|DIARY OF AN URBAN MILKMAID|
|A very dear friend whom I met in cyberspace, has graciously agreed to allow me to post this essay here. He wrote it, I did not.(and it's COPYWRITED, so NO pilfering!) I have a feeling this approximates what a lot of gay and lesbian people might be feeling right about now.
"The truth is gonna set you free, but first it’s gonna make you miserable.”
Gay activist and author Vito Russo said that. He wrote “The Celluloid Closet,” was Lily Tomlin’s best guy pal and on his death bed (of AIDS) made her promise she’d get his book made as a film and come out publicly in the process. (She did.) I live by those words. The blunt truth may ouch a bit, but is far more helpful in the long run than denial. I always try to arrive quickly at the sum, the worst-case scenario, the unvarnished truth. When I accept its possibility, I feel settled and have direction.
But lately, I feel like I’m in one of those “Twilight Zone” episodes where a guy discovers he can somehow see the future and there’s doom ahead that can’t be avoided. I think many of us do. And I’m the guy that usually drives his partner and friends nuts with a determined, optimistic saying I came up with years ago: “There’s a solution to this, we just don’t see it yet!” Well, my internal crystal ball, my inner ouija board, my irreducible sum truth determiner currently is providing me with a disturbing scenario for what lies ahead. As a result, I’m worried about me, and I’m worried about you.
I have a tape I made that I play in the car every now and again. 45 minutes (one whole side) of it is all the various recordings of a jazzy song called “I’m Still Here.” (I love jazz.) Do you know it? It’s written from the perspective of someone of advanced age listing off all the folly and disruption thrown their way by the world during their life. They’ve “seen all my dreams disappear, but I’m here.” The message comforts me and reminds me that there have always been people in extremely bleak periods, who nevertheless come through and thrive again later. And I relate to that. If they did it, I can do it. Listening to this song usually puts things back into perspective for me. But recently even “I’m Still Here” doesn’t help. Because it’s precisely the toting up of all the current proportions that are disturbing me. They aren’t adding up in a positive direction.
A friend recently reminded me that I really started all this ruminating and unraveling I’m immersed in about a year ago, and that what kicked it off was conclusions I’ve drawn about the straight viewership of gay TV phenomenon (W&G, QAF, QE, etc.), which -- right or wrong -- I’ve come to see as something of a social microcosm, a barometer on the great unwashed masses’ learning ability, feelings and perceptions on gay issues. I had thought that the power, the intimacy, of television would be a turning of the tide on America’s understanding of gays. TV reaches all those places gay people aren’t invited to. Millions of straights have watched these shows, invited gay TV characters into their homes, week after week. They must have; they made them hits. I thought that this may finally dispel the hostility, the baseless fear, the revulsion directed to a sector of society that truly has never done a thing against the majority. And I deliberately ignored the patterns of past history to come to this hopeful place. But it’s clear now I miscalculated. I feel betrayed, angry and depressed. And I -- like you -- have already lived through many, many major disappointments to get even this far. I don’t know how much patience I have left to offer.
During my childhood if anybody even said the word homosexual, other than in a totally condemning, contemptuous manner, it would invite ostracizing and violence. Remember? Anybody thought to be queer was gang beaten on the school playground, while teachers and straight students watched, laughed and cheered. That Age of Aquarius era of love and peace most definitely excluded gays. Later, in my teens, gays very briefly became a fad, as it was suddenly exotic and radical for straights to dance at gay discos. That lasted about 10 minutes. Then fundamentalist singer Anita Bryant went state to state instigating voter referendums to overturn the few tepid legal protections for gays that then existed. I thought, “Well, people will see this for the neurotic mean-spirited posturing it truly is and vote her down!” Wrong. Even my parents made sure I knew they supported zealous Anita. When on the heels of this phenomenon AIDS kicked in, suddenly hanging with gays was the last thing any paid-up heterosexual card holder would consider. We went back to being invisible. I was now a young man, trying to come to grips with sex and relationships and career and the world and my lack of a place in it with a terrify plague all around me. Once again my life was to be lived under a curse. Straights didn’t notice or care.
Most straights didn’t even know about AIDS for four whole years, until Rock Hudson died. If you tried to clue them, they didn’t believe you. After all, the media didn’t cover it. The government didn’t address it. For over 4 years. When straights did finally wake up to AIDS, I thought, “Well, they won’t just let us all die! They’ll finally realize we’re all interconnected.” Wrong, again. Straight people’s collective sentiment was at best apathetic, at worst “Dying? Good! ‘Bye, now!” The atmosphere turned to virulent hatred, seemingly over night. AIDS wasn’t just a disease “those faggots deserve,” but more importantly a threat to the real citizens, the virtuous, the point of planet Earth: straight people. And an excuse to hate us all the more. The mantra instantly became “Look what those fags are doing to us!” even though straights were in robust health, enjoying their special privileges provided by their President Reagan and in no danger from gays whatsoever.
But, I told myself, I should be grateful. I was alive and healthy. So, relationship and career in place, I finally explicitly confirmed that I was gay to my family of origin. From that moment on, they shunned and insulted me, and irrationally blamed me for their hateful actions. They forced me to reject their rejection. When those that brought you into the world summarily banish you without a second thought, you can no longer truly trust the world or its inhabitants. Yet, all the straight “friends” I knew at the time bent over backwards to defend and rationalize my family’s behavior; constantly searching for a way to somehow blame their actions on me.
We gays briefly thought that the 1990s were going to either be the end of the line for the hatred that boxes in our lives or at least a nice, long respite from it. We listened in amazement as Bill Clinton addressed our primary concerns directly, pledging to positively address them. It was like finding water in the desert. We raised millions for his election. Then in swift order he betrayed us with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” “The Defense of Marriage Act,” and the stalemating of ENDA and hate crimes legislation. Clinton didn’t even pause before turning his back on us, it was politically expedient to do so, so he acted. (Recently, he asserts that John Kerry would have won if he had just condemned gay relationships loudly to an eager electorate. So much for our good friend Bill.) And I didn’t hear any dissent from straights about any of this. The silence was deafening. The vibe was that straights were actually straining to tolerate gays being discussed at the national level at all!
But still, I thought, we gays have an ice in the whole. We are heavily involved in the entertainment industry. And people now learn about each other and the world through entertainment -- film and television, the Internet -- the most powerful medium ever conceived! When the cancellation of “Ellen” was immediately followed by the hit status of “Will & Grace,” gays couldn’t believe it. Sure, W&G is cheap and silly, but we got a toehold in prime time! “Queer as Folk” a hit! Unbelievable! Independent gay-themed films had become an ongoing reality, not a flash in the pan. Terrific! The networks were suddenly so eager to step onto the gay bandwagon that even stereotyping total crap like “Queer Eye” and the gay-inclusive “reality” shows could succeed! See, I thought, putting on my rose-colored glasses, you give straight people a chance, some real exposure to half-way authentic portrayals of us, and they’ll get over their prejudice! They see we’re running our lives just fine, and will stop thinking they need to control us to feel “safe.” So what if they write insulting, trivializing, sexualizing, paranoid preconceptions about us on message boards and still defend that as well-meaning! They’re trying to get inside our heads, our lives, our feelings, our perspective, via these TV show characters. Give them even more time and patience! Educate! Befriend! Make it work! Well, Tom Hanks took home his Oscar for “Philadelphia” ten years ago. “Birdcage,” and all the rest of the gays-as-mass-entertainment fodder -- including all manner of books, plays, the Internet, music, you name it -- that straights shouted down our objections to, has all come and gone. We took a leap of faith with straight’s intentions on all this. We wanted to believe in them, help them understand, be patient with them. What other choice did we have in this Majority (not fairness) Rules world?
Well, on election day we got the long-awaited return and result for our efforts. We lavished almost 60 years worth of organizational and/or personal education and cooperation on straights, that wiped out innumerable gay lives along the way. This period extends over my entire life. And after all said and done, straights have just told us anew that we’re still back at Square One: “We hate you! You’re immortal and you weren’t born this way! Burn in Hell!” We’re still branded as liars, trying to pull off a fast one. Democrats say we lost them the election. Well, it appears straights “tolerated” us, as long as we were safely and obviously unempowered, without rights or much serious visibility. Silly or erotic images on a screen. But now, enough is enough! Even straight Americans of color, who we reasonably expected to cast a compassionate, educated eye on our struggle, now openly hate gays for “daring” to call our struggle a struggle, let alone a civil rights movement. They copyrighted civil rights, it appears. How dare we consider ourselves their equal! Our effort mocks, cheapens and degrades them, they tell us. They see no dignity or worth in us, our lives, or our humanity. Their Bible tells them they’re justified in this. And they voted in a president from a political party that from its inception has worked against them, just to prove how much they despise us.
I can count on less than two hands how many straight “friends” get -- really get -- the fact that you can’t be in bed with our anti-gay enemies and still call yourself our friends. Most continually mirror churches and elected officials by trotting out new double standards, more rationalizations and exceptions tailored to step around fairness to gays. A good friend told me a few months ago that even though she finally got her mother to admit that gays marrying is no threat to her life or marriage, her mom nonetheless ended the discussion by condemning gay relationships as invalid because “this is different.” Period. Gays live in a world of “this is different” and I started to tally it up here in our little internet fandom world beginning a little over a year ago. I took a strong look at how straights that had been with us for months and years still required threads of 8 to 10 pages long to “convince” them to perhaps start to see a point that was obvious to most gay onlookers. (And they ultimately would prove to still be back at square one on the same topic, months later, their dogmatic position unaltered.) Gays were implied to be liars on these topics until extreme lengths to illustrate them to straights had been exhausted. And these were our friends who wouldn’t accept even the merest of our perceptions on faith, when we had lavished them with faith? The lessons these TV shows and movies were teaching about gays were obviously being ignored by them. The shows were merely entertainment, nothing more. Straight board members were more interested in playing Judge of the gay’s every thought and statement.
I noticed that a flood of straights that had never even investigated Hal Sparks and Chris Potters actual homophobic quotes (and their highly disputed original “intention”), yet nonetheless flew to their automatic defense, remaining stubbornly insensitive to the fact that a gay person might take offense to words that don’t apply to or affect a straight person, and refusing to understand that these comments really do become part of an ongoing societal lowering of gays. These “friends” also continue to promote these actors in our faces, ever more, seemingly out of spite. Our feelings apparently don’t count. Their out of hand pronouncements of his innocence take priority.
I observed straights shouting down gays to condemn the need for a predominately gay New York high school that many gays saw an obvious need and place for. I saw straights condemning hate crimes laws precisely because they may indeed play the “Don’t do it!” thought police they are intended to play. I noticed Freudian slips such as straights posting that an actor outed by a tabloid was in essence to her thought to be “innocent until proven gay.” How about our “friends” that seized on the Cody/Justin gun storyline as somehow “proof” that we gays are unrealistic in our expectations of equality, crazy and are the actual cause of gay-bashing?
More than anything else, I grew exhausted and disinterested in playing Homophobia Detective, sorting deliberately elusive straights out between bigoted and not. Straights love to play a cunning, sadistic, hide and seek game wherein the gay person can obviously see the homophobic results around him, yet can never put his finger on the culprits. Because straights cover for each other instinctively and spend the majority of their time with us devising ever more cunning rationales to avoid the rightful label of “bigot.” Millions of them are obviously, documentably anti-gay -- read the polls! -- yet all the gay person hears is “Not me! I didn’t do it!” from every straight person they meet. We’re constantly side-tracked by these “Not me!” people constantly screaming in our face. I noticed that what nearly all straight board participants were truly occupied with is monitoring board gays to make sure the good name of Heterosexual doesn’t get soiled with rightful accountability for the insidious homophobia that pervades our society. (Seemingly no one on Planet Earth is responsible for it.) They devote their board time to merely screaming out for attention like a wounded animal the very second any gay dares to hold our tormentors responsible for their collective actions. Despite having every advantage and reassurance society has to bestow, these straight posters are completely preoccupied with themselves and unavailable to any other perspective.
And these are supposedly our friends -- the gay-positive straights we (and QAF, etc.) supposedly reached and educated with our message!? Lord help us. If this is all they’ve learned from the years we’ve spent with them, what can we possibly expect from those who won’t even talk to us? So, as far as I’m concerned, simply put, until the world changes -- meaning the number of straights who address and demand gay equality in the law and stop teaching their children that gay is bad becomes the documentable majority -- all straights are now culpable. I’m tired of being expected to play Homophobia Detective and dole out constant exceptions. If you’re a straight reassuring yourself that you’re not doing the actual damage, well, your silence and inactivity is condoning it. You’re back on the grade school playground watching the entertainment as some gay kid gets beaten to a pulp. I’m not worried about Fred Phelps; anyone can see he’s a wing-nut. I’m concerned about the convincing, together-appearing straights doing far more insidious passive-aggressive damage, despite their posturing otherwise.
Straights regularly announce that they’re not homophobic, that they’re our friends, yet astoundingly can’t be found to support us when it truly counts. Perhaps some clarification is in order. If you support the Republicans, the Vatican, the Catholics, the Southern Baptists, the Mormons and all other manner of actively, viciously gay-bashing organizations, you are not my friend and you are not gay-friendly. I don’t care what your special reasoning is. If you say “Well, what happens if gay marriage suddenly becomes people wanting to marry their dog?” you are not my friend. If you still support The Boy Scouts, after they went to the Supreme Court to bash me and keep me a second class citizen, you are not my friend. If you feel The Girl Scouts’ published guideline stating that they do not condone lesbians is acceptable, you are not my friend. If you sit in a gay person’s living room enjoying their hospitality and still feel compelled to sneer at the topic of protections for gays under the law (such as already exists for everybody else in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- forty years worth!) because you think they are personally financially well off so that should somehow compensate, you are not our friend. If you push your support of Hal Sparks in my face, after he’s repeatedly nearly ruined whatever fun QAF might have been for me, you are not my friend. And on and on. For the life of me, I cannot understand how the herd of gays on message boards who report that their families and churches are openly, proudly homophobic Bush supporters still consider those people their loved ones!
Have we truly asked for too much from straight people? How could this possibly be?
I dreaded this election for months, knowing what it would bring. I didn’t want it to, but the inevitable just ate away at me from the inside until I had little patience remaining. Now I know I was accurate in my predictions and that sickens me. I wanted to be wrong, this time. But instead it has proven to be the cruelest, meanest betrayal of our lifetime. How can we avoid feeling an almost total alienation, as a result? The math of this election means that for the rest of my life I will never be able to put away the issue of attaining true freedom, true citizenship, inalienable rights. I will never have lived one day of my life without some kind of hateful, threatening black cloud over my head, my home, my primary relationship, my job environment and my connection to society. I will never for one moment of my life have been truly valued by my country for having lived and contributed here. Worst of all, I can’t die knowing I’ve securely, without question, provided for those I love and leave behind, instead of hateful grave-plundering relatives waiting to swoop down on my estate with the assistance of a homophobic judge. And how do I forgive those who did this to me, strangers with absolutely nothing to gain but my pain, who in their self-righteous arrogance don’t see any need to be forgiven, because they either disavow any participation or see the malignancy they’re spreading as good?
I’ve been trying to reassure myself that I don’t need society, our government, or straights encoding/acknowledging my rights in order to live and be happy. After all, I’ve always gotten along without it in the past. But I’m at the door of middle-age, this is supposed to by my reward, my time to ease up, relax and enjoy the fruits of all my earlier years. Not the time to fight. Yet the outlook is very different now, there’s no denying it and I’ve been robbed of this peace of mind. Have you noticed the smug, self-satisfied smirks coming your way this past week? The delight in your pain? A majority of straight Americans just told the government that they hate us and fully approve of stringing gays up. They said it’s more important to them than the economy, or war, or health care. This is sounding exactly like Nazi Germany. Blame the new Jews: gays. Let’s be blunt: liberal straights will catch a political cold from this; gays will catch political pneumonia. I now wake up in the middle of the night thinking thoughts I never took seriously before: “How bad could it get? Can we just weather it out, and for how long? Will a Supreme Court newly stacked with bigots simply outlaw gays altogether, the way Scalia and Thomas want to? Who’s to stop them? Not the President, not Congress, not the citizenry. Straights want them to do this and the media will refuse to report it even happening! Will the Republicans really strip gays of everything, as they wrote in their party platform? What happens if they pass a law whereby landlords, doctors and employers can refuse gays “on religious grounds” as has been proposed in the past? This now could really happen. There’s nothing to stop it, and every voice asking for it. Where could we quickly move to, if things got instantly, impossibly virulent? Is it even possible?” Hopefully, none of this will happen. But even if it ultimately doesn’t, it will take years to play out, and won’t the concern we’re exhausting over it not take an irreparable toll on all of us, especially gay youth?
Finally, behind all my thoughts and anxieties is always one plain emotion, one ache. When I focus on it, I hear the voice of a child that’s always been there, glancing at the world with bewildered eyes, quietly asking, “What did I do to deserve this?” And I’m wondering if lately those aren’t words you can’t help living by, as well.
|Buh Bye! |
October 05, 2008
Be Afraid, People.... Really Afraid
One Last Bitchfest for the Road
Get the Popcorn Ready
I'm a Rich Ho-Bag
|Marriage is love.|