by Homer Marr
King Phillip came over for good sex. That was the “naughty” version of the mnemonic device I was taught in seventh-grade science to remember the classification hierarchy. (In the clean version, King Phillip ate spaghetti in place of fornicating.) The first letters of the words stood for kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. I didn’t really understand the difference between these groups, except that they got progressively smaller, and in the case of man went from animal to Homo sapiens.
In the case of homosexual men today, I understand even less. I remember my friend telling me years ago about bears—large hairy gay men who preferred similar company—but at the time I wasn’t out and had no idea how prevalent an identity that actually was. Imagine my surprise when, years later, I entered the gay life to learn there were also bantam bears called cubs, and that these groups have their own fraternities, magazines, Web sites, fundraisers and international flag. They even have a mating call—“Woof!”
That’s right: bears bark. Somewhere between Stonewall and the present we got so careless with our metaphors we let Marmaduke speak for grizzlies. I imagine Smokey and Teddy Ruxpin are more than a bit put off, not to mention that football team in Chicago.
Nevertheless, this all got me to thinking: what creatures do we, as gay men, love and trust enough to be our symbols? In a Native American kind of way, it turns out there are many we take as personal totems. The buffalo, for instance, is an enormously muscular man with plenty of hair and little fat. A wolf is similar though not as big. A chicken is a scrawny little boy who might be a club kid if he isn’t under age, and a hawk is one who preys on him. Hawks themselves are at least two generations older and let their wallets be their talons.
And a pig, without saying, is just a dirty, filthy pig.
So what the hell am I? I’m lanky, but not skinny or illegal, so I can’t be a chicken. My belly needs more honey before I can be a bear, and I’d have to get some Rogaine for my chest and back as well. I don’t have the muscles of a wolf or steroids of a buffalo, and I won’t hit hawk status until George W’s third successor (who, as far as I’m concerned, can’t get here fast enough).
Hence I propose a new gay beast: the dodo. Known mostly for being extinct, and stupid, this bird was only thought dumb because it was unafraid of the Portuguese settlers who discovered it on the island of Mauritius, off Madagascar. It would walk right up to them in bravery. In other words, the dodo was fearless, and I say fearless ain’t so bad. Furthermore, zoologists today have few of its remains, which makes the bird not only rare but mysterious, too. And when people are convinced you’re an idiot, the wings of your true intelligence are free to span that much farther. (Never mind that the dodo was flightless.)
So, come! Let us begin the New Age of the Dodo. I can’t do it alone. All those in favor, say “Woof!”