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The End of Gay

(and the death of heterosexuality)

by Bert Archer

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gay studies
list price: $21.95
category: Social Science
published: 2000
publisher: Doubleday Canada
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Gay is a phase. Not something people go through in adolescence, but, like feminism, a cultural, historical movement, on the way to something bigger.

Through the prism of his own sexual past and present, with a wide array of references to pop culture, literature and history, Archer traces the rise and imminent fall of gay. Along the way, he cites historical examples of greater sexual liberation, embracing the lessons of these precedents as models for our own less inhibited times. Celebrating art that expresses love and passion unfettered by gender, Archer claims Shakespeare and Prince, Goethe and Madonna, as icons for a new, more open age of sex. Stimulating, engaging and entertaining, The End of Gay is a bold work that looks forward to the vast possibilities of love without labels.

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Sex, sexuality, sexual identity. All very big and very different issues. And whether they've become trite before their time through too much too cursory discussion, or still only tiptoed around for whatever reasons our still antisexual society tiptoes around such things, there have been a pile of books and magazine articles and talk shows and public television documentaries about them all.

And so, as I stumble into the same muddy territory, I've chosen to overlook those bits of it I figure we've all seen enough (or too much) of. I'm not going to talk too much about AIDS here, for example, or about the generations that still seem to figure they invented sex in the sixties and seventies. I do look at history, but gloss over Greece and Rome in favour of, say, Renaissance England or the eighteenth century in Holland or -- and this came as a surprise to me as I was reading through everything I read through -- World War Two. (I'd always thought the First World War had been the big one, the war to begin all sexual identity wars.)

Something else I didn't do is polling and mass interviews. Though I frequently find myself convinced by arguments when I have numbers pushed under my nose -- 82 percent of people like their mothers more than their fathers, 14 percent vote strategically rather than directly -- I think it's becoming increasingly obvious that such numbers serve whatever purpose they're put to. And so, though I toyed with the idea of talking to 500 people thirty and under to be able to provide numbers to back up the central questions in this book, I figured it would be fudging, even if it was more convincing. Human behaviour, especially sexual behaviour, doesn't take well to quantification. So there'll be none of that.

The End of Gay is also not a self-help book; it will not tell you what to do or how to act. It is, in fact, the opposite of a self-help book. The End of Gay is a tool to be used to redefine the role sex plays in our lives and in our sense of ourselves. Though we generally may be said to progress as a society in our understandings of ourselves, our place in the world, and the various workings of that world, in matters of sex and sexuality, for a whole host of reasons, but mostly because of religion, we have not. In sexual matters, we have taken paths with dead ends, doubled back, gone long distances in interesting directions only to run into roadblocks, and in general it may not be said of any society in any time that it has been sexually liberated or progressive. Though there have been opportunities from time to time -- England immediately before Cromwell, for example, or Canada and the States from, say, 1967 to 1972 or so. This book suggests that we are now in the middle of another such opportunity.

The End of Gay provides no conclusive evidence to breed absolute assurance.  It demands introspection rather than providing definitive exposition. And it asks you to accept sex as one of the parts of life, along with love, leisure time, family, and friendship that, if indulged expansively and intensively without boundaries set by anyone other than yourself, lead most directly to life's ultimate end, which is happiness.

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Contributor notes

Bert Archer is a columnist for fab, and a regular reviewer for Publishers Weekly and the New York Blade. His writing has also appeared in several national and international newspapers and magazines including The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Georgia Straight, POZ Magazine, and Xtra. Born in Montreal in 1968, Bert lives in Toronto.

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Editorial Review

"The End of Gay is a wonderful début, infuriatingly smart and funny."
—Toronto Life
"Archer's voice is charming... His insights can be stunning."
—The Globe and Mail
“. . . The End of Gay is lively conversation about an intrinsically interesting issue, namely, sexual desires.”
—Quill & Quire
The End of Gay is a wonderful début, infuriatingly smart and funny.”
—Toronto Life
“Archer's voice is charming . . . His insights can be stunning.”
—The Globe and Mail

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Out of print

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