When Patrick’s long-term girlfriend Li Ling dumps him just as he’s working up the nerve to propose, he ends up drunk on David’s couch—and later in David’s bed. Although initially reluctant to pursue anything beyond a one-time drunken tryst, David throws caution to the wind during an intimate dinner, where the two men also discuss Patrick’s dream of entering the food industry. Just as the friends-turned-lovers are settling into their new romance, Li Ling calls Patrick—she’s pregnant.
Convinced the announcement spells the end of their love affair and a return to their platonic friendship, David flees to Sydney to escape his heartbreak. But upon his return to Melbourne, David discovers the situation hasn’t gone the way he’d expected. There might still be a chance for David and Patrick’s dreams to come true if they can forgive each other’s mistakes and move forward.
“Shit, they’ve done it. The Millennials have actually done it. They’ve created a space where you can be whatever gender identity you are, be attracted to whoever you want and no one fucking cares. It’s great!”
This comment recently found its way to my personal Facebook wall, along with another post from the same person decrying the lack of men in assless leather chaps and dykes with their tits out at Midsumma, Melbourne’s annual summer festival of queer art.
And my brain, being the annoyingly wonderfully overthinking and pattern forming organ that it is, immediately linked those two statements together. Normalisation. The process of being normal? The process of becoming normal. The process of having equality and equal rights has created both of the above situations. It’s arguably responsible for the death of lesbian bars, same sex marriage becoming increasingly recognised in the western world, and the fact that police stations in Australia have dedicated gay and lesbian community liaisons. I got a rainbow wristband from them at Carnival this year, actually.
Normalisation means not needing as many safe spaces as the last generation of queers did. It means that people who live vanilla lifestyles can be out proud, visible, and dragging moody teenagers along to queer carnival day when the kids clearly have better things to do I mean really. And people can do all that without having their reputations tarnished. Without social stigma. Without losing their jobs. Once, only those who dared to be overtly different dared to be out, now everyone else can too. At least, mostly. More often than not.
Even me being here, a gay man writing about gay men for a site run by women who love gay men is part of this long, slow movement that’s still being fought today (don’t get me started about how Australia doesn’t have marriage equality yet. Just don’t), but is so much better for each generation. It’s important to remember that we all owe an awful lot to the men in assless chaps, the topless dykes, and the trans women of colour to name just a few groups now eclipsed by the queer mainstream, if such a thing can be said to exist. We owe them for creating a world where you can be exactly where you are right now, reading these words and loving the stories that you read.
Without those who dared to go before, this onetime babygay might never have dreamed about writing stories. Or probably wouldn’t have dared dream of publishing and sharing them openly.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. There’s still a need to be daring – to be the guy with his metaphorical ass hanging out of his metaphorical chaps forging towards a better future for the marginalised. Now I have to check my own abled cisgendered male privilege and support the battles against transphobia and bipjobia in my bubble of liberalism. And not all gay men get that.
I’ll tell you something though – the ones that do? They’re sexy. And if you know any who are gay and single, send them my way, yeah?
In the meantime, I’ll keep writing about the messy realities that face men like me, and not quite like me, as this normalisation thing happens around us. I hope you’ll join me in moving it along.
Stonewall, named after both the New York Inn and the riots, had a name that now evoked a film that no one went to see. It was also one of David’s main haunts in Sydney—a good place to get a drink, get groped, dance a bit, and possibly even pick up. It was an older, mixed crowd than the nightclubs, and although there was a time for dancing for all hours, now didn’t seem to be one of them. David found himself ordering a G&T and kicking back on a couch, and wishing he’d brought his personal phone. Although he was aware there had been a time when people at bars talked to each other, he’d grown up with most people checking their phones first. To be fair, he could easily have gone up and inserted himself into a conversation with a “Hi, I’m new here” or a “Hi, I’m visiting and decided I should meet new people,” which normally worked, but tonight, he let the buzz of conversation swell around him and wrap him in its vibrancy and life. Something dancey in the Top 40 played overhead, and he smiled as he sank into the cushions of the couch and let the beat thrum through his bones.
“Wow, you look relaxed.”
David’s eyes snapped open, and he looked up into calm brown eyes framed by long brown hair that tumbled halfway down the man’s back.
“Yeah, well… stressful week.”
“Pool?” the man asked. “I’m hunting for games.”
“Huh?” Only then did David notice the pool cue gripped loosely in the man’s hand.
“Sure,” he said. “I don’t bet, though.”
“No, no, just a friendly game.” The man flashed him a grin. It was hard to pin down his age, as beard stubble added years to any face. He was of medium height, and had a stocky, muscular build, with forearms that David was a little jealous of. “I like talking to people over a game. There’s something to do besides fumble for the next topic of conversation.”
David laughed. “I suppose lining up your shot gives you an excuse to be silent.”
“It does. Pool also makes it more likely that guys come up and watch—and talk to you. And it also lets you approach interesting people and chat to them without being creepy.”
“Are you telling me you’re not?”
“I work in banking,” David said. “By definition….”
The bestubbled man deliberately looked David up and down, his eyes lingering on David’s chest and crotch. “I don’t know. One banker I met moonlighted as a stripper. You’ve got the body for that.”
This was the first book I have ever read by Matthew Lang. The story started off pretty good and ended well, I just wasn’t feeling the middle very much. The MC’s have some communication issues and it causes one of them, in my opinion, to make a bad decision that I just couldn’t see him making if he cared about his best friend as much as he said he did. I know the head space he was in might have caused him to run when faced with the big issue, but the other decision he makes just made me itch. Of course everyone deals with stress in different ways so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept reading. When the two get together and finally talk things out their relationship takes off and there are quite a few ‘awwww’ moments, but by that point I still wasn’t feeling it that much. I will check out a few more books by Matthew Lang considering this was the first thing I have read by this author, for sure. I’ll have to go with 3 pieces of eye candy for this one.
Matthew Lang writes behind a desk, in the park, on the tram, and sometimes backstage at amateur theater productions. He has been known to sing and dance in public and analyze the plots of movies and TV shows, and is a confessed Masterchef addict. He has dabbled in film, machinema, event management, and even insurance, but his first love has always been the written word. He is suspected of frequenting libraries and hanging around in bookstores, and his therapists believe he may be plotting some form of literature.
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