"Clear for all to see," but what? (II of II)

Bailey’s article is most significant, I think, because it represents the official re-initiation of Talley back into the fold of The Acceptables. I continue to distrust the sustainability of the ex-gay belief in degayability, and I still think identity and sexuality ought not to be determinative factors in a sg performer’s success (and many of you have written to disagree with me on this point, most eloquently among you, JG). But since I don’t really have anything to add to what I’ve already said on that score, I’ll confine myself to the implications of Bailey’s article, or, as regular correspondent SR memorably called it, “one of those ooey-gooey paeans to the sinner boy who’s come home.” I’m not sure I would have put it exactly like that, but I do think the biggest disappointment of Kirk Talley’s entire ordeal (aptly captured in Bailey’s article) is that sg fans and performers by and large have not really confronted the chronic case of Sinner’s Panic that sets in when something like the Kirk Flap flairs up (and when the problem turns out to be gayness, Sinner’s Panic usually merges with homosexual panic). The authenticity of Kirk’s degayification and his return to the stage as a “healed” man are ultimately unknowable secrets of Kirk’s innermost self, between him and God. What this nearly year-long saga has clearly revealed, though, is the pervasive, irrational and hysterical fervor with which a substantial portion of sg fans and performers want and NEED to believe that black-and-white accounts of reality, morality, and human nature are true despite the constant challenge to these monochromatic beliefs from the world of experience and everyday life. The real lesson of Bailey’s article seems to be that so long as you promise not to do it again and sing our favorite songs, well … problem solved; welcome back. Honestly, I’m torn, because I’m really glad Talley’s back (and I welcomed his initial candor), but I’m angry that others in the business who have subjected themselves (or been subjected) to high-profile scandals and have insisted on their right to set the terms of their own reconciliation with their private lives have been banished forever. Here’s a test: would Bailey and all the raving respondents on the message boards be writing these love-fest reviews of Kirk Talley’s return if, instead of laboring over the prodigal-son narrative of the past months and satiating his audience’s desire to get a hint of the prurient details of his “struggle,” he had just walked on stage and said simply “I have settled the old accounts of my past and am returning to full-time work in sg”? Honestly, the answer is almost always already NO. The truth, in fact, seems to be that at some deep and abiding level, sg audiences want, need, and expect these ritual rites of self-abasement and public humiliation for certain kinds of transgressions, as if it’s fans’ due. There’s no bright line between holding oneself accountable before a community of one’s peers and degrading oneself gratuitously in order to work again. But Kirk Talley just may have crossed that line. Put the ring and shoes away; this is no time for celebration. And that much, at least, is “clear for all to see.”

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