September 9, 2009
In Europe, it’s almost impossible to tell a straight man from a gay man. Everyone carries purses. Everyone walks around in hipster shoes. Everyone wears really tight swimsuits. They’re not even embarrassed about it either. They’ll just stand there casually holding a conversation with a bas-relief of their kibbles and bits bulging out of a colorful spandex slingshot. Europe is a whole continent full of Brunos … not that there’s anything wrong with that, but pretty much everywhere you go your gay compass is spinning like a roulette wheel. You can’t help thinking: “If this dude isn’t gay, why is he still hugging me? What is that intoxicating smell? Sandalwood? With a hint of pepper?” For the average American – gay or het – it’s a confusing continent. If a Frenchman leans in for a kiss, it’s probably just tradition. He may find it confusing if you drop into a sexy, lip-parted swoon like Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Oh, and uh … ixnay on the onsil hockey tay. What we call French kissing here in the States is not the way people greet each other on the continent – not even on pride weekend, which is the same as just about any other weekend, except that it involves more paint and feathers. You would think that paint and feathers would peg the needle on your gay-o-meter too, but not so. Just because French people love paint and feathers doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gay. Au contraire. Actually, they have quite an American Indian fetish – sort of like the English love queens – so you can’t really judge a Frenchman by his plumage. The French also have a thing for Jerry Lewis, who, even though he was Dean Martin’s bitch, was about as gay as an episode of The Three Stooges. Yes, Europe is a place of perplexing gender-bending extremes. On the hard, butch end of the scale you have female German weightlifters, and on the soft femme side you have Prince Charles. Hard to say who scores more vag, but publicly Charlie gives the German muscle gals a good run for their money, even if he might actually prefer a little man ass on the down low. Damn it all, apparently in the Third Millennium, stereotypical gender traits are not an ironclad bet to determine sexual orientation. What to do? What to do? The healthiest thing to do is to not spend a lot of time worrying about it. People are basically people, but if you’re not occasionally taken out of your comfort zone by the interests, activities, and proclivities of others, you’re probably not living a very interesting life, and that’s a damned shame. That doesn’t mean you should take up skydiving, scrapbooking or gerbiling, but it does mean you should occasionally expose yourself to other ideas. This week you have an excellent opportunity to do just that at the 22nd Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival. If you are gay, aGLIFF is a good opportunity to explore a broad range of issues relating to your lifestyle. If you aren’t, aGLIFF offers you a chance to gain a better understanding of what it means to be gay/lesbian/transgendered, even if it makes you squirm in your seat on occasion.