What happened to gay creativity?

As happy as I am that gay men (and lesbians and the transgendered) are being more widely accepted, I feel like the gay community has lost something in the process. That our assimilation into mainstream culture has made us more ordinary.

I was just a kid in the 70s and my parents were big fans of Jerry Falwell. I remember going to Thomas Road Baptist Church one Sunday and having gay men protesting on a picket line outside, so my experience with the gay community in the 70s isn’t first hand…

But looking back at pictures and videos from the era there was a level of creativity that you don’t see anymore. Sure they have the obligatory gay guy on every design/make-over show, but how did the creativity of gay men go from the outrageous antics of groups like The Radical Faeries and The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (both founded in 1979) to making picture perfect apartments and making straight guys into metrosexuals?

I mean think The Radical Faeries are all about rejecting heterosexual norms and finding our own way – of not being afraid to blend masculine and feminine – of not being limited by norms of acceptable creativity… Here are some pics I’ve “borrowed” from LifeLube’s blog – they have a weekly Friday is for Faeries blog post which is inspiring to see that while the Faerie movement is small, it’s still very much alive…

Radical Faerie with a beard and a tiara

Radical Faerie in Indian garb

Radical Faerie - Just a regular guy

As you can see – they range the gamut – some can be wonderfully creative, others just enjoying themselves and having fun, while others are just normal guys who seem genuinely well-adjusted.

Then you have The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence… They take more of an in-your-face, over-the-top, “shock and awe” sort of approach to their creativity…

Needless to say whether it’s the Radical Faeries or The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, these are the sorts of gay guys who really push creative boundaries in our society. With the commercialization of gay creativity on reality TV shows, it just feels like gay creativity is less than it used to be – more mainstream, more homogenous.

Or maybe there are just as many as there were in the 70s, but they’re less visible because they’re now a smaller percentage of our community since all the people who had no problem “blending in” have now come out of the closet.

Still, it’s wonderful when you see crazy creative minds at work. One of the latest that I’ve come across is François Sagat who’s best known for being a big name porn star, but when you look at his his blog and his YouTube channel you realize how much more he is – how wonderfully creative he is. He is a porn star and a lot of his creativity is centered around his body (his ass in particular), but he takes it way beyond the vulgarities of porn and makes it into something fascinating and edgy…

One of his more recent videos is a music video of sorts with him, a drag queen (playing his girlfriend), and another guy who he’s got the hots for…

Yes, I like the fact that HIV/AIDS isn’t killing off gay creative talent like it was in the ’80s and early ’90s. I like the fact that gay men are back in the saddle creatively – even if that’s making straight guys into metrosexuals, or helping women chose better outfits, or decorating a home. But I’ve got a special place in my heart for the guys who are “out there” and push the limits of what’s acceptable. I’m a geek – I’ll never be one of those people, but I know they’re special – very special…

7 thoughts on “What happened to gay creativity?

  1. You are a 100 percent right about this one. In 2005 I was asking the same question. Hell, what happened to the 1990’s…they were AWESOME!!!

    A lot of the queens involved in these movements are now living in section 8 housing, unfortunately and a great deal of them are just getting by. AIDS isn’t a death sentence, but it is still no fun and this movement was embraced by liberals and a sense of desperation. You were actually allowed to do what ever the fuck you wanted as long as it came off well and looked kind of good.

    With the economy dropping out, gay marriage, the war, and increased rates of cancer other things just seem more important then creativity. I think what I miss most about the times you refer to is that they were not about being the same.

    I wanted to write a book called the two towers with the G4 and G5 apple computers side by side. The design changes of these computers says a lot. Apple’s motto was think different, but the design of the G5 is something out of “1984” and screams OBEY!!!

    2011 was the creation of president Obama. Who I still refer to as Betty Crocker 2001. Occasionally I look for a seam to see if he has been put together like a robot. If your out of the loop Betty Crocker 2001 was a digital creation that put together different ethnic types to create a universally appealing image of Betty Crocker. Betty Crocker 2001, however is not real.

    Out of retaliation to push gay marriage through, lesbians have been coming up with terms like man child. According to most lesbians I’m a man child. Have you noticed the new push for lesbians on T.V. and the erasure of shows like Queer As Folk. Everyone has an agenda. What I hate the most is Lady Gaga. I never liked Marilyn Manson and she is the Victor Victoria of Manson. A wealthy woman stealing hip hop club beats, wearing mansons close, who stole from acts like Trent Reznor, Soft Cell, and Skinny Puppy.

    If you watch Jenji Kohan’s weeds you can see the transition as well. In a sense the head character of Weeds would have been partying with the radical faeries in the 1990’s. Jenji Kohan reduces her to a crook with an entourage of fuck ups referred to as man children.

    What is really going on is that the left is full of bankers that fucked up when the banks fell out. The entire country is getting that America Love it or Leave it Vibe. The rich left are hiding behind racial and gay politics and trying to force everyone into a cookie cutter scenario. If you just behave like good kids you’ll get candy. Unfortunately, we all miss the good times. I don’t think they are coming back and the voting for Republicans is not much of a choice.

    Also, with AIDS not being a death sentence it is easier to sale sex, sex club, and aids cock tells. If you look very closely it is all a business these days. Every U.S. city seems commanded by New York, Chicago, or LA and sometimes a mixture of all of them.

    If your looking for something fun check out Kitsune on Myspace or Crystal Castles. I like MGMT. Good luck.

    • I’d also like to say that with the war, there is an emergence of classicism in the Unite States like I have never seen before.

      Sure, everyone owns a computer, but few people know how to use it. That classicism extends into the gay community which is why you’re seeing only well manicured gay men these days. There is also a push that everyone has to be black. Which I am for in a lot of cases. I think one of the wildest shows is the Hairdresser challenge show I like watching.

      One of the greatest strengths to the radical fairie movement though, was that people were allowed to just be themselves and their was a sort of universal acceptance in that movement. It wasn’t this made up reality competition crap you see on T.V. these days.

      To do some of the stuff you did in the 1990’s would get you type cast as a crazy drug addled burn out. No one wants to be put in the same category as Charlie Sheen.

      Everything from the liberal camp seems a bit forced these days. We went from a lot of white people on T.V., to everyone has to be black or asian and if your mixed your extra cool. That sounds like an L.A. P.R. agent to me…they never sent me the memo.

  2. The last reason for the death of the kind of creativity you are talking about in the gay community is sociopolitical. I might not be totally right, but I believe the gay creativity you are talking about was the second wave of romanticism, left over from the 60’s and 70’s that grew from Haight-Ashbury in its hey day and traveled up the I-5 corridor to re express itself with generation x and the industrial/gothic/psychedelic/grunge movements in a merged punk format.

    It seemed at the time a great deal of the creativity from the gay community was coming from San Francisco, Seattle, and yes Portland. Although, I know this existed in New York as well. The energy in the Northwest was extremely nurturing and most parents had been hippies themselves.

    The concept behind the movement was romantic in that it was a focus on individualism and total self expression. It borrowed heavily from the avant garde and various music scenes (such as industrial, gothic, and grunge that were going on at the time). Industrial music wasn’t all electronic banging. Industrial music was actually a growth from groups such as Cabaret Voltaire that were into cutting up tape pieces and rearranging them as music, which in itself is very punk. The idea of punk was to mix and match styles to come up with your own identity. The word punk itself originated in the 60’s as term denoting prison queer.

    A lot of that creativity included drug experimentation. The scene had lots of X, LSD (was plentiful back then), marijuana, and biker speed (wich is not as pure as crystal meth). The scene was nurturing. The drug dealer wasn’t a gang member with 50 tatoos who might kill you. People rarely got arrested and everything was groovy.

    However, the northwest that nurtured that kind of energy has been California fucked. Seattle was first when the grunge movement hit. Rich Californians and New Yorkers moved there in hordes to get away and be in on the new movement. Within two years Seattle began to have bizarre things like outdoor malls. The gay people were pretty much pushed off Capital Hill by new high rises where the rich tenants that moved in complained of too much noise and Nordstrom destroyed the old jean look of grunge, by coming out with their own line.

    The same thing has just happened to Portland. The gay area has been transplanted. Some of it is still downtown, but much of the authentic gay scene has moved across the river to the NE. San Francisco is the same way.

    If your involved in any counter culture drug scene these days you have to fear arrest and an altercation with a latin gang member in the Northwest. I think it is strange that wherever rich Californians move the gay people are transplanted, the rent triples, and gang membership increases in the area (so does incarceration).

    So to sum it up. That creative movement couldn’t exist the way that it did anymore.


  3. Also, to sum it up self expression is dead in the gay and art communities. Romanticism went out the window. Self expression now is attention called attention seeking. The banks have won everyone is just another number in a coin roll.

  4. One other thing, if you’re really interested in analyzing what happened to art and the creative movements of the 1990’s, I suggest reviewing what happened to art during World War II and the Great Depression. The Great Depression wiped out Art Nouveau, the surrealist movement declined, cubism disappeared, and the one thread of art standing was Modernism. Greenburg made it through to 1970 when Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns endlessly made fun of him at art gallery functions. I guess the joke eventually was on them.

    Modernism was simple, quick, and had a reason to exist. In a sense the same thing has happened on television with reality shows. Even Bjork has lost her impact and how much closer can you get to Art Noveau.

    I’m sure you know all this your a smart guy.

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