Anthony Nocera is gay, but that doesn't mean he wants to discuss his sex life with strangers.
Taking it lying down
The day I came out to my mum, we were in the car and she was quiet for a second and said, “Anthony … you don’t have HIV do you?”.
I was sixteen and a virgin. “No, mum,” I laughed. “Good,” she said, “don’t get it. It sounds tough.”
And I look back on that moment and smile at her attempt at caring, and at her misunderstanding of how gay people work. That misunderstanding came from a place of caring, you know? In the same way that it comes from a place of caring when she says that I need to angle my chin down when I take photos because it makes me look like I have no bone structure.
But as you keep living as a gay man, those questions keep coming up and they stop coming from a place of love and become infinitely less cute.
I was talking to a straight woman about my relationship with my boyfriend – who is a lot older than me. The woman asked me how it worked and I told her it was pretty much just like any relationship, I guess. And then she whispered, sheepish all of sudden, and pulled me in closer to ask, “No I mean, are you the top or the bottom?”
“Like do you take it, or give it. How does it work?”
And I looked at her for a second and smiled, “I do whatever it takes to get the job done”.
“Oh,” she said, “oh so it’s work, is it? Bending over and taking it? Do you have to use poppers? Can I ask you another question?” and before I could say no, leave or find a brick wall to hit my head against until I knocked myself the fuck out so this conversation could end, she said, “I have a son. He’s not gay but would you sleep with him?”
And, yeah, it is work, I think, being gay. But probably not in the way she thought.
Recently, I was at a Fringe show called Butt Kapinski, which is a send up of the archaic expressions of gender in noir cinema and, as a result of noir being a representation of the culture milieu at any given time, our understanding of gender and sexual identity.
It was one of the best shows at the Fringe. During the show, the audience was pretty cold. I was laughing, clapping, playing along pretty enthusiastically (maybe obnoxiously, I have a pretty loud laugh) and I was seated next to this big juiced-up guy and his girlfriend.
The guy turned to his partner and said, “get up, get away from that faggot” and she did. It wasn’t a big deal. It’s happened to me before; it will happen again. And I take it. Like you imagine me taking it with my boyfriend, and your son for some unknown reason. As an aside, when the lady in question showed me a picture of her son my asshole slammed shut so fast my knees gave way a little.
After these encounters, I think about what I must look like in the heterosexual imagination – like some sort of gargoyle in a shadowy alley, perhaps from a film noir, frantically pouring the contents of his bottle of poppers onto a napkin waiting for your son, or your boyfriend, to turn the corner so I can accost him, I mean, Jesus Christ, as if I would waste my poppers on your son. That shit is expensive.
My poppers are for me.
In his essay The Screwball Asses, Guy Hocquenghem wrote that the sexual objects of the homosexual have always been chosen for him/ them by “social or political machination” and are characterised by the false dichotomies or either “weaker or stronger, older or younger, more bourgeois or more proletarian, top or bottom and so forth”. The homosexual exists in an uncomfortable twilight world, a liminal space, whereby our desire and sex acts are illustrated and imagined for us but never spoken about with nuance or sensitivity. A lack of understanding breeds fear. It’s what causes you to shift in your seat at the theatre. Turn your back to the wall when I walk past. Call me, us, “faggot” just loud enough for me to hear during a show while conveniently forgetting that you’re at the theatre and, therefore, on very gay turf.
And it’s exhausting. Much like the strong vein of sexism that runs through our city that CityMag editor Farrin wrote about last week. It wears you down after a while.
So I guess it is work, taking it, constantly from every angle like I do. I take it bending over, I take it laying down, I take it walking down the street and in the theatre. It’s always irrevocably there. And it’s exhausting and it is work.
I just wish I’d only have to take it when I wanted to, with my partner with whom it isn’t work … not even when I don’t use poppers. But I like them, for the record, even though that’s none of your business.