Saturday, August 11, 2007

This Music is Gay!

Men in Istanbul walk hand in hand, kiss each other in greeting and occasionally lather each other in a Turkish bath, and those are just the straight men. Turkey has a very macho culture where so-called manliness is highly prized and praised. Every time I look up at a TV or glance at a tabloid here in Istanbul I seem to come across the face of a rather severe looking female singer by the name of Bulent Ersoy who it turns out was once a man.

People can't seem to get enough of her. She seems to be hosting a different show every night, her photos are on the front pages of most newspapers, people are talking about her plans to adopt children and about what her 23 year old husband was doing with another woman last week.

It seems very strange at first to find that they have elevated a transgender performer to the pinnacle of their entertainment pyramid, and it should be noted that this is not just a freak-show curiosity since most everyone really appreciates her singing talents and her bravery. There is a surprising readiness to accept LGBT people in the world of entertainment even if these people aren't readily accepted in the more mundane workplaces of the everyday world. As a very young child in Istanbul I remember asking my Mother why people said Zeki Muren was a man when he clearly looked, dressed and sang like a woman. Later when I moved to the West I confused him with Liberace who engendered the same question.

As a youth I remember watching Mick Jagger strut on stage like a preening girl more or less kissing Keith Richards while tough-guy biker-types in the crowd roared their approvals. As an aside, for years I confused Ron Wood with Rod Stewart (another male performer with clearly gay mannerisms). Freddie Mercury of Queen also strutted around on stage like a prima donna but by this time I had chalked it up to the understanding that British people were just more pimp and circumstance than the rest of us. It never really occurred to me that these people might be gay; It's just how rock stars behaved.

If you survey the pantheon of pop music you will find a very lengthy list of male rock stars who were either gay or behaved in a stereotypically gay manner on stage. They wore makeup, tight tight jeans, wiggled their asses and stroked their bodies like strippers. The hair bands of the 80's represented the extreme manifestations of this tendency.

During my teenage years it was so much fun watching Robert Smith of The Cure prance around in Love Cats that it almost made me want to wear mascara, hairspray and elaborate jewelry. The straight male population is accepting of this style even if most of them aren't accepting of gay culture in general but the female populace seems to simply adore it. Most heart-throbs marketed to little girls are soft smooth effeminate boys who are also highly attractive to the gay male population. It baffles straight men why women are more attracted to pretty-boys over manly men but the advent of the Metrosexual seems to be an effort to appeal to this tendency in women.

This is not new. Dionysus, the original rock star gave the women of Thebes ecstatic fits and the men were so drawn to the spectacle that they dressed up and joined the women in their adoration of Dionysus. The Dionysian is often aligned with the feminine spirit of humanity while the Apollonian is aligned with the masculine. Meaningful art results when both are twined in an interplay of the forces of human natures. Whether you are drawn to Apollo or Dionysus you cannot help but appreciate the art that results in their admixture and even the hardened men of a militaristic middle power like Turkey appreciate the beauty of art made by a creature borne of a mixed spirit. Rock stars as well as audiences seem to know this intuitively.

1 comment:

Ian said...

Wonderful piece Jake, and still so years later.

The world is a wonderful and diverse place. It's a pity more can't appreciate that diversity.