I wrote about this briefly the other day. The point was that as we assimilate into the heterosexual world, the gay community seems to pull in its horns, so it speak. It seems to become less flamboyant, less “out there,” less extravagant in the way it presents itself. Some might say, the more the gay community is accepted by the heterosexual community, the less fabulous we become.
On this particular day, during Gay Pride, there was a man on stilts wearing a kilt. And of course the wind blew and showed to the 150,000 people who had come to watch the parade that the man was wearing nothing under his kilt. This was wonderful, I thought. Many people thought differently, including Jeff Epperly, the editor at that time of the Boston gay weekly, Bay Windows. Epperly surmised that the man on stilts had no taste. Many people weighed in about the man on stilts—no one seemed to know who he was—and most people seemed to agree that the man on stilts had no taste.
I was pissed. I thought the gay community was certainly less a place I wanted to join if there was no room for the man on stilts with the wind blowing his kilt, so I responded the way I usually do, I sat down to the computer and pounded out a response. I thought it was exactly the right thing to say at that point, but I couldn’t get it published anywhere. So here it is:
I am the naked man on stilts
by Dwight Cathcart
Jeff Epperly wanted to know who the naked man on stilts was, and I am writing this to let him know that it was me. My name is Dwight Cathcart, and I am a gay man who has been practicing on stilts for a number of years so I could pull off this stunt, as all of my friends know, and, as Jeff and all of your writers have said, I have no taste.
I do have a good tight butt, however, and my dick is a greater than average length and girth, as all 150,000 people at Gay Pride 1996 will attest.
I haven’t had any taste for a long time. Probably not since I came out. Before I came out, I had a lot of taste. I wore the right clothes from the right stores and married the right woman and had the right children and went to the right schools and had the right kind of house, all filled with 18th century antiques, which are very tasteful. And I liked Sargent’s paintings, which, in Boston, are very tasteful, except when they are very obscene and the MFA hides them for years. I moved among people who also had taste. They were miserable, of course, in their tasteful houses, doing their tasteful things, but they didn’t rock any boats or offend anybody, and everybody said of all of us, They are people of taste, even in their misery. None of us ever wrote a novel or painted a painting, of course, because people who do those things can’t be thinking very hard about taste.
But one day, I decided that taste was not what a life should be based on, because I was miserable in my good taste, all locked inside of a narrow little cage, trying to follow all these piddling little rules, and wondering all the time if I was still tasteful. Taste is such a trivial little way to judge people and things. Am I tasteful? What a waste of energy even to consider the question. Even to think about taste makes your lips purse up as if you were sucking lemons. What I needed, I discovered, was a little honesty in my life, and a little sense of humor, and a little courage. So I bought some stilts and worked on erasing my tan line. And you all see the results. Freedom.
What I achieved, of course, was vulgarity, which was what I had been missing all my life. After I quit being a person of taste, I discovered how many things my dick would do that tasteful people never dream of. And my mouth. And where I could put them! I discovered the energy there is in questioning these leaden values people have which they subsume under the tight nasty little word taste. Vulgar. The word’s roots have to do with the common people, and I discovered the energy, the vitality, there is in the common people, the honesty there is in the common people, that people who purse their lips and say taste never dream of. Vulgar. It is impossible even to say the word without coming on strong. Vulgar. God, it sounds like the bass pipes in an organ, doesn’t it? Name me one leader in any field of human endeavor anywhere in the world whose primary concern was being tasteful.
When I got up on my stilts in my vulgar manner, showing my dick and my ass, what I was doing was coming on strong. Coming on against the limits which our society has always placed—and continues to place—on gay sex and style and fetish. I was coming on strong against people in our own community who have lost a sense of themselves as common people, who are striving to rid themselves of the dirt of their humanity and bleach out all their quirky, amazing sexiness. I was coming on strong against Arline Isaacson, who thought that everybody at the parade but me was normal, whatever the fuck that means in this context. And of course, up there on my stilts, showing my ass and waving my cock, I was remembering how gay people have always had tasteless thrown against them and their behavior. I was remembering how lewd and indecent is still thrown against them. Well, here I am, folks, tasteless, lewd and indecent, having my good time. In your face. But my lips aren’t pursed.
I saw Stonewall, the movie, last night at the MFA. The most painful parts had to do with the men and women in the fifties, who thought that wearing a coat and tie and hats and gloves and stockings and walking around in a neat little circle in front of Independence Hall would gain them freedom. So tasteful. So ineffective. Nobody ever got freedom by being tasteful.
I scorn to be tasteful. I revel in being vulgar, a man of the people, aware of where my cock hangs, and proud to call it by its right name, its ancient name. You can take your taste and shove it. And I think any man, seeing a naked guy on stilts at Gay Pride, doing our job, ought to be proud to say, Hey, that’s me up there.