What does it mean to be gay? Really, in the political sense and in the personal sense. The issue has been raised by our favorite (as one staffer so delicately put it) 'poon hound,' nude dancing impresario and folk hero Joe Redner. The King of Strip has filed papers in a federal court case insisting that he is homosexual, either as an amazing act of self-revelation or as legal strategy to keep alive his challenge to Hillsborough Countyâs vote against recognizing gay pride events.
In interviews given after the story broke in the St. Petersburg Times, Redner has been cagey and sometimes contradictory. He doesnât say how long he has been gay (he has ex-wives and children), discuss whether he has ever had homosexual sex, or produced ex-boyfriends the way he has produced ex-wives for reporters to question. Many folks are discounting his admission as a legal ploy. But it does the raise the question (in an almost Foucaultian way), what does it mean to be gay? Do you have to have had sex with a member of the same gender? Or do homosexual desires make you gay regardless of whether you act on them? The Catholic Church thinks so, but the U.S. military leaders think you are not gay unless you tell them you are gay. Donât ask, donât tell.
It is both a great news story, an interesting moral discussion and a lesson in how language and discourse set the limits of our political behavior. In order to take part in the discussion, legally, over gay rights, Redner himself has to declare his gay-ness. For those who support tolerance and diversity in our community, that probably makes you gay, too.