Friday, January 19, 2007

Too Many Degrees

There is a saying that everyone on the planet is linked by no more than six degrees of separation.

For example, suppose I wanted to link to writer/director/actor Christopher Guest - I know that my friend James (1 degree) knows Daniel Zingale (2 degrees) who works for Arnold Schwarzenegger (3 degrees) who worked on True Lies with Jamie Lee Curtis (4 degrees) who is married to Guest (and done in 5 degrees of separation). If I asked around, I could probably get that linkage down by a few degrees.

Amongst gay people, the joke is that there is only 2 or 3 degrees of separation. And if you live in a cosmopolitan area that is also a vacation destination, that seems even more true. Some links are obvious - everyone has met at least one of the Fab Five from Queer Eye - and some are just rumors - we all know someone who knows someone who slept with Tom Cruise. But - for the most part - gay folk do know each other.

Which raises a question:

Why is it that there are so many "former homosexuals" whom nobody knows?

Now, one of the traits of a "former homosexual" tends to be that he has some sordid history that he's overcome. He was a hustler or a drug dealer or a plain old garden variety tramp. Stephen Bennett, for example, was a houseboy in Provincetown and had over 100 lovers.

But nobody gay has heard of him.

Now I'm not saying that Bennett is not same-sex attracted. Nor am I saying that he never acted on his urges. I really don't know.

But I am saying that it's rather odd for someone to live in a gay resort town that is the tourist destination for tens of thousands of gay men each year and have nobody remember that you exist. And considering his self-promotion, it seems strange that not one of those 100 men he slept with - or any of their friends - have said, "hey, look. It's that slutty Steve guy. I always wondered what happened to him."

Cate Clinton, a lesbian commedian, has made similar observations:

For years I asked audiences if anyone there had dated Ann Paulk, the ex-gay poster child. No one ever had. I figured if we didn’t know her, she wasn’t a lesbian.


Perhaps these ex-gays feel that they need to spice up their testimony with connections that never existed or a presence in the gay community that they never held. Or perhaps the whole story is a fabrication to give substance to a profitable ministry.

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