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Letter from Brussels: Compartments

by De Ket in Columns & Opinions , 10 November 2012

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Dear Northern Neighbors, At the moment you’re reading this column – sometime in the month of November – the election of the Belgian Mr. Bear is already finished. But because this column has to handed in several weeks before the start of the month, I’m not sure whether the election has actually taken place during the first week of November.

The search for candidates for the Mr. Bear Contest, organized by bar Le Baroque, doesn’t really go smoothly. There are enough Belgian bears, but they don’t seem very eager to present themselves on a minuscule stage to conquer several bears’ hearts.

By some whim of fate I was sometimes in Cologne during the past few years, a city where the election of Mr. Bear Germany is organized for many years now, sometime at the end of November. During the rise of the “bear” scene in our area, some ten years ago, the house in Cologne where the contest was held filled up completely. Full house! Last year there were both less candidates, and less spectators to support them.

The reduced interest – or the complete lack thereof – in elections within the gay scene is symptomatic for the disappearance of a certain generation of gay men. Not only the Mr. Bear Contest doesn’t mobilize that many people anymore, also Mr. Fetish, Mr. Watersports, Mr. Rubber, et cetera, can’t revert to past successes.

This raises the question what constitutes the “social” importance of all these elections. Or should I have put this question in the past tense? I have always taken offence of these elections because they primarily compartmentalize a whole community. Statistically homosexuals are a minority within a community, and we’re going to further subdivide this small group? With a lot of fuss and feathers? And what about those who don’t place themselves in one of these compartments? Not everyone likes to walk around in chaps or rubber clothes.

I have raised the issue several times before in this column: how, from a historical viewpoint, the gay community, small as it is, has always succeeded to create more ghettos within the own group. To be “acknowledged” as gay, you not only had to be gay, but also bottom or top, butch or effeminized, or whatever. When you join a gay dating site you notice this even nowadays. A whole shopping list of criterions, what you like and what you absolutely don’t want to do during sex. This is important to know for quick dates, but rather discouraging for someone who tries to find Mister Right. And this are many more people than you might think.

The generation of men in their forties – my generation – realizes, or starts to realize, that all the fuss of compartmentalizing – and ditto contests - has nothing imparted to most of us. Contemporaries who only care about sex in full leather, are still single. And rubber aficionados who increasingly experience difficulties with sliding into their garments, are still desperately looking for a husband. Whereas the ultimate companion possibly doesn’t like to don leather or rubber.

Men from the leather scene admit it unhesitatingly: the younger generation doesn’t get excited about a complete outfit anymore. The pricetag is an influence, of course. But guys in their twenties realize much more than we did twenty years ago that the packaging and the “compartments” are not that important. And what’s even more, these twenty-somethings don’t have to visit the shady gay bars anymore to meet other gay guys. They are more at ease in bars with a mixed clientele and are not interested in gay contests. They prefer to indulge their occasional pleasures on Grindr and not during a ridiculous show dedicated to the election of one more fetish title.

Yours dedicated,
De Ket


In our youngest issue, Gay News 344, April/ May/ June/ July 2020



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