrows and a demure skirt and a sensible hat and very minimal makeup. Whenever I was around him I felt like I was hanging out with Martha Stewart with a dick and a very deep voice. We flirted and had a fun little romance. During sex I used to ask him to keep on his heels and skirt and he didn’t like that much. He wanted to be all man with me, and the funny part was I was less attracted to him out of a dress than in a dress.
I’ve worn drag and dressed up my entire life, but not in a way where I tried to pass as a woman in public. I mean, I was never one to throw on a mini skirt and go buy a gallon of milk. I was more of a dress up and parade in bars and in cars and be a bit of a whore and laugh late into the night guy. But that’s all play and enjoying the fun of drag which, as we all know, is a means to make fun of social norms of what is socially acceptable behavior, and if there one thing I adore it’s smashing the taboos of what is acceptable behavior.
Which is why I find it odd that so many gay men love drag queens, but don’t want to fuck a drag queen even when the drag queen is out of drag and clearly a man. Something is off in all that and I’m not entirely sure what it is. I know I used to judge really effeminate gay guys. The blunt answer is because I wasn’t comfortable in my skin being gay I made fun of other super gay guys and that’s exactly right. Did I want to fuck them? No and yes. Am I more comfortable now? Yes. Do I sometimes act a bit more masculine in gay circles so that I’ll appear more attractive with men? I can, but it’s rare.
Back in the early-90s when I was living in Boston I had a therapist who looked like she stepped out of the pages of Gay Vogue. I guess I should be clear about the ‘she’ part. Gay men like to switch gender pronouns, so we call gay men ‘she’ and ‘girl’. Confuses the hell out of straight people sometimes.
We like to switch the pronouns and play with gender identification but we want to make sure on all of our sex profiles it’s clear we’re looking for ‘masculine men only’, implying not so much it’s only a preference but that there is something undesirable in the blending of masculine and feminine.
My former Boston shrink wore big, blousy tops and rings and smelled as if he had walked straight into the Perfume Gauntlet at Macy’s in Herald Square in Manhattan. He was very attuned to how he looked, smelled and was very coiffed. I felt like I as being analyzed by Liberace. I left working with him because a part of me thought he was less effective as a shrink because he was so gay. I didn’t realize I did that until I talked to someone about him after I left and they said, “Oh, he’s published seven books and is amazing. You got him at a great rate. He must have really wanted to work with you. You stayed, right?” I lied and said ‘yes’ to save face, but now, years later, I’ll have to blame my judgment as a gay man about another gay man on the fact I was really fucking young and wasn’t sure what I was doing (which is more or less the truth).
Gay men now seem to enjoy passing as straight, and not as a way to question gender and sexuality roles, but so they assimilate and fit in and are accepted and that’s curious. I always assumed it was in our expression of rabid individuality that we connected with others, but perhaps that naïveté on my part. Actually, I know it’s naïveté. Society celebrates individuality even as the scoff at it in private and do all they can to thwart it. You can’t win for losing as the saying goes, so you might as well win on your own terms.
I’ve come to realize all of my friends who feel as if they are born into a body that is not who they are the true rebels of today. Not because being transgender is a political or radical statement, but because they were chosen to lead the way into the future, which is a blending of all genders and races. We are no long separate; we are a wonderful mix of fabulous mutts blazing our way in the world. We are now living on our own terms, in our own way. The clear delineation of being straight or gay or black or white or male or female has evolved in service of being only one thing: human. It’s a beautiful thing. So beautiful I’ve written this entire blog post wearing these spellbinding heels I got from Patricia Fields before she closed shop in lower Manhattan. They hurt like a fucker when I head to the mailbox to get the post, but damn if my legs don’t look good in them.
Enjoy the talk with Drew. He’s a wonderful man blazing the trail for all of us to finally love ourselves, warts, surgery scars and all.