This morning I checked my Word Press Reader looking for interesting blog posts, and came across – I won’t call it a rant, it was much too civilized for that – a one-hour old post by someone who seemed befuddled by the need gay people feel to speak out and be heard. I’m sure you’ve heard similar, and much worse.
This person (whose blog shall remain nameless) began by taking issue with the use of words like “gay”, “straight”, and “in the closet”. In her opinion, using them to mean things other than “happy”, “the opposite of crooked”, and “put away” was uneccesary and made her uncomfortable. She cited the Spring Break/Mardi Gras-like behavior at Pride parades to express dismay about seeing things she didn’t want to see. She conveyed how mystified she felt that gay people would actually feel the need to act like (her exact word and use of capitalization) “NORMAL” people by seeking to get married.
As bad as it sounds I swear to you, it was one of the least inflammatory of these types of posts I’ve ever seen. She said she was about to leave on a two month trip but would leave comments open. She said she would not reply to any comments but would also not block them. No one had posted yet, so I wrote this:
“I can only say that you must have no knowledge of the oppression these individuals have faced or you wouldn’t be so confused, and I hope that you will do some research into it. People react strongly to being told there is something inherently wrong with them when all they want are the exact same things everyone else wants: life, love and the pursuit of happiness. As for their alleged appropriation of words like ‘gay’, ‘straight’ and phrases like ‘in the closet’, that’s just the fluidity of language. ‘Cool’ doesn’t always refer to temperature, but did before the nineteen fifties. I hope you’re right and a ‘flame war’ will not erupt here. There’s too much of that on the internet already.
You seem like a reasonable person. Please, while you are away take time to read about the injustices that have been done to the LGBT population – murders; imprisonment; job discrimination; housing discrimination; denial of recognition of their emotional unions; denial of the right to raise their own children or to adopt; the inability to get health insurance coverage through their beloved’s employer; being kept from their loved one’s deathbed (even, sometimes, when they have POA); the loss of property after death because of the lack of a formal union; and on and on and on. Research it a bit, and when you get back from your hiatus write a follow-up post. I look forward to reading it.”
I checked back just now. The blog post is gone. I like to think that maybe I helped somebody understand another person’s point of view just a fraction more clearly. I’m primarily a fiction writer, blogging to build a platform, but you know, this non-fiction stuff is okay, too.
I’d even say it’s “cool”.
When Ehrichto turns the corner at Fourth a double row of flowering pear trees makes him almost gasp aloud. He immediately forgets to take note of the new buildings among the old or the absence of businesses he once knew. All he sees are the trees, their fat white flower clusters nearly obscuring dark branches. He is overwhelmed by a sense of being home.
Ehrichto has not called Louisville that in a very long while.
By the time he reaches Broadway, he is trembling.
Bardo, by N.S. Beranek, forthcoming from Lethe Press.
The Washington state florist shop that is already being sued by the ACLU for refusing to sell flowers for a same-sex couple’s wedding is now also being sued by the attorney general in that state. The lawyer for the shop owner says he believes it is an issue of freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
I think it’s interesting that the two people to whom the business owner refuses to sell wedding flowers are purportedly long time customers of the store. So apparently the proprietor’s self-expression and religious beliefs allowed her to condone the so-called “homosexual lifestyle”, but drew a line when her gay patrons wanted to act too “normal”? Or was it just her greed operating back then, back when it was likely no one would know she occasionally sold flowers to “that sort” of person, and now that bunches of people might reasonably ask “Wow, who did the flowers?” she’s afraid of being ostracized by other bigots?
Lunch counters and buses immediately come to mind, and I think “Someday we’ll look back as a nation and it will be hard for young people to comprehend that it was ever this way”. But then I think no, that this fight is inherently different from that one, that the thing that is sometimes cited as a boon – being able to pass in “straight society” – is actually an albatross. Wanda Sykes does a great bit about this, and I think she hits the nail right on the head. While it’s impossible to hide that fact if your skin is a different color than the rest of a group, there isn’t any way to know that a newborn child is gay, which creates this misunderstanding that homosexuality is not god-given, and that, I think, is the root cause of the strife. People think it’s a choice. They always have, and it seems likely that a large proportion of the population always will. Look, forty years on racism continues to quietly simmer and seethe, rearing its ugly head every now and then, despite racially integrated schools and neighborhoods, and businesses being made to sell their wares to whomever (based on skin color) wants to buy. Despite decades of folks being made to interact with people they can’t help but recognize are different from themselves.
There’s a more insidious kind of fear factor hampering the gay civil rights movement. No one ever appeared to be one color and then – apparently – “became” another. (Don’t make an MJ joke. Just don’t.) But some people believe that their sons/mothers/brothers/daughters/fathers were “fine” and then chose to be different. Chose to be Other. That they transformed and it was willful. Deliberate. I think for some people hearing coming out stories is nightmarish, sparking this fear that one day they will wake up with feelings they never had before, or more likely, will meet someone who “makes” them gay. I think that’s why in some factions homosexuality is lumped in with drug abuse. Thanks for trying, Lady Gaga, but the fear that you are born one way and “catch” being gay seems to be too deeply seated to be undone with song. For some people, the AIDS crisis was just the development of outward symptoms in what had hitherto been a silent epidemic.
Silence. Equals. Death. So, is this another place where Harvey Milk’s call to action will be the cure? Is it a matter of more gay people speaking out about when they first knew that they were gay? Will the beast be soothed if greater numbers of loving, accepting parents openly acknowledge what their child is telling them? Or is this just, at its core, a nastier ball of wax? Is this a boogeyman that can’t be eradicated from the psyche, similar to finding out that your child is a girl in places where that is seen as a failure on the part of the parents or evidence of a demonic curse on the family, a problem that has been with us since the inception of the species? Can we possibly hope to educate people to expect and accept the possibility that their child will be gay? Or is this battle for integration always going to be fought one life at a time?
…stick in my memory from our first trip to L.A. to see one of Michael’s one-man shows. I know; it should be the show itself that is lodged in my brain. I get that. But I was young. Maybe I was too young to really get what was happening onstage except that it was electric and it was all him.
No, the thing that really stands out about that first trip to L.A. (above and beyond the city, assuredly a character in and of itself) is the lunch my mother and I had with Michael. I remember that the menu included gazpacho – which I had never heard of, but Michael swore was good, and so I ordered (and hated but ate every bite of). The second thing I strongly recall is that there was avocado on my burger. (That, I loved.) Lastly, I remember that the waitress asked Michael for his autograph, and that he good-naturedly granted it. I already thought he walked on water; in many ways, I still do.
I will be reading a selection from my short story “Thou Shalt Not Lie” at the book launch party for Saints and Sinners 2013: New Fiction from the Festival on May 23rd, 2013 in New Orleans. After the readings, the finalists will be available to sign copies of the anthology.