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TalonRider

A Queer Perspective On Valentine's Day

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When I think of Valentine's Day, I think of Dracula. There was something a little queer about the Count from Transylvania, and Dracula isn't the only horror associated with February 14.

As a movie buff, when I think of Valentine's Day, I think of Dracula. The Bela Lugosi classic was released on Valentine's Day 1931. That Universal Pictures was consciously trying to tie this tale of vampirism to the day on which we celebrate romance is clear from the ad copy created to promote the film: "The story of the strangest passion the world has ever known."

There is definitely something strange about the Count from Transylvania's passion. As a gay man, I even see something queer about it (more on that later). And Dracula isn't the only horror associated with Valentine's Day, and I don't mean the famous 1929 massacre. Just ask anyone who was repeatedly passed by when the valentines were passed out in grade school.

Fortunately, I was spared that early form of rejection. At the Catholic school I attended, we were required to give a valentine to each of our classmates. No one went home with hurt feelings, but an unfortunate side effect of this democratic procedure was that the boy I had a crush on didn't attach much importance to the heart shaped card I shyly delivered to his desk.

As we matured and the Valentine's Day ritual came to an end, it would have been as dangerous for me to confess my love for another boy as it was for Dracula to be out and about in the daylight. (As promised, here comes the Count's queer connection.) Just as Dracula would have been destroyed by the sun's rays, public exposure as a homosexual would have had unpleasant consequences for me, the least of which was

ridicule.

So, as Dracula hid in his coffin, I and most other queers stayed in our closets. The Count waited until sundown to seek out the women from whom he sucked blood. Queer boys were equally secretive when cruising for men from whom we sucked something else.

Too young, too uptight, or even too naive to patronize a gay bar, some of us haunted parks and public restrooms where we engaged in what is called "importuning." An illegal act in many states, importuning involves nothing more than asking an adult male if you can have sex with him. Straight men ask women for sex all the time and risk little more than a slap in the face, but a gay guy who dares approach a man for sex can land in jail, and, if the news gets out, lose his job or face harassment in a variety of ways. It's little wonder that queers appreciate that song from "A Chorus Line," the one about what I did for love, more than anyone else.

Yes, love is a wonderful thing, as singer Michael Bolton shrieked, but Pat Benatar got it right too when she said love is a battlefield. That cherubic figure known as Cupid looks like a big sissy, but don't forget that he's armed and dangerous. The arrow in his bow is aimed straight at our hearts, the same place a vampire slayer aims the stake when he discovers Dracula at rest in his coffin.

The romantic battlefield offers unseen perils for everyone, but even though the dangers are greater for gays, that doesn't mean the war is not worth fighting or that it can't be won.

An ad for a 1969 Dracula movie starring Christopher Lee showed the Count in his coffin, a stake in his heart, but with steely determination in his eyes as his hands work to remove the wooden beam from his chest.

"You can't keep a good man down," the copy read.

You can't keep a good queer down either unless it's down on his knees to please a man. It's how all of us deserve to spend Valentine's Day: giving and receiving love freely without fear or shame. With that in mind, if you already have a valentine, give him twice the lovin' this February 14th. If you're still searching for that special man to call your own, give yourself some extra lovin' and promise yourself you'll make more of an effort to find him this year.

Happy Valentine's Day!

- Brian W. Fairbanks

A writer for date.info - The webzine for date.com

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