The first time I saw two men having sex on TV, it was Connor Walsh and Oliver Hampton in an episode of How To Get Away With Murder. At the time, I was a closeted 16-year-old at an all boys school, where the extent of sex education was watching my classmates put condoms on a dummy penis. The fiction of Connor’s sex life — and boy was it radical for a TV-14 show — was a world away from my reality, in which I was still coming to terms with my queerness, and my straight classmates were getting on with actual, real sex.
Sex between men has a long, painful history. It’s always been pleasurable, sure, otherwise why do it and risk imprisonment or death? But one need only crack open a history book to find a plethora of sad realities: the AIDS epidemic that started in the ‘80s; the criminalization of homosexuality in so many countries around the world (that continues for many today); the fact that the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas — which deemed sodomy laws unconstitutional, since previously anal sex (and therefore gay sex) was illegal — only happened 20 years ago.
Queer culture was born of those circumstances; the ways queer people lived and broke bread and carried on, and the scenarios in which they had sex, which were experienced through otherness, in the fringes, and in all the secret places. That culture is alive, and inherited, today. But so is the evangelical’s calling card, with its “abstinence until marriage” message, admonishing people to do what is perceived as right and healthy.