This article previously appeared on VICE magazine.
Gay culture is dead. I guess the idea of gay culture was always an oxymoron, but lately I find myself declaring to it more definitively, “You’re dead to me,” as you might say to a former lover. Now, the gay movement is a zombie movement. It vaguely looks like its former self, operating remotely like it used to, going through the motions. But there’s no real life to it, no purpose, beyond bland consumerism. The engine of the gay movement used to be an idea of adventurous and extreme sexuality. Gay culture itself was regarded by the status quo as something pornographic and sexually radical. Today, with the emergence of the gay conservatism, pornography appears to be the last bastion of sexual radicalism. That’s why I always express solidarity with gay pornographers.They’re the last glimmer of glamour in the gay movement.
Now you have Elton John publicly professing his love of child rearing—not the kind preferred by the archdioceses of the Catholic Church—and waxing hopeful for a utopian future society in which all homophobia has been eradicated (does he want to take ALL the fun out of it?). This is a far cry from the sexually ambivalent posturing featured on his breakout album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in the early 70s, which offered up insanely conflicted and decidedly tortured expressions of homosexual longing. The album had songs like “All the Girls Love Alice,” about a hot suicidal 16-year-old baby dyke found dead on a subway; “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” about a jaded male prostitute fed up with life in the fast lane; and “Bennie and the Jets,” about a sexually ambiguous glam-rock superstar who wore electric boots, a mohair suit, and lived in a world “where we fight our parents out in the street to find who’s right and who’s wrong.” That’s the Elton John I was weaned on, not the one who has turned into a nightmarish simulacrum of my mother.
I guess this issue has been on my mind lately because I’ve been on a book tour in Italy promoting the new monograph about my work, entitled Bruce(x)ploitation, published by my Italian distributor, L’Atlantide Entertainment, and their subsidiary, Queer Frame. Just for fun, I’ve been making all sorts of outlandish pronouncements in mainstream newspapers about the death of gay culture. “Bruce LaBruce Provocation: Gays are Conservative,” screamed the headline in the Florence edition of La Repubblica, one of Italy’s major dailies. The really glamorous part was that a few pages away there was a story about the attempted assassination of the archbishop of Florence that had happened the day before my arrival in the former temporary-home ofJersey Shore. (Most people I mentioned Jersey Shore to in Florence scratched their heads, having some vague recollection of a cadre of slutty Americans with big tits recently invading their country.) This story was glamorous to me because rumour has it that the archbishop is also a member of OUR church (i.e., the Gays), and that the attempted assassination might have had some kind of homosexual provenance (a jilted ex-lover priest? a sexually exploited former altar boy a la Almodovar’s Bad Education?).
To add to the almost insurmountable glamour, Melbooks, the store where I did my book signing and made all sorts of pronouncements about the death of gay culture, happened to be right across the street from the residence of the archbishop—the very site of his assassination attempt. (The archbishop’s priest assistant (boyfriend?) acted as a human shield to stop the first bullet. The second bullet, which was in the chamber of the gun the attempted assassin pointed directly to the archbishop’s head, jammed and misfired.)
The would-be assassin was still on the loose the day I arrived in Florence, so I was wondering if—almost wishing—he would return to the scene of the crime and wander into my book signing. After all, a Cunanan-like event couldn’t hurt me in terms of publicity. Cunanan, if you recall, was the hustler who assassinated that other gay archbishop. The one who presided over the Church of Fashion—Gianni Versace.
But alas, it was not meant to be. The closest I got to an assassination attempt was when I tried to order melon out of season in an Italian restaurant. Instead, I ordered mortadella, a kind of proletarian luncheon meat, as an antipasto together with a fish soup as a primo. Never mind pronouncing gay culture dead; the very thought of mixing meat with fish in the same meal provoked the waiter into such a fury that if he would have had a gun he would have dispatched me long before I got to the digestivo. Italians may not care too much about homosexuality, but they do take their food very seriously.
Get your fill of the last glimmer of glamour in the gay movement here, in the Inner Circle.