AB: Do you think it’s better to not have labels?
ML: There was a time when we didn’t have labels.
AB: Yes, well, we do now.
ML: If you talk to older men here in the States – they will lament the fact that they cannot have sex with – for example, here in New York, when the docks used to be lined with workers and men used to go cruise the docks. The men who worked the docks maybe wouldn’t call themselves gay, but didn’t mind having sex with other men. When you begin to define and name the behavior, then they began to question themselves and no longer do that same behavior. Would I say that’s better? It was furtive, which we generally don’t think is good, but it did mean that almost anyone could be available.
AB: So, we’ve come up with these sociosexual prescriptions, which includes masculine behavior, such as what your father believed in.
ML: Well, what is masculine behavior?
AB: What is masculine behavior to you?
ML: Well, even if you said men used to wear wigs and make-up in the 1700’s, but that’s a drag queen now.
AB: Yes, but that’s before the Victorian rationality of sexuality.
ML: Well, only a homo would get their hair done in the 1970’s, but now men can be metrosexual. Everything a metrosexual does can be considered homo behavior. The definition of what is masculine and what is feminine changes. My father was not particularly – he was homophobic – but he loved the opera, he wasn’t particularly athletic. For him it was never about masculine behavior. It was about bringing shame to the family.
AB: Let’s talk about democratization. Where do you draw the line when introducing democracy that could potentially upset a broader national culture? For example, if we went into Iran and we set up a democracy and a gay rights movement sprang up – and it’s never been seen before, the concept didn’t exist – is that –
ML: What you’re getting at – I’ll give you examples from Afghanistan and Iraq. We say that everyone should be able to vote, but how does that fit with traditionalists who think that maybe women should vote, but should be in the home? When you begin to parse out democracy within “traditional cultures” then these very specific questions become problematic. It’s very easy to say everyone should have the right to vote, but democracy goes beyond the right to vote. Some would say, “We want a limited democracy,” but what good is that if you can’t get a job, can’t leave the home?