God Loves Fag Hags (Like Me)
Don't get me wrong, I love straight men, too. Indeed I am incorrigibly straight myself. My sole attempt to rack up enough lesbian experience to qualify as elegantly bisexual was a fiasco, to put it mildly. But I am also a categorical, card-carrying, dyed-in-the wool fag hag. Therefore it was with a certain pique that I read in Salon some days ago that God hates me ("God Hates Fag Hags," Thomas Rogers, Salon 8/18/09.)
Mr. Rogers's basic premise is that society has outgrown fag hags. We are “retrograde,” apparently, by which I assume he means passé. Even though he claims that a lot of girls would like to be his fag hag (for reasons he himself cannot explain any more than I can,) he doesn’t want one. Well, Mr. Rogers is not required to have any fag hags draped over his arm at any cocktail party. He doesn't care for “fine furnishings” or “dance music,” evidently. He is “into dudes,” he says. He is certainly not the sort of fag I personally care to hag around with. (God, I hasten to add, is perfectly okay with him, I feel sure. If there is a God, we can take it as read that He loves everyone.)
Certain facts, despite our so-called progress, are not going to change. Such as, the fact that both straight women and gay men are in thrall to the straight men in a manner that goes far deeper than mere gender politics can ever touch. Or to be more exact, gay men and straight women are much like everyone else, in that we're held hostage by the force of our own sexuality.
Both gay men and straight women are irresistibly attracted to straight men, as Mr. Rogers astutely observes. Like it or not (and quite often, not,) a straight woman will experience an element of sexual tension in relation to almost any straight man, one that is not entirely comfortable, and it can't be wished away or ignored. Our relations with straight men are almost always going to be sexually fraught, somehow or other. The same—and here is the nettle that Mr. Rogers has entirely failed to grasp—is true of gay men. The possibility of a sexual angle to the relationship with a straight man is always, always on the table. We love them dearly, but straight men are our mutual cross to bear.
I submit that the cozy relations existing between straight women and gay men are predicated on the fact that that tension is entirely absent, not only for straight women, but for gay men, too. Together, we inhabit an oasis of blissfully un-fraught carefreedom, pleasure and loveliness. It is total relief from the idiotic conventions that elsewhere persecute us almost 24/7. If a gay man lights our cigarette or opens the door for us, we know he's not flirting. We don't have to make any aggravating calculations, figure out "how far to let it go." Our miniskirt will never be judged on anything but its cut and style, and whether or not it flatters us. Likewise, if a woman admires her gay male friend, there will be no need for him to worry about the possibility of a come-on in the offing. There will be no untoward remarks. Or that is, there will, but they will be funny, and not serious, and never require any battening down of the sexual hatches. Not for straight women, and not for gay men, either.
What I am trying to tell you is that the bond between gay men and straight women is not, as Rogers claims, based on an outmoded “outsiderhood.” It is, in fact, insiderhood, and of the most rarefied and pleasurable kind. I could care less what kind of watered-down version of this bond appears on TV shows like “Will & Grace,” or “Sex and the City,” which I wouldn’t watch on a bet. I don’t believe that gay men are all alike, either, as the obtuse females who have allegedly besieged Mr. R. with offers to “be his fag hag”—seriously?!—appear to have done. Now, that really would be “retrograde.” There have always been, and will always be, all kinds of gay men—macho, or fey, limp-wristed or musclebound; politically active, politically discreet; promiscuous or naturally chaste. I don’t doubt that even that very small subset of gay men that persists in detesting women and referring to them as “breeders” is as permanent as any other class of crazies.
I do not know why, so I can't tell you, but a lot of straight women and a lot of gay men really do tend to have certain fondnesses in common. We like art, literature, poetry, interior design. I am sorry, but we do. We like platform shoes, Ronald Firbank, absinthe, and crisply ironed shirts. We like tiny hors d'oeuvres, Paris, and Virginia Woolf. We will gladly spend the afternoon discussing Bernard Berenson or the wild history of the Pre-Raphaelites, looking at curtains, or having a leisurely brace of martinis at the latest watering-hole.
These are the things that any latter-day fag hag worthy of the name is sharing with the fags in her stable (and I am quite sure that the fags I love also consider their hags in this amiable light and yes, we do call each other Fag and Fag Hag—and did, long before Margaret Cho hepped the nation to this jovial practice—together with such friendly epithets as Hussy, Homo [for use in such phrases as, "Atta Homo!"], Strumpet, Jade, Harlot, and Nancy-Boy.) The whole point is that when we are together, we're miraculously liberated from the bullshit that surrounds most relations between the sexes. There is nothing the least bit PC about it, thank god. It's all just for fun--finally! The pressure is off, and we're just going to enjoy one another freely and without any kind of unpleasant innuendo (only pleasant innuendo.)
And so beautifully, so magically, there is so, so much to enjoy. The theatrical gesture, the favorite song in the nightclub that we race to the floor to dance to. It will not be taken wrong, or amiss, if one of us should profess to the other, "You are the Most Gorgeous Thing I have Ever Seen—I am so going to cry right now!" There will be eyebrows madly waggling at the sight of a particularly comely male arriving at the party. There will be tears shared when a boyfriend turns out to be a shmuck. And there will always, always be the innocent pleasures of music, art, literature and champagne to be enjoyed together, no matter what happens. That is a wonderful thing, Mr. R., and the fact that it doesn’t work for you is no reason to diss it for those others who may be differently abled.
Fortunately you won't be able to alter our immemorial bond, not if you had your life to live over a thousand times.
I was lucky enough to see Grace Jones at the Hollywood Bowl a couple of weeks ago. I'd been invited by my stepdaughter to join her and some friends that night to see not Miss Jones, but Of Montreal, whom I had managed to miss in London some days before. I had no idea that Of Montreal weren't the headliner until the day before the show.
"Why didn't you TELL ME THAT GRACE JONES WAS PLAYING?!" I bawled at my stepdaughter, aghast (and also, thrilled.)
"Who's Grace Jones?"
Who, indeed! Only the patron saint of fags and their hags. Only the Amazon queen, supermodel and Bond villainess, the living embodiment of all that was exotic, delightful and deranged about the 1980s.
As shocking as it was to learn that neither of my daughters knew who Grace Jones was, it was still more shocking to arrive at the Bowl and find that the eighties had returned for the evening in all their glory. We alighted out of the car and into a huge procession of all the fine gentlemen of the type we used to dance with at Studio One and the Stud, a little older now but in pleasingly excellent nick, a vast panorama of them, in a sea of Querelle caps and black leather, sequins—nay, paillettes!—Cuban heels, hip boots and feather boas, many of them already dancing to the Donna Summer that wafted out on a boombox from the picnic area outside. A disco whistle began its wild, syncopated shriek: a thing of beauty, and a joy forever. Soon I, too, would be dancing in the aisles!—a scant hour later, I texted my favorite fag and best friend in all the wide world,
Grace jones is about to come onstage, thinking of you my jamaican guy.
Soon the phone beeped back with his reply:
Ask her if she remembers mussing my hair in SF