Tim Gunn’s new show “The Revolution” is not about the revolution of LGBTQ people, but it may be about Gunn’s personal revolution which in turn offers a possible new sexual revolution for the rest of us. The show feature’s Gunn’s impeccable taste as he answers questions about fashion from an audience of women and the occasional sprinkling of men. He also offers food advice and tips on social issues.
Gunn joins a long list of gay characters “in the know,” leading fumbling straights out of a world of mismatched, over-sized garb into a world of fashionable, form-flattering attire meant to make those individuals feel good about themselves. Usually, I dislike shows where gays affirm straight identity, even helping them achieve superiority through makeovers, but I actually like Gunn’s new show because it addresses the core of a person not just the part we can see. Unlike the short-lived “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” where the Fab Five buffed and coiffed a straight guy so he could go on a date and seal the deal, Gunn’s show hardly focuses on sex at all. This is not surprising as Gunn himself has been celibate for 29 years.
In a January episode of “The Revolution,” Gunn admitted to choosing celibacy during a time when the AIDS crisis took away many of his friends and relations. He says he chose life without sex and the sexually transmitted diseases it can sometimes bring, not death with it or because of it. As we close Pride month, Gunn gives gays a lot to think about. Just exactly how much does sex rule our lives and how much of it can we do without?
For the second year in a row, I did not attend pride events in DC. If you’ve been to one pride festival, you’ve been to them all, which is to say, I knew what I’d see: shirtless, muscly men in tiny briefs dancing on floats and drag queens lip-syncing to the current pop icon or making rude comments to the audience. Yes, Pride is an opportunity for gays and lesbians (sometimes they’re topless, too!) and the BTQ community to express a fundamental part of our identity and often this means in-your-face, exaggerated nudity and hyped up performances of queerness. Let’s face it, the business suits carrying gay rights signs of the early gay rights movement would hardly draw a crowd today, but it also must be said that the naked men on floats or the dykes on bikes are not representative of all of gay society either.
Neither is Gunn’s celibacy and self-restraining demeanor representative, but his celibacy gestures toward a valid point: sex doesn’t have to play as large or central role in our lives at all, despite what the ads in Metro Weekly or any gay rag suggest. We’re not all sex-crazed or body-focused. We’re not all catty and quick-witted. Gunn expresses himself in his fashion sense; I express myself through writing and teaching, and we find fulfillment in our choices. As Gunn says, “Do I feel like less of a person for [being celibate]? No! … I am a perfectly happy, fulfilled individual.”
What we should remember this Pride month is that we are more than who we sleep with. Pride should also be about our commitment to one another in sound relationships, where sex is probably less frequent than some might assume, considering all the other daily hassles life brings that partners help one another through. The trouble with Pride celebrations is that they highlight one aspect of gay life that not all gay people share. They often feature the male body as erotic, the object of the gaze, and usually nothing more. How often do we see lesbians or gay people of size performing on the main stage? Tim Gunn’s very private yet honest admission should encourage us all to examine how much of our identity is based on our sex lives and our sexuality. That examination might lead to our individual recognition that we are our own persons, not a personalities, that we are people of character, not caricatures. When we start seeing ourselves in ways beyond body and sex, and recognise the ways our deeper selves contribute to our culture and society, then, I think we’ll have something truly worth celebrating, then, I think, we can truly be proud.
Happy Pride Month!