Jan 7, 2014

Summer 1987: The Bullfight in Tijuana

When my roommate Alan wasn't jetting off to Japan, Thailand, or France to start a gay Pentecostal church, he was cruising.  He liked his guys short, slim, passive, and a little feminine.  Asians, mostly -- he claimed that he could get any Asian guy he wanted just by smiling.  But after I dated Raul, he got a yearning for Hispanic guys, and sometimes dragged me from West Hollywood three hours south, across the border to Tijuana.

There's a very nice Museo de las Californias now, but back then you went to Tijuana for just one reason: to cruise in sleazy bars (you could also bet on horse racing and jai alai). And, one day in the summer of 1987, shortly after I broke up with my celebrity boyfriend, we went to a bullfight.

"Look, the Corrida de Toros!" Alan exclaimed.  "Let's go.  It will be an adventure."

I didn't want to see a bull being slaughtered, but I also didn't want to wait in a sleazy bar by myself.

Surprisingly, I actually liked it.  The slow, torturous death of the animal was disgusting.  But the toreros were fascinating.

Corrida de toros, or "running of the bulls" is an ancient spectacle of man against animal, or rather male against male, since both the toreros and the bull evoke powerful masculine energy.

The chief torero, the matador, wears a traije de luces based on the flamboyantly feminine costume of the 19th century dandy: glittering sequins, gold thread, tassles, and ultra-tight tights that place his sex organs in obvious full view (most too explicit to show here).  What Ernest Hemingway, in his classic Death in the Afternoon, called a "male figure complicated by femaleness."

The bull's sex organs are in full view, too.  Its penis when erect is 2-3 feet long.  And it's often erect as it charges the matador, making you think that it intends a sexual assault.

Thus the spectacle becomes a ritual triumph of civilization over savagery, artifice over nature, complicated by gay symbolism.

Although toreros live in an ultra-masculine world, surrounded by other men, most aren't "really" gay.

But the spectacle has more than a few gay fans.  A number of toreros have posed for gay magazines, and in 2009 a European company struck a deal with matador Joselito Ortega to advertise an energy drink called Gay Up on his cape.

Purists were outraged -- not because of the gay ad, because he was lowering himself to product placement.

Also check out the naked anti-bullfighting protests, including the Running of the Nudes in Pamplona.

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