I typically take the time around the 4th of July to point out my lack of patriotism. But this year feels different. I know that I’m not the only one who feels a little more like a proud American this 4th of July. Such a major, seismic shift on marriage equality certainly doesn’t protect everyone’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, of course. LGBT Americans can legally be fired, denied housing, harrassed by both public and private authorities in a whole lot of places in this country still. But access to marriage is pretty cool.
I’ve been fascinated to watch the strong and conflicting opinions the SCOTUS decision has sparked among my friends and colleagues, who, generally speaking, tend to pitch their tents in the same political camp. Straight people shamed for flying the rainbow flag. White gays shamed for celebrating marriage while people of color and trans folks are continuing to get fucked up and gunned down. Marriage advocates shamed for distracting us all from other problems like poverty and racism and gun violence and sexism.
I’ve got my own opinions, of course, but I have to say that I can’t help but be pleased that we’re talking a little more openly about a lot of things that ought to be complicated and unsettled. I confess a little thrill that bigots are feeling compelled to have to state their bigotry and try to rationalize it as something else, rather than just silently assuming that they’re the moral majority. And I really like that a lot of people I know who have long assumed that we all think alike are realizing that one particular decision or policy or issue that we all may endorse to some extent doesn’t erase the rich diversity of who we are, what we value, where our priorities lie, and how we think.
It’s not uncommon in homoerotic wrestling to see American flag wrestling trunks. This gear typically signals that the wearer is a babyface hero, handsome, virile, and virtuous. And in the homoerotic wrestling matches I watch, those guys get their stars and stripes clad asses handed to them 9 times out of 10. Not always, I know, but most of the time.
The hunks in American flag trunks most often embody a naivete, a simple minded faith in things like hard work, strength, and sincerity to tip the scales of wrestling competition and justice their way. Their virginal earnestness is saccharine sweet, a glossy glaze over the realities of the homoerotic wrestling ring where things aren’t always (or even often) fair. Their wide-eyed, muscle bulging innocence seems to make them blind to a world where cheating, unsportsmanlike behavior, and ferocious mercilessness more often than not spank the ass of righteous, rule-abiding reverence for an honest battle of strength and skill.
I don’t know if this trope still plays the same way in mainstream pro wrestling (because I haven’t watched mainstream pro wrestling in forever), but I think it’s a particularly engaging narrative for homoerotic wrestling audiences. We know that survival often goes not to the fittest, but the most cunning. We know that when the rules are stacked against you, sometimes the most appropriate response is to fuck the rules. We know that often our most important assets in the battle against those who revile and oppress us behind a veneer or virtue and righteous indignation is to turn the repulsion right back around on them, to throw what they despise most in their faces, to metaphorically grab them by the balls until their self-righteous, “hard earned” privilege and power melts into weeping, impotent, contemptible helplessness.
Because more often than not, it isn’t their righteousness that has propelled them forward in good fortune. It isn’t their hard work. They haven’t just wanted success more, as if their will power is superior to those who haven’t prospered and been rewarded as much. It’s just those fucking rules that have made the difference, that have been slowly (sometimes quickly) tipping the scales their way from the moment they were born, that have advantaged them not because they earned it or deserved it, but just because they were born into families with a particular hue and history, because they effortlessly found their affections drawn in the socially acceptable direction, because they had that silver spoon in their mouths all along. So, many of us with an eye for homoerotic wrestling have learned that it’s those fucking rules that are the problem, and watching a homoerotic wrestling heel fuck the rules and humiliate a stars and stripes clad goldenboy is deep down satisfying.
I’m sure there’s much more to the American flag jobber narrative than that, but what I’m left wondering this year is whether my new found investment in my citizenship, riding this wave of judicial victory and the turning tide of public opinion, may make me, and perhaps you, a little less cynical about the American flag. I’m sure it won’t happen anytime soon, but is there a place in homoerotic wrestling iconography somewhere down the road for a sneering, contemptuous, irrepressible heel decked out in stars and stripes? Might finding myself embracing a little patriotric pride for being welcomed a little more into the fold of mainstream America shift my tastes for enjoying the sight of the American flag, strapped to the ass of an classically hot pretty boy, trampled and trashed for the poor excuse for institutional oppression it has so long seemed to me to represent? May I want to see an American patriot savvy and sly, queer and cunning, as vicious and vile as necessary to pound… who?… into tantalizingly sexy mincemeat?
In some ways I hope so.
In many ways, I hope not.