Gays are great, so she says, cigarette thrust forward like a bayonet. I look out of the window at the rain-slicked street and murmur, no we're not, have you met us? She doesn't seem to hear me, although it might be the bass that's shaking the walls. Gays are great. You have the best music, the best clothes, she goes on, and for one fleeting moment I miss the bad old days. There is no conspiracy any more. We are assimilated, and we are aspirational. I love gays, she says, shouting to make herself heard. You have so much style. The words are pouring out of her, between those straight white teeth she paid so much for. I can barely hear her, but I can fill in the blanks myself. I love my gay friends, I think she says.
I glance back at her, and the thought crosses my mind that if you have to specify that they are your gay friends... they aren't your friends. I'm not sure why I'm here tonight, and when I look at the glow of her cigarette, I decide that I want to be like the smoke. Slowly untangling itself, floating up to the ceiling, undisturbed, and escaping into the world. I give her a halfway encouraging smile, because it's the politest way I can think of to bare my teeth. My teeth which are not white. My teeth which are not paid for. My teeth which are not straight. I look at her and I smile, and I think to myself that I desperately want to disillusion her. A city tour, perhaps. See the skinny boys on the darkened street, waiting for the payphone to call them home. See the old man in the grubby coat, hands thrust deep in pockets. Hear the howling, wailing cadence of the sordid kind of sex and be enlightened. Ecce homo.
At this, I start on the second drink she's so thoughtfully provided, and consider telling her that what we need now more than ever is some good old-fashioned decadence. The music is pounding the inside of my head now. Something fast, Scandinavian and complicated. I had a boyfriend like that once, I remember, and she mistakes the smirk that brings to my face for interest. I didn't even know you were gay, she says happily, until you mentioned it. You're so straight acting. I wonder for a second how straight I'm acting when I suck another man's cock, and whether that sentence, that thought, would make her uncomfortable. Perhaps she thinks we just hug in bed. It's hardly her fault, but I take another sip of vodka-and-whatever and look into the crowd at the bar, because it's that or telling her just how much I despise the way she thinks.
I don't want to be on your billboards, I don't say. I don't want to be your plaything. I don't want to help you dress up or make you look good naked or explain how to decorate your flat or bitch about your girlfriends with you. These are things I am careful not to say. Moreover, I don't continue, if you insist on making me an ambassador for my sexuality, you shouldn't be surprised when I get the desire to ram it down your throat, because tolerance on your terms is no tolerance at all. The right to get married, get kids, get airbrushed into PG-13 sitcoms; these things do not add up to diversity. Because tolerance isn't treating someone fairly because 'they're just like us!', it's treating them fairly because they aren't. What I do say is this: that's very interesting. How come?
Erm. You don't, uh... you aren't that effeminate, she says, grappling with something just out of reach. I distract myself for a moment with a distinct lust for revenge upon all the self-loathing minstrels that ever made a living off of those expectations. Well, I mutter to the inside of my own head, excuse me for not living up to stereotype. I suppose that leaves me with two options. I can either slacken my wrist and play to type, or sleepwalk back into the closet and be 'just like us'. Heaven forfend there be any alternatives.
Not that we're so wonderful to ourselves, I reflect. If you're gay and you're not white you're either invisible or someone's fetish. If you can't afford pink cocktails, if you work with your hands or aren't that witty, you're rough trade. Act too queer? You're embarrassing us in front of the breeders. Act too straight? You're a sellout motherfucker. Gather round, one and all, for the circular firing squad. The truth is, I think, homophobia's obsolete. We can supply our own.
She's onto her next drink, pupils dilated, and we're back to the start. I wonder how many times we've had this same conversation. Gays are great, so she says.
No we aren't, I say. We're pricks, just like you.