Bargain Basement Queerness
It’s sad that Sears won’t get action from this kink versus “Think of the children!” Pride Season ™ debate.
With most of their storefront locations shuttered and their online shopping presence in shambles, the softer side of Sears no longer offers the leather harnesses it once did.
Poor Sears, unwittingly 8 years ahead of the queer marketing curve.
In Sears’s place, Target offers a truly atrocious assortment of rainbow gear shrieking from the doorways of their thousands of nationwide locations. The bougie box store giant heavily leans into displaying queerness as an ironic eyesore. When I say I’m out, loud and proud, the last thing I’m thinking of is a chaotic rainbow blazer. Sadly, for too many queer kids with ‘supportive’ parents, such blazers will be their first foray into camp. Like Liberace, Target cashes in on the gimmick, their shareholders giggling all the way to the bank.
Does the sun not warm the earth?
The 40% of us fully vaccinated are ready to board planes and hit the beaches. They’re gonna treat themselves to hot identity-of-choice summers come hell or high water. At least the cicadas toiled underground for 17 years before bellowing about the intersections of their carnal needs.
The big tent of the queer convention could barely wait a year and a half.
The marketing of the moment is working overtime selling such shenanigans to the most reliable yet marginalized consumers. Pride has been peddling diversity now for the better part of 3 decades. It works to liberate you through your credit card. You do have a credit card, right? If not, don’t worry, you can buy pride with 5 monthly installments on Klarna!
What is gayness if it isn’t visible via purchases? What is safety if it isn’t sanctioned by the consumer state? Without Target gay gear, many celebrants would be left indistinguishable from the average heterosexual white dude. Everyone laughed or panicked at Chet Hanx suggesting the idea of a white boy summer. Memories of Kyle Rittenhouse being bailed out by Ricky Schroder still linger. There has to be some delineation, some set of extraordinary identifiers that separate these proud men from rote masculinity. It’s better to drink sparkling water versus plain old tap.
Too many gay men have been bolstered by the idea that their rightful place in masculinity can be bought off the rack if they find themselves lacking. Protein shakes for abs here. The latest in fashion there. Overpriced psyllium husk as the magic bullet for muss free bottoming right here.
“Stay Ready” and skip a meal.
You have to be ready to take dick at any moment just in case it might be the last dick you’ll be desirable enough to get. If you’ve aged out of your prime, there’s always moisturizing creams or retiring to Palm Springs, selling mid century tombs to your moldy contemporaries. Your animated corpse will keep better in the dry, arid conditions anyways.
You only have one body.
“Gay Death” still occurs at 30.
You’ve lost a year and a half of unregulated visibility.
The stakes have never been higher to prove your market value than this Pride Season ™.
Meanwhile, the most important conversation for #Pride2021 has been all but muted. “No Cops At Pride” had a flash in the pan for exactly 24 hours. As we slide into June, the discourse centers whether the hint of public sex will offend the parents of gay teens. The unspoken truth is that these mothers and fathers still pray that their children will grow up to be like Secretary of Transportation Mayo(r) Pete. Just like them. Neat, respectable wage earners burning their lives up in the banality of capitalism instead of burning sage.
Buttigieg, like Vice-President Kamala Harris, is a diversity, equity and inclusion wet dream. Such identities shine bright in their toxic Great Value cheapness. Middle America gobbles them up because they’re easy to swallow. Buttigieg and Harris are shields, used to criticism. Remember Al Sharpton?
For a society that munches on Marvel movies the way some stay-at-home dads munch on microwavable Hot Pockets, those two pass as superheroes. Both Kamala and Pete have atrocious records with Black people in their respective backyards of origin. Being true middle managers, they failed their way to the top by exercising death-making policies. Why bother banning cops from Pride celebrations when California’s former top cop is our commander-in-chief-in-waiting? I won’t be surprised if they don’t christen the dual Pride-Juneteeth month Union Pacific locomotive with mimosas.
Parental ambitions for queer children still amount to getting keys to the city. Mom and dad want little gay Johnny to someday be able to evict, pillage and bomb those still being bullied. There is a term for the way police unions underwrite political campaigns, money-laundering, and for little gay Johnny’s parents, there’s no need to concentrate on whether or not their theyby will grow up to have a fulfilling intimate life.
These parents rarely know how to create these things for themselves. Up at 5am to be at the office by 9. Work ends at 5pm and making it to bed by 10 leaves very little time between dinner, dishes and bickering to fool around under the covers. They never bother to unfurl themselves out of missionary positions, to sprawl, to thrill at nerve endings flickering with tactile sensation. They often feel guilty when their offspring fail to meet quality control standards, coming off the production line as queer. To counteract their losses, it’s best to make sure that these children aspire to embody industry standards.
Meanwhile, queer sexuality is still reeling, reckoning with the loss of generations to a different pandemic, one that rarely knocked on straight suburban doors. AIDS didn’t shake Stepford until Rock Hudson went from a DILFy slab of beef to a ghost of himself in 1985.
Only the eldest of queer-millennials remember the plastering of his gaunt face on supermarket tabloids. The media that consumed his manufactured virility for decades went from passive aggressor to violent abuser overnight. It used his pursuit of passion, his attempts to have a full life outside the glare of the spotlight, against him.
It used him as an example of how not to be a good and respectable consumer.
There’s an extensive list of celebrities that died of AIDS in relative quiet after Rock Hudson. Liberace’s name returns. Merritt Butrick is virtually unknown. Anthony Perkins following Freddie Mercury is rarely discussed. The headlines blared the downfall of only one so-called Adonis while countless Black, Brown, Trans and Non-binary queers landed in underfunded hospitals in urban centers. Public health crises don’t sell newspapers or advertisements. We see that now with each day that ignores the pitiful vaccination rate. I’m sure you know Southwest is offering $50 fares for their fiftieth anniversary in business tho.
As the final season of Pose walks us through the reality of the moment, disassociated mourners grieve, wash and repeat. The few spaces allowing unregulated intimacy were shut down as public health risks. Sex clubs and bathhouses, places that naturally lent themselves to transactional carnality, were boarded up and forced further underground than they had been in the 1960’s. Sex education was frozen in the fantasia of Tom of Finland.
Many gay male kinksters and leather daddies fall to pieces if you attempt an overtly political conversation. It’s uncomfortable to discuss that how one gets off looks like re-enactment of settler colonialism across time. Some people have ancestors that were forced into harnesses and chains, truly beaten as property. Is it possible to put down the whip and examine how such play acting might reinforce violent hierarchies? Or is it more important to purchase matching harnesses for Instagram selfies?
Can we blame them for their bullshit?
Yes and no.
Identity performance and consumption is essential to the survival and longevity of capitalist state queers. And they do recruit. The machine needs more bodies to sell a wider array of products to, lest it implode. Lacking an abundance of oral histories, today’s queers navigate a landscape littered with incomplete histories erased by the dominant consumerist culture. I suck a dick at least once a year to keep my queer registration up-to-date, but find little to no interest in participating in this culture.
Four decades into this life experience, I find the performance of identity exhausting. The consumption needed to produce it uses more energy than it secures. I build community with those no longer treated as desirable consumable goods. I ponder what will be a safe, sustainable future. I keep returning to the possibility that it’ll be lonely yet peaceful. I half heartedly laugh that I was curious enough about our past to never be caught dead in that atrocious blazer at Target. Each Pride season, I hope the absurdist critical thinking skill of camp re-emerges. Yearly, beyond a clever meme or two dozen, I’m resolutely disappointed.
Time Capsule or actual human being, who knows. Laurence Jones has been sifting through ephemera of the past seemingly forever, spinning vinyl for you, taking film photography and entertaining you with instagram posts of the decrepit old cars they own. You can find previous writing by them at djlarsupreme.com and medium.com