Of course, since the letter I wrote to "XTRA! West" appeared in the November 19, 2009, issue of the newspaper, I've been eager over the past two weeks to see what reaction it would get.
I wouldn't be honest with myself or with you, my dear readers, if I didn't admit that I hoped what I'd written would make some gay men take notice of something they hadn't considered before--that is, that there's more to being gay than sex, and that our focus should be on all of the more positive aspects of being gay and not just on sex. I believe in my heart that I achieved this goal to some degree.
As I stated in my letter, in my opinion, the greatest challenge gay people face is loving ourselves, which is the place from where every other good thing comes (whether you're gay or straight). Traditionally, gay people have bigger self-esteem issues than straight people because, on an individual level, we've been put down so much throughout our lives, and because, as a segment of the general population, we've received message after message in our culture that being gay is unacceptable.
If we can build that self-esteem, there's no telling how much further we can take the cause of being gay, but it won't be based on sex alone (sex has never gotten anyone anywhere, certainly not from a political standpoint). It'll be based on championing everything that's positive about being gay, like a healthy sense of self-worth; like contribution to society; like making the road smoother for those who identify themselves as gay or lesbian in the future; like making a difference in the world; like respecting ourselves and earning the respect of others, to name just a few.
So the December 3, 2009 issue of "XTRA! West" appeared yesterday, and in it were two letters related to the "sex without shame" issue, which is what my letter addressed.
The first letter was from Michael LePage from Vancouver. This is what he had to say:
"Enough is enough! I get so exasperated every time I read a letter in Xtra West complaining that its pages are too racy, too sexy, and too gay.
"We live in a society that is so sex-negative and homophobic, and I believe that having a local publication which celebrates our sexuality and talks about gay sex in a positive way is critical.
"Letters like the one written last issue by Rick Modien (Nov 19, Issue 424) make my stomach sick and are just another proof that homophobia and sex-negativity exist within our community and that we have a lot of work to do among ourselves.
"Perhaps some of us still need to work on our internalized homophobia and need to be reminded that nobody forces them to read the paper. Xtra, please keep your paper sexy and thank you for bringing forward news that matters to the queer community without putting us down."
The second letter was from Eddy Elmer, also from Vancouver. Here's what he had to say:
"I take issue with Darrell Michaud's assertion that Xtra West's excessive focus on sex is justified because sex is at the heart of what it is to be gay (Letters, Nov 5, Issue 423).
"The fact is, sexual behavior is only part of one's sexuality. It may be surprising to some, but there are many gay people whose lives don't revolve around sex but who still consider themselves to be gay because they know that their primary attraction is to members of the same sex. These people may also identify as being gay (or, perhaps more accurately, queer) because they're acutely aware of what it is to feel or be different. It is these people who feel alienated by XTRA West's excessive focus on sexual activity.
"I take further issue with David Myers' claim (Letters, Nov 5, 423) that readers who are offended by this publication are courting acceptance by the heterosexual majority. There are plenty of gay people who don't care one way or another whether they're accepted by society (hence their identification as queer) yet who still find that the paper's focus on sex (rather than sexuality more broadly) doesn't adequately reflect their interests and concerns.
"This doesn't mean that overt sexual content offends these readers or that they feel it doesn't have a place in the paper. Rather, it means that they're looking for a little more balance in the types of topics covered."
(Note: Both letters were quoted from the December 3, 2009 issue of "XTRA! West," No. 425. Copyright 2009 Pink Triangle Press.)
I think the letters speak for themselves, but I want to add just one thing: There are at least two sides to every issue. I believe the letters from LePage and Elmer capture both sides of this important issue for the gay and lesbian community in Metro Vancouver. I'd like this discussion to continue and to see where it lands in the end. Ultimately, I believe Elmer is right when he states there needs to be better balance in the subjects covered in the newspaper. And, if the letter I wrote helps to bring this about, I will be a happy man indeed.