Most of the gay male artists interviewed for this piece say they are searching for new sources of arousal, exploring their feelings for women--especially butch women--and for straight men. "Just as any woman lusts after a gay man," says Atilla Richard Lukacs, "gay men lust after straight men." But the homo/hetero dyad is remarkably effective at suppressing these desires, along with whatever else might be contained in the self-definition Todd Haynes offers: "I'm a non-practicing bisexual."
As these transgressive stances percolate up from the vanguard, they have already begun to rock the mainstream. Consider a relatively conventional indie comedy like The Opposite of Sex, in which a gay man and his twinkie lover navigate the shoals of sex and intimacy without falling back on the refuge of a rigid identity. True, all the hot stuff in this film is straight, but at least it has the funky aroma of the new queer art, in which sexuality is a point of departure, not a destiny.
"I'm gay and I'm an artist, so to that extent I'm a gay artist," says Stephen Trask, the 31-year-old songwriter and coauthor of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. "But I grew up influenced by people like John Lennon, who wasn't gay. What he did was to create a persona in his songs, and my persona is someone who writes about love and power relations from the perspective of a gay man." With his band Cheater (named after a prosthetic vagina worn by trannies), Trask has been gigging around the Downtown scene for the past five years, honing a repertoire that cannot be sung by someone of the opposite sex to cover its tracks, because it's inflected by the unmistakable signs of being queer.
"I never had a problem in straight clubs," Trask says. "I only had a problem when I sent a tape to record companies. The only real impediment has been industrial." But now that Hedwigis a hit, Trask may get to live out his wildest fantasy: becoming the first rock star to explore the role of "predatory bottom." As in this stanza from "The Brush":
What I want is to be taken to be taken down a peg I've got my pride and it's running down my leg When I'm in love I want to take it I can take it, take a shove.
Elton John it ain't, but this lyric crosses over and touches the abandon and surrender at the core of all sexuality. That's the mark of the new queer sensibility: It's universal without being straight. Or, as Stephen Trask puts it, with the assurance of a young man who has always been out but never been willing to live in a ghetto of desire: "Homosexuality is not my subject. I'm a subject who is gay."V