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Room for Squares
by Philip Wong on Jun 20, 2008
This weekís entry marks the one year anniversary of this column. While a year isnít really a long time and making it to the 52nd week of a weekly column isnít exactly the same achievement as finishing the last chapter of ďWar and Peace,Ē itís still long enough to have afforded me some well learned lessons. I started this column as a means of giving voice to what I thought were a marginalized few in the gay community: the squares. A year later, with Pride 08 just around the corner, I find myself asking the same questions, still wondering if we really are indeed ďunited by prideĒ and ďbound for equality".
This column came to life because I felt that those of us who arenít endowed with Olympian genes or who donít have the requisite billboard-ready pecks arenít given the right attention. Queer life is an all consuming race to the finish line, where crossing the tape first means landing in your opponentís bed. Itís survival of the fittest in the cruelest sense. And when rewards are doled out for spending more time in front of a mirror than behind a book, those who donít fit the bill are S.O.L.
My assumption was that in our community there existed this dichotomy, a difference between the haves and the have-nots that resulted in the dominance of one and the subordination of the other. After all, to be gay and to be living in the city is no simple task. It requires constant vigilance and an additional know-how, a sex sense if you will. It allows you to make the rules and it separates the king from the pawns. If you canít cut it in this city, then you simply get cut.
I thought the way to deal with it was to be above it all. If no one picked me for their team, then I didnít want to play. But even if I wanted to turn my back on all of it, being a gay man in the city doesnít really afford you the choice of opting out. On any Friday night, you could theoretically ask yourself whether or not to spend the evening watching Friday Night Mysteries on KTEH or trying to scrape up the dregs at The Bar. And only the most hardened of hearts wouldnít choose the latter.
Ultimately, we see endless nights of fruitless partying, of countless hours spent under some glittering disco ball waiting for lightning to strike, then being left out in the downpour. Since this column began, Iíve gone through a yearís worth of thunderstorms. Sometimes I got wet and sometimes I managed to stay dry. Each time I struck out, Iíd say to myself: ďThatís life. You canít win every game.Ē
Even those of us who refuse to play the game somehow end up being unwitting participants in that timeless gay dance. And thatís how I came to slowly realize that I had indeed become a player. Somewhere along the way, it became a routine: picking myself up, dusting off my shoulders and faking a smile. Somehow, when I wasnít looking, I had transformed.
Sure, there was still a breakdown between the haves and the have-nots, but there was no longer the rigid dichotomy. If it was possible for a miscreant square like me to straddle both sides of the line, it only made sense that there might be a hotshot jock somewhere feeling the same insecurities. Whether that means weíre all the same, I donít know. But it does mean that maybe weíre not all as different as we thought. So no more trying to fit a square into a circle. If there isnít room for squares, Iíll just make it. Happy Birthday.
by Philip Wong on Jun 20, 2008