Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Sun Shines Out of Our Behinds on East 2oth Street in New York City

Jacopo_Pontormo_047Pontormo, Vertumnus and Pomona, 1520-21, left side of lunette in the Poggio a Caiano, Villa Medici.

Today, walking east on 20th Street, past First Avenue between Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, I suddenly found myself within a gaggle of teenager girls and boys all about 14, all talking, all listening to their IPods, with some riding skateboards.  I could not seem to extricate myself from this pubescent group, so I overheard bits of their conversations.   One exchange struck me in particular.  A stylish boy in skinny jeans and colored topsiders related to his girl friend about his certain boy crush.  The crush had just texted him and he did not want to appear to eager, he said to his friend. 

This exchange made me smile and chuckle a bit.  In my suburban dystopia at the age of 14 I was still in the closet.  Not that my closet was a bad place; it was full of fantasy, desire, passion, Wonder Woman.  Things only became tricky or uncomfortable when my queer self engaged with the very heterosexual world of my growing up like in the boys locker room in junior high.  But still that became fodder for the pleasures of the closet in the end.

I thought to myself walking along East 20th Street how lucky this stylish boy was to be so young and so open about his sexuality and how the recent passage of marriage equality in New York State must be for him so life affirming and joyous.  And as the teenage group passed me and the stylish boy moved out of my life, I thought, I hope you and your crush love each other till we all turn to dust.

The Smiths Hand in Glove live on Spanish TV in 1985

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Miss Havisham finally walks down the aisle…


Recently, a same-sex marriage bill was passed and signed into law in New York.  It is a tremendous historical moment for non-heterosexuals and I thank everyone who worked so very hard for many years to ensure its passage.  And it is fitting that this law was enacted a day before the Gay Pride Parade here in New York City.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, it never occurred to me that non-heterosexuals such as myself would one day be able to marry in a legal sense.  Non-heterosexual visibility in my suburban world at the time was relegated to the very negative or to camp- Paul Lynn on Hollywood Squares or Billy Crystal on Soap.  Not that this visibility really bothered me in my closet which was bursting with spectacular and unashamed desire.  I found ways to express and solidify my queerness and accepted this fact within myself and then reconciled it with the world both heterosexual and non-heterosexual when I was 18.

In other posts on The Great Within, I have often compared myself to Miss Havisham still wearing her wedding dress amidst the cobwebs.  Marriage equality in New York does nothing to alter that feeling.  When I learned this law was passed, I was both happy and full of regret and sadness.

My Miss Havisham will probably never walk down the aisle.  Even dating for me has been enduring a long drought, mainly because I don’t feel very attractive or desirable; my age and body make me feel invisible too.

This state of being bothers me at times, but mostly it feels strangely right.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Queering the Image 9: Venus and Adonis by Paul Cadmus and Marriage Equality

Venus%20and%20Adonis%201acPaul Cadmus, Venus and Adonis, 1936, tempera and oil on linen on pressed wood panel, 28 5/8” x 32 1/2”, Forbes Magazine Collection.

Painted in 1936 by Paul Cadmus, Venus and Adonis is a humorous, sexual and perhaps misogynistic mediation on marriage and heterosexuality through the modern retelling of a Greek myth.  The origin of the characters is suggested by the decidedly classical landscape in which they are portrayed.  Within this reminiscent landscape, a shirtless Adonis is as expected tall, handsome, muscular and here presented as a contemporary tennis player proudly holding and displaying his racket and 2 (tennis) balls.  With a look of disgust, he attempts to escape from his beloved Venus, here no modern goddess, but a figure out of Rubens who clings with desperation to Adonis.  Heightening his disdain is the presence of (their?) screaming child, Cupid, located to the right of his mother.  Adonis wishes to leave the social convention of wife/mother/child in order to join the other male tennis player in the left background for a match and use his racket and 2 balls.  If the sexual nature of the 2 tennis players is not explicit enough Cadmus has inserted a black dog in the left foreground who appears to be licking himself.

The posting of Venus and Adonis seems appropriate to me at this particular historical moment in which same-sex marriage has been recently legalized in New York.  I am not against marriage for non-heterosexuals.  If anyone wants to get married they should have the right to do so. 

What does trouble, however, is that the legalization of same-sex  marriage while a civil rights achievement, is also an enactment of conformity for non-heterosexuals to a decidedly heterosexual principle rather than a transformation of that principle and the entire dominant fiction itself.  Symmetry is not always the most desired or most radical result.  As Françoise d’Eaubonne (1920-2005), a French feminist who introduced the term ecofeminism in 1974 states, “You say that our task is to integrate homosexuals into society, while I say it is to disintegrate society through homosexuality.

And what would Mr. Cadmus say about marriage equality if he were still alive?  Does his Adonis have only one tennis partner?  Does he dream of marriage or is it just the same as the scene depicted, but with different players?