Photo Credit: Showtime
Photo Credit: Showtime

The LGBT community might be an overwhelmingly liberal bunch, but don’t think for an instant that progressivism prevents an occasional prudishness. As in any community or society, the LGBT community has its own set of “taboos,” or issues and topics it finds socially unacceptable, revolting or simply too inappropriate for polite conversation.

Our community’s taboos are, perhaps, topics with which we find ourselves overly uncomfortable. Perhaps some of our taboos are a reaction to the prejudice and oppression we’ve faced. Some are political, social or sexual. This article explores just a very small handful of those topics — the very issues that can make some of us quiver, shudder and turn running for the door.

With the constant barrage of prevention and safe sex campaigns thrown toward LGBT communities, one might think that HIV/AIDS has no business in a list of gay taboos. At the same time, though, AIDS is a touchy and difficult subject to talk about. Those affected or infected with HIV constantly find themselves on the opposite side of of a sexual revolution and movement from which others now ostracize them — one journalist and blogger has called it the “magnetic divide.”

On one side of this sexual pseudo-caste system sits the Negatives, or at least those who believe they are HIV-negative. The Negatives are free to do what they want, when they want and with whomever they want. But, on the other side of the divide sits the Positives, those folks have been tested and know they are HIV-positive. If they are honest with future or potential sexual partners, boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses, they very often find they are cast out, ignored and, in many cases, treated as though they never existed.

And this divide is precisely the reason why AIDS remains taboo. It is a lot easier to not know your status and keep living life as normal, than be forced to face reality and the possible rejection if you know and tell others you have HIV. This stigma is likely at the root cause of why so many youth and adults never get tested.

After the outbreak of the AIDS Crisis in the 1980s, many gay or bi men wouldn’t be caught dead engaging in unprotected anal intercourse. As new AIDS drugs and treatments became more readily available and more effective through the 1990s, and younger gay and bi men unaware of the magnitude of the AIDS epidemic grew up, unprotected sex, or “barebacking,” made a resurgence. Only a small minority of gay or bi men might ever engage in barebacking, but porn sites are full of it as men seek outlets for their fantasies. But this taboo is becoming more and more popular and that worries some safe sex advocates. Most are unwilling to condemn the practice outright, afraid of alienating men in need of counseling or support, and scaring them away from testing and prevention. Others are perhaps too quick to judge. Either way, barebacking will likely remain a controversial and touchy subject for years to come.

“Why is homosexuality on this list of ‘taboos,’” you ask. “There’s nothing taboo about being gay,” you say. To us, no. But to others, yes. Our lives and identities seem normal and natural to us, but to Western society, much of who we are as people has been reviled and many times illegal for centuries. Even in America, “sodomy” was illegal until 2003, and “crimes against nature” statutes continue to be used against LGBT people across the country. In many African and Middle Eastern nations homosexuality remains a forbidden act; in many places, homosexuality is a capital offense.

Gay Republicans
If you want a ticket out of mainstream LGBT politics, tell folks you’re a Republican. The unfortunate reality to our overly progressive community is that conservative LGBTs largely don’t fit in. It isn’t their fault; they’re being who they are. But our community’s struggle to have others accept us “as we are” many times doesn’t extend to LGBT Republicans.

Take a look at any LGBT blog — most of them progressive or largely aligned with the Democratic Party — and you will find heaps of scorn and ridicule poured on gay GOPers. “A gay Republican is like a Jewish Nazi.” They are “pathologically conflicted at best.” Or, they are like “an African KKK member.” These are real comments, from real people.

Many LGBT people either can’t or aren’t willing to understand our conservative LGBT brothers and sisters. But ask any gay Republican and they will likely tell you that being gay is only a small part of who they are — that other issues take higher importance. Gay Republicans say they are “working from the inside” to change the Republican Party. They say that if you all you do is ignore the GOP, then nothing will change.

Maybe gay Republicans have a point, but don’t try to sell it to many in the LGBT community. Many of us don’t understand it and can’t accept it. A gay Republican – that is, no doubt, taboo.

Intergenerational relationships
Relationships between older and younger individuals take place with some regularity. To mainstream society, for whatever reason, intergenerational relationships, whether gay or straight, remain taboo. For gay men especially, relationships between older and younger men take on a more controversial issue: pedophilia. For ages, gay men have been accused of being pedophiles. Even in our modern political discourse, radical right-wingers use the pedophilia scare tactic to sway voters and fuel the flames of discrimination and prejudice.

A person sees a 50-year-old man dating a 20-year-old woman and they are aghast. They say, “How inappropriate.” They assume she is a “gold digger.” The same group of folks might see a 50-year-old man with a 20-year-old man and say the older one is bordering on pedophilia. It is this double standard, fed by the history of anti-gay discrimination, that makes intergenerational gay dating taboo.

In 2000, Showtime’s “Queer as Folk” blew away gay and straight audiences alike with its graphic sex scene between the 29-year-old Brian Kinney and 17-year-old Justin Taylor. But what U.S. audiences witnessed was nothing compared to the even more graphic 1999 premiere of the U.K.’s “Queer as Folk.” Made prior to the change of Britain’s anti-gay age of consent laws (18 at the time of the show’s airing), the sex between 29-year-old Stuart Allen Jones and 15-year-old Nathan Maloney sent shockwaves through traditionally conservative British culture. Even after the age of consent for gay men was changed to the 16-years-old already set for straight folks, the relationship between Nathan and Stuart would have still been illegal.

Politicians and preachers: Two careers in which hypocrisy can be met with quick justice from the media, activists and fellow colleagues. Closeted, anti-gay preachers and politicians have become the target of many activists who seek to root out hypocrisy and, according to them, create a more equal and just society. Folks like blogger Michael Rogers have made infamous names for themselves after outing high profile politicians. Their list of “victims” keeps growing. Some in the LGBT community find Rogers’ and others tactics sickening. Others praise the activists. Some say coming out should be a personal process, unencumbered by political agendas and outsiders. Others say anti-gay closet cases deserve all they get. Who is right? Who is wrong? It’s all subjective, really.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

One reply on “Forbidden Fruit”

  1. the two things i have issue with is the age and the outting.

    If the two men are legal age there should be now issue, were do you draw the line as the age limit?

    This one i would not out someone on purpose, The only way i would is if this person who is GAY but in the closet and was saying gay is bad or putting gays down etc.
    Is that wrong? No in my book. Why listen to someon who can is lieing or double talking.

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