Article Title:Confessions of A Gay Teetotaller
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:4th May 2016 - 02:46 pm
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Story ID:18235
Text:I might as well admit it... I don't drink alcohol. Huh? Surely everyone who doesn't drink is a hardcore social conservative? Well, no. One could interpret it differently for quite legitimate reasons, given that the term 'teetotaller' was originally coined in 1836, at a Northern England (Preston) Temperance Society meeting. As time has gone on, however, with the reduction of Christian religious observance in New Zealand and other western societies, non-consumption of alcohol has become unmoored from the social conservative moralities of temperance societies and more associated with health promotion activity, although the latter typically sanctions more moderate drinking rather than total abstinence. Whatever one's option, that's fine with me. I choose not to drink, but that's my personal choice. There can be psychological, medical and health reasons for choosing not to have alcohol, more so that weakening religious social conservative sanctions against it. Muslims, Mormons, Hare Krishna devotees, Sikhs, Quakers, Baha'i, the Assemblies of God Pentecostals and the Salvation Army all preach total abstinence from alcohol. I would respond that they might well do so, but I am not a member of any such religious group and it doesn't influence my personal decision not to drink. And there are other, more famous gay teetotallers- fashion designer Tom Ford, and just to show that teetotalism doesn't necessarily confer 'innate virtue', gay serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Consumption of alcohol is usually initially influenced by peer pressure, peer norms and conformity. However, there are ways around that. Point out the dangerous and unhealthy effects of excessive drinking, sending up the behaviour of heavy drinkers, participating in alternative leisure activities such as cafe society, dismissing excessive boozing as transgressive chic, or simply faking it- holding a drink of alcohol while not actually consuming any. Most cases of non-drinking adolescent or young adult behaviour can be circumstantial, such as for medical reasons, or altruistic- acting as the 'designated driver.' It can also be gotten around by being humorous or not being a judgemental killjoy around those who do chose to partake. If mates really care about you, they won't judge back. Or, someone can simply avoid those social situations- which is easier said than done in a lesbian or gay context, given the traditional centrality of the pub as a social institution. When I go into them, I just order coke- and experience no problems. Apparently, though, total liquor consumption is dropping in New Zealand and pubs are closing. Which is all very well, but what do we replace them with? On the other hand, Palmerston North's MALGRA seems to be doing okay for itself after the closure of its Club Q pub two years or so ago. It has relocated to smaller rooms in the neighbouring Square Edge arts building, but UniQ, PFLAG and Icebreakers all seem to use it. Do I support curbs on excessive alcohol consumption? Yes, but for public health and safety reasons. I've grown skeptical about the utility of simply increasing the minimum age for liquor consumption back up to twenty one. However, conversely I'm willing to give excise tax increases, use of zoning restrictions against street alcohol consumption, reduction of the minimum drunk driving index level, increased fines for supplying alcohol to children and young adolescence and drunk driving all some leeway. If it reduces the number of people killed or injured in motor vehicle accidents, or who have unsafe sex under the influence of drugs and alcohol, great. It'd be great if other LGBT teetotallers came out and discussed why they made their choice not to consume alcohol. As far as I'm concerned, it's not as if I'm renouncing anything, given that I've never wanted to drink alcohol in the first place. I acknowledge ex-drinkers can be somewhat more evangelical about their experience of former heavy consumption and subsequent sobriety, but I'm a never drinker.     Craig Young - 4th May 2016
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