The gay utopia is an imaginary future in which gender, sexuality, and identity are fluid and in which pleasure is unregulated by either external or internal censors. It's a place where taboos dissolve and sublimation vanishes; every relationship is erotic, every action sensual.
The idea of the gay utopia is hardly new. Visionaries like Shulamith Firestone, Samuel Delaney, and Moto Hagio were talking about it decades ago. Ther term itself doesn't have as broad a currency, and I'm not quite sure where I first heard it used. But, in any case, both Bert Stabler and I have used "gay utopia" for some time to refer to politics, art, or writing in which the boundaries that separate pleasure, freedom, and self collapse in a polymorphous haze.
For me, the term "the gay utopia" is at least slightly ironic; I'm too much of a pessimist to believe that sexual freedom will actually bring about the millennium. At the same time, an interest in, or use of, the gay utopia unites much of the art and thought that has meant the most to me over the past few years. So, partially out of my own ambivalence, I wanted to put together a forum in which folks with various backgrounds, perspectives, and interests could respond to the gay utopia with enthusiasm, skepticism, both, or neither.
This symposium is the result. It includes writers (Ursula K. Le Guin, Suzanne Bachner), activists (Jennifer Baumgardner, Julia Serano), artists (Neil Whitacre, Paul Nudd, Lilli Carré, Bill O'Brien), comics creators (Dame Darcy, Johnny Ryan, Edie Fake, Dewayne Slightweight), academics (Matt Thorn, Lelah Fern), purveyors of online smut (EyeofSerpent, Vom Marlowe), a clothing designer, a singer, and a cephalopod. And as you browse this site, you will find the gay utopia located in Regency Romance novels, in capitalism, in shoujo manga, in alchemy, in animation from the 1920s, in LiveJournal slash communities, in the orgasm, in an explicit children's book, in an insect-sex-zombie apocalypse, in horror movies, on an alpaca ranch, and in the public appearances of Anne Heche.
Such a wide range of responses suggests that "gay utopia" as a term is enormously flexible -- or, less charitably, that it is incoherent. Several contributors leaned toward the latter interpretation. Lev Olsen for example, in the introduction to his novel excerpt, very delicately suggests that gayness and sexual freedom need not have very much to do with one another. More explicitly, anthropologist Anne Lorimer, literature professor Eric Berlatsky, and (in an e-mail) fetish artist Michael Manning all pointed out that there is nothing especially "gay" about fluid identities -- on the contrary, many gay people have quite stable genders and sexualities, thank you very much. Why, they variously asked, didn't I use "bi-utopia" or "third wave feminist utopia" or "polymorphously perverse utopia"?
I don't have a good answer to these objections. Still, I prefer "gay utopia." It's shorter and less technical sounding, which is a plus. But, more than that, I like it because it opens up possibilities. The term "gay" has been around for a long time -- it is tied to the past, to nostalgia, and to a whole range of identities, as Lelah Fern notes. And, in this forum, those identities peer out around the edge of the polymorphous bi fluid eroticism that I've chosen to refer to as "gay utopia". The quietly goofy affection in Ariel Schrag's contribution; the frustrated romantic comedy in Lev Olsen's, the bittersweet isolation of Ursula K. Le Guin's or Nishizaka Hiromi's, the eccentric domesticity of Rebecca Field's, the tactile blue-collar masculinity of Paul Mullins' -- those are gay utopias too. So, while it's probably true that "gay utopia" is not the most accurate term I could have used, it did seem, in part because of its ambiguity, like a good way to start a conversation.
In the gay utopia, one's personal obsessions are always fascinating to others. In the real world, things often don't quite work out that way. So I've been very lucky to find so many people willing to think about and engage with the topic of this forum. In putting the Gay Utopia together, I've had a chance to reconnect with many old friends, meet some new ones, and work with many of my favorite artists and writers. It has been an incredible experience, and I am enormously grateful to all the contributors who agreed to devote their time, their effort, and their genius to this project.
A couple additional thanks: Edie Fake, who I think is one of the absolutely best graphic designers in the world, very kindly agreed to draw the site banner and Adult Content graphic. Aubrey Beardsley also contributed some flowery elements (such as the one just above the last paragraph), and I wanted to thank him for having had the decency to die so long ago that I didn't need to ask his permission. Marcy helped me with color schemes, editing, and encouragement, and didn't threaten to divorce me even when I hogged the computer or kept using our Netflix account to rent horror movies which she didn't want to see.
Finally, I wanted to thank Bert Stabler, with whom I have been collaborating, in one way or another, for the last decade. As I mentioned above, this is really his forum as much as it is mine. He suggested and put me in touch with many of the contributors, edited my entries in the forum, helped me clarify my ideas, and provided bottomless wells of enthusiasm whenever my own began to flag. His essay, "The Glory and the Hole" sums up most of this forum's important themes and ideas. I've placed it at the end of the symposium, but it's also a good place to start.