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COMMITMENTS : Is 'Typical' Gay Lifestyle Liberating or Confining?

November 07, 1994|FRANK DeCARO | NEWSDAY

It's always a bit disconcerting when you realize that if someone looked up the word gay in the dictionary, he or she might find your picture there with the words "archetypal homosexual" written underneath it. It could happen.

I say this because the other day I was leafing through a copy of "The Unofficial Gay Manual," a new tongue-in-cheek guide to gay life written by Kevin Dilallo and Jack Krumholtz, and came across a list of 18 films every gay man should see.

I've seen 16 of them.

Then I turned to a list of 16 albums every gay man should own. Ten of them are in my apartment, most on CD because the vinyl copies wore out. If I possessed the Judy/Liza genes--which shockingly, I don't--I'd have scored even higher . . . and been more depressed.

It makes you rethink your alleged uniqueness. You know, you want to believe you're so original, such the outsider, and then you realize you're not. You are the one they write these books for--a guy with an active gym membership, a Barneys charge card, a subscription to Martha Stewart Living and a video copy of "Stryker Force" in a box under the bed.

You're a little quirkier than most, perhaps, but really you're just like every other guppie in the universe. You laugh, you cry, you'd sell your mother for a chance at Dolph Lundgren.

Even if you're not stereo-, you're typical.

I often wonder what gay men who don't fit the mold must feel like. I've known guys who told people they were gay and no one believed them--you know, the old but-you-don't-have-a- mustache-how-could-you-be? thing. But certainly that was never my experience or that of my very openly gay friends. Everyone believed us. It must be different for guys who are gay but not gay as we know it. They're out there on their own, not safely ghettoized in West Hollywood or the equivalent.

Bob Mould is one of these guys, I suspect. In a Rolling Stone interview, the openly gay front man for the punk band Sugar (and multichinned former leader of Husker Du) said: "I've never understood the gay lifestyle. It's not part of what makes me a person. If I decide to have sex with a man, I'm not sure that absolutely means that I have to be a gay role model . . . My sexuality is no secret. It really never has been. But (my) songs are for everybody."

To be honest, I don't really know Mould's songs. But I do wonder about Mould's life. I want to know if it is better because he doesn't identify with the prescribed "gay lifestyle"--the lifestyle that fuels gay-themed gift catalogues and episodes of "Roseanne."

I wonder if feeling separate from the gay community frees him up from the expectations of what gay life is supposed to be and removes the limits placed on us by society and by ourselves.

Is he free to create any kind of life he wants? I ask myself, do he and other outsiders who are "in the life" lead richer lives by blending into the fabric of society as a whole, or are they missing a lot by not immersing themselves in gay culture?

I'm not sure. On the one hand, Mould's blase attitude about his sexuality is admirable. Because, really, the gender of your mate is no big deal, as long as you're nice to each other and to your mothers.

On the other hand, every person who decides that being out of the closet isn't enough and joins the fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians helps advance the cause for us all.

Mould says he won't be a gay flag-waver. That's his prerogative. I just hope he realizes the important challenge facing every openly gay person--changing people's minds about what it means to be gay. I'd like to believe that is what he has in mind by being so openly himself. In that case, he may have helped to change mine.

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