Gay Male Clones
Throughout history the male homosexual was often based on non-gender conformity, that is the effeminate male. Although this still continues today, a rejection of this stereotyping is seen in the gay male clone. There are two books written by homosexuals themselves that defines this gay male clone. Michelango Signorileis is the author of the book, Life Outside. Signorileis writes about gay men, masculinity, the gay male clone and circuit parties. Martin Levine was a sociologist, and university professor. The book, Gay Macho, is an edited version of Levine’s doctoral dissertation. He died from complications of AIDS at the age of 42. The gay male clone was not a representative homosexual, but only one of many groups among the modern homosexual; gays, lesbians, queers, and homosexual.
Clones symbolize modern homosexuality. When the dust of gay liberation had settled, the doors to the closet were opened, and out popped the clone. Taking a cue from movement ideology, clones modeled themselves upon traditional masculinity and the self-fulfillment ethic. (Yankelovitch 1981) Aping blue-collar workers, they butched it up and acted like macho men. Accepting me-generation values, they searched for self-fulfillment in anonymous sex, recreational drugs, and hard partying. Much to activists’ chagrin, liberation turned the Boys in the Band into doped-up, sexed-out, Marlboro men.
The clone in many ways was, the manliest of men. He had a gym-defined body; after hours of rigorous body building, his physique rippled with bulging muscles, looking more like competitive body builders than hairdressers or florists. He wore blue-collar garb-flannel shirts over muscle T-shirts, Levi 501s over work boots, bomber jackets over hooded sweatshirts. He kept his hair short and had a thick moustache or closely cropped beard. There was nothing New Age or hippie about this reformed gay liberationist. And the clone lived the fast life. He partied hard, taking recreational drugs, dancing in discos till dawn, having hot sex with strangers.
Throughout the seventies and early eighties, clones set the tone in the homosexual community (Altman 1982, 103; Holleran 1982). Glorified in the gay media, promoted in gay advertising, clones defined gay chic, and the clone life style became culturally dominant. Until AIDS. As the new disease ravaged the gay male community in the early 1980s scientists discovered that the clone life style was toxic: specific sexual behaviors, even promiscuity, might be one of the ways that the HIV virus spread in the gay male population. Drugs, late nights, and poor nutrition weakened the immunity system (Fettner and Check 1984) (Levine, Gay Macho, p.7-8)
The clone role reflected the gay world’s image of this kind of gay man, a doped-up, sexed-out, Marlboro man.
Although the gay world derisively named this social type the clone, largely because of his
uniform look and life-style, clones were the leading social within gay ghettos until the advent of AIDS. At this time, gay media, arts, and pornography, promoted clones as the first post-Stonewall form of homosexual life. Clones came to symbolize the liberated gay man. (Levine, The Life and Death of Gay Clones. p.70-71 in Gay Culture in America: Essays from the Field editor Gilbert Herdt.)
"Four features distinguished clones: (1) strongly masculine dress and deportment; (2) uninhibited recreational sex with multiple partners, often in sex clubs and baths; (3) the use of alcohol and other recreational drugs; and (4) frequent attendance at discotheques and other gay meeting places. Clone culture with its pattern of sexual availability, erotic apparel, multiple partners, and reciprocity in sexual technique became an important organizing feature of gay male life during the 1970s. It also became a seedbed for high rates of sexually transmitted diseases as well as frequent transmission of the hepatitis B virus. Many treated sexually transmitted diseases as a price that had to be paid for a life style of erotic liberation." (Jonsen and Stryker, editors, The Social Impact of AIDS in the United States, p. 261-262)
A key factor in the formulation and promulgation of the cult of masculinity that also dismayed the gay liberationist was that the dominant gender style was now supermasculine. It was as if the 1960s and the counter culture androgyny never occurred. Gay male culture was still reeling from the crisis of masculinity that had affected homosexuals for decades. Gay men, attracted to the masculine ideas they’d cultivated in the furtive days prior to Stonewall, seemed now institutionalize and exaggerate a heterosexual-inspired, macho look. The 1970s clone was born, and his look exploded on the streets of rapidly growing gay ghettos in dozens of American cities. (Signorile, Life Outside, p.51-52)
A whole industry was sprouting from and glorifying this male culture, with clothing stores like All American Boy on Castro Street, a gym called Body Works, and dozens of sex clubs and baths, with names like Animals. The sex clubs catered to every to every imaginable sexual taste: the leather set; men who enjoyed being tied up; men who wished to be urinated on. The bathhouses had once been seen as an expression of gay liberation, at least among those who equated gay liberation with sexual abandon. Now, they were celebrating and enforcing the values that Evans saw parading down the Castro every day: The Premium was put on physical appearance and conformity. (Clendinen and Nagourney, Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, p.445)
For the gay male clone, what resulted was not gay liberation or freedom from alienation by society, but was bondage into the enforced cult of modern homosexuality.
"For a great many gay men in the urban centers-the majority of which, some studies since the 1970s have shown, have hundreds of partners throughout their lives-living the fantasy has of course all been under the guises of liberation. Perhaps there is no such thing as true liberation. When we break from one rigid system, we often create another. It’s true that most gay men in urban America are not having a life of enforced heterosexuality, as gay liberationist might call it, with a driveway, a picket fence, and children to nurture. Many are, however, instead living a life of enforced cult homosexuality, with parties, drugs, and gyms ruling their lives." (Signorile, Life Outside, p.26-27)
In New York City, San Francisco, and other large cities many gay and lesbians had formed large gay communities. So, it was now possible to live, work, and socialize in what became gay gehettos. The following quote is making reference to the opening of, The Saint a large disco for gay males in New York City.
It was mailed only to Mailmans’ friends and their friends, a self-selected group that formed the base of The Saint’s membership of three thousand. Anyone who wanted to join had to be referred by a member to the membership office for screening. The clientele reflected the screening process: nearly all white, professional in their twenties and thirties, most good-looking and muscled, with the mustaches and short hair that were the style of the time. (Clendinen and Nagourney, Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, p.442-443)
The streets of San Francisco offered, in theory at least, a cross-section of America’s male homosexual community, but, Evans thought, one would never know it to walk down Castro Street. All these men looked identical, with their short haircuts, clipped mustaches and muscular bodies, turned out in standard-issue uniforms of tight faded blue jeans and polo shirts. The image was one part military, one part cowboy, one part 1950s suburbia and conformity, and they swaggered down the street, many aloof and unfriendly, as if their affected distance enhanced their masculinity. (Clendinen and Nagourney, Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, p.444)
Clendinen, Dudley and Adam Nagourne. Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. Simon and Schuster. New York, 1990.
Jonsen, Albert R. and Jeff Stryker. The Social Impact of AIDS in the United States. National Academy Press. Washington D.C., 1993.
Levine, Martin P. The Life and Death of Gay Clones. p. 68- 86 in Gay Culture in America: Essays from the Field editor Gilbert Herdt.
Levine, Martin P. Gay Macho. New York University Press. New York and London, 1998.
Signorile, Michelangelo. Life Outside. HarperCollins Publishers. New York, 1997.