You know the drill – you go to Möbel Olfe (Maybe one of Berlin’s most popular gay bars on a Thursday night) and you get the feeling that you just walked in one of those new naked scanners you find at airport security. You get so many looks that you start to wonder if you turned into a QR code. But this is nothing new if you’re somewhere between the ages of twenty and forty and still on the market. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a hairy edition of BOYS focusing on sexcapades, roosters and other animals.
I am frustrated. Before I dropped the pink bomb at my mother at the age of 19, I thought that the worst part of my life would be coming out of the closet. Well obviously I was wrong. I finally no longer had to answer the dreaded question “Do you have a girlfriend?” and I was granted my gay single amnesty. The details of my sex life scared most people and only my closest friends were brave enough to ask me if I were top or bottom. Everything was perfect until the day my mother asked me again – “So are you seeing anyone?” I started to scan through the memories of one-night stands, fuck buddies and meaningless sex. It made me realize that the gay scene in Berlin is no different than the cape of the lotus-eaters Odysseus goes to on his way back from Troy. Except for the fact that instead of lotus flowers, people pop pills and dash through the disco snow. I know making this statement sounds tedious, but read till the end before you call me a conservative fanatic or brand me as boring.
In Berlin there’s always a new fuck. There is always something better waiting around the corner. That’s why you never settle, never decide to invest your energy in one person and keep your options open. That’s why you actually enjoy the market and the naked scanner in Möbel Olfe. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I would never set foot in this bar again or would have never had sexcapades. That’s also what Steven Bereznai asks himself in his book Gay and Single… Forever? – He defines the borderline between desperate sex addiction and becoming a kitsch gay cliché. Actually on a gay night out in the German capital you can see that this is the biggest fear everyone has – being or becoming a gay cliché. That’s why they put ironic glasses, hats and black T-shirts with names of death metal bands on them. The trashier they look, the cooler they are. For tourists and newcomers it’s like a blessing – men are hairy, musky, masculine and not overly manicured. In other words, “Not typically gay.” Their music taste is going beyond Madonna and Kylie (and yet not further than Robyn); their clothing tastes beyond Abercrombie & Fitch (but not way higher than American Apparel); their cultural interests beyond Sex and The City or Queer as Folk (but not further than RuPaul’s Drag Race). Another word for this Berlin phenomenon is rooster, or a gay hipster. And yet, this so-called alternative gay scene does nothing else, but produce a new queer stereotype.
The beard. Usually in the gay ecosystem, the beard is solely a distinctive feature or privilege of bears. Bears tend to have hairy bodies and facial hair; some are heavy-set or muscular; some project an image of working-class masculinity in their grooming and appearance, though none of these are requirements or unique indicators. The bear cult is very prominent in Berlin and Germany, but recently its’ main tokens have become a deceitful cover for roosters. Most men with beards you see in Berlin, are gay – except for those you see in the ethnically diverse neighborhoods, although Allah knows I know a couple of exceptions there too. Thick, dark, ginger, thin, salt n’ pepper – beards are everywhere. Hairy chests, armpits and legs might be exciting to some US tourists, but their owners don’t keep them flourishing because they like themselves this way or they want to make a political statement, but because it’s IN. That goes for the whole “hairy man” cult, the infamous Gay Boys With Beards website etc. In the end, right after they open their mouth, you realize those guys are nothing more than queens with beards.
It’s not all about being gay anymore. Sometimes the gay scene in Berlin can be tiring. You go to Cocktail D’Amore – you see the same people you saw at Olfe; you go to Horse Meat Disco, you see the same people from Cocktail; you go to Pet Shop Bears, you see the same people from HMD; and then you go to a gallery opening – and you see all of them all over again. Going out and cruising, the alternative gay scene is maybe one of the most boring experiences that the city has to offer – at least most of the time.
I’m proud of my heterosexual friends. Actually this is one of the very rare occasions to label them as such. I love hanging out with them, going to other clubs and bars that are not gay oriented. Back in the 1970s men concealed that they were gay. Over the last decade and a half, the AIDS virus transitioned from a death sentence to largely treatable, and the gay culture moved from the margins closer to the mainstream. More than 40 years later we still segregate ourselves from the society by going to gay-only parties or by surrounding us only with queer friends (whom we have mostly had some kind of bodily fluid exchange with). Sorry, but this is more than aggravating. Today homosexuals are restlessly hiding any hint of desperation by trying way too hard and refusing to deal with their fear of getting out of their comfort zone.
Larry Kramer, The Pulitzer-nominated playwright, screenwriter, author and activist has been one of the most controversial figures in American gay life over the past 30 years. In 2005, he published “The Tragedy of Today’s Gays,” a transcript of a speech in which he attacked the younger generation of gay men for their apathy over gay causes and accused them of condemning their “predecessors to nonexistence.” This might be true on one level. But, as Mr. Kramer obviously addressed in his speech, I also felt obliged to answer that his understanding of homosexuality is giving me rash. In a recent interview Larry addresses the recent development of integration and acceptance of homosexuals as follows: “I am a gay person before I’m anything else. I’m a gay person before I’m a white person, before I’m a Jew, before I’m a writer, before I’m American, anything. That is my most identifying characteristic and I don’t find many people who would say that.” Yes, since it’s 2011 we live in and evolution of acceptance, which is not something bad and does not automatically mean that all gays will become housewives, marry rich businessmen and have three kids in suburbia. The times where homosexuality defined men and their whole life belong in the past. And whether the future belongs to the beards, is still a topic of discussion.