I spent a few hours at the Midsumma Carnival yesterday – an excursion into the gay world I so rarely inhabit these days. I was there to volunteer my time for PLWHA Victoria, whose Board I now sit on. It was a pleasant couple of hours, chatting with passers-by and spruiking our organisation’s activities, despite the rain.
After I was done I took a quick stroll through the rest of the fÃªte — very quick, as it became apparent that there was so little there which would appeal to me. I used to really look forward to events like this, but then I always found them stimulating and informative. These days it feels like almost all the stallholders are commercial operations, and given that I’m not in the market for skin cream, rainbow-flag themed accessories, motor cars or package holidays there’s not much that interests me.
I presume the wares on display at the Carnival are meant to be representative of the desires and aspirations of gay men and lesbians, yet I’m not tempted. Maybe this means I’m not as “gay” as I once was, or perhaps the meaning of gay has changed and I’ve been left behind (or maybe I’m making too much of all of this: shopping is not culture).
It’s an issue I’ve been grappling with for a while: how do you “do” gay when your life doesn’t revolve around bars, nightclubs, dance parties and so on? If you don’t drink (I don’t), take drugs (ditto), go to Mardi Gras (not this year), have sex 10 times a week (can’t be bothered) then what does it mean to say “I am a gay man”? Being gay has always (for me) been about more than a sexual identity — it’s a cultural signifier. But, as I’m finding, it can be a very narrowly-defined one.