Does Where You Go Depend On Where You've Been? genre: Gaylingual & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

The Maze

I was gay when being a homo was a mental illness…when queer sex was illegal…when you didn’t discuss being a faggot with your doctor…when sodomites were chased down and thrown out of the military…when AIDS was god’s punishment for being a fairy. I was gay before being gay was remotely fashionable. Nonetheless, I was always just me.

Perhaps the most shocking part…I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to returning to those days if given the opportunity. Not because I enjoyed being a mentally ill criminal who was likely to die well before my time…not because it was easy to hide my identity and live in secret…not because I might find myself the victim of hatred and violence.

No, I would return to those days to remind me why I must still fight today…why it isn’t enough to no longer be a mentally ill criminal destined to die young…why it isn’t enough to be allowed to serve in the military if I just keep quiet and conceal my lifestyle…why it isn’t enough to be an acquaintance that hip heterosexuals get to namedrop at a dinner party like a new pair of Pravda shoes…why I don’t want to abandon my gay culture in order to have a place at the insiders table…why I don’t want to replicate the marriage model that is held over my head as if it were the Holy Grail.

I don’t accept that my destiny is to assimilate myself into heterosexual culture such that I no longer create discomfort for those who demand homogeneity over homosexuality. I don’t want the music I hear in gay clubs to be the same music I hear everywhere else…I don’t want my sense of fashion to be identical to that of my straight counterparts…I don’t want heterosexuals to understand everything I say…I want gay slang to remain gay slang. I don’t want to have a party that is so nondescript that the neighbors can’t tell that a gay man lives on the same block.

Let me be clear. I don’t say this to reject heterosexual culture or to assert the superiority of gay culture…I appreciate and honor the validity of all cultures. I say it to remind myself and my gay brethren that acceptance need not come with capitulation…the world is large enough for every cultures to exist…and the world ought to be educated and enlightened such that acceptance equates with the ability…no, the desire and the demand to embrace and celebrate them all.

If society is akin to the palette of an artist, then it is essential that all the colors remain…lest we become a canvas absent contrast…imbued with the blandness born of banality. America may be the proverbial melting pot but our greatness results from the soup we serve from that pot…a complex soup that maintains an array of distinct flavors…all perfectly blended such that each maintains its identity and each is enhanced by the presence of the others…not overwhelmed or masked such that the independent flavors are indistinguishable.

The need for acceptance is no stranger to trepidation. How one responds to that anxiety may define the degree to which the achieved acceptance is authentic or, conversely, it may define the distance one has traveled from one’s authenticity in order to obtain enough acceptance to mitigate the trepidation. The distance between the former and the latter may well describe a journey of betrayal that is predicated upon the need to extinguish discomfort at the expense of preserving identity.

That which is authentic need never become inauthentic to achieve acceptance. Any society that expects as much becomes a faceless, colorless canvas which consumes itself while feeding upon its fears. The same is true of any subset of that society which would accede to those expectations.

The issue of gay marriage is an excellent case in point. Marriage has become the gauntlet upon which the war for acceptance of homosexuality and the associated authenticity of our existence and our relationships is being waged. I reject that premise. So long as we allow marriage to define the legitimacy of our relationships, we enable the opposition to defile us.

Are we entitled to the rights afforded by marriage? Absolutely. Should we wage the battle for gay acceptance on that platform? I don’t think so. Let me explain. At the core of a large share of the opposition to gay marriage is an inherent bias and prejudice against homosexuality. The message sent by those opposed to gay marriage is that we refuse to give your lifestyle the legitimacy afforded by such state sponsored recognition…your relationships are lesser than ours and we intend to maintain the institutional constructs to demonstrate as much.

Simultaneously, the dialogue that opposes gay marriage is couched in the argument that it would represent an affront to family and longstanding societal and religious traditions. By design, this is intended to steer voter debate around and beyond the realm of civil rights and the basic notion of equality. It also leaves gays on the outside asking to be let in…and nothing communicates the perception that I’m not as good as you as demanding another admit, acknowledge, and accept that I am.

An example is warranted. If you’ve ever watched a group of children playing, you’ve seen the situation where a couple children form an alliance that excludes another child or group of children…and they often flaunt a possession or a privilege…telling the outsiders they have the newest Game Boy or their parents take them to the country club on the weekends. The goal is to establish a distinction of inequity whereby those on the outside long to be included.

Fortunately, circumstances can change and the excluded can become a sought after commodity…maybe it results from a discussion about animals in a science class whereby it is exposed that one of the outsiders lives on a farm with horses…and the teacher elects to take the class on a field trip to the farm. That can lead to realignments such that some children choose to befriend the child with horses in the hopes of being invited to go riding after school. You get the picture.

Coming back to gay culture and the issue of gay marriage…beginning in the early nineties, society became fascinated with all things gay…gay music, gay fashion, gay theater, gay television characters, and many of those elements were mainstreamed…or If I may gently suggest…they were co-opted by society at large.

Conventional thought argues that familiarity breeds contempt...but on the contrary, with regards to being gay, I would contend that familiarity brought a degree of tacit acceptance on the part of society which was followed by complacency on the part of the gay community. In the wake of our perceived assimilation, we ran for the cover of conventionality…embracing many of the means and measures of conformity…which included the traditional model of marriage.

Sometimes, in order to understand one’s own progression (the place at which one has arrived)…whether that be individually or collectively as a group…one must consult the perceptions of those with whom we now consort. During the most recent airing of This Week with George Stephanopoulos, I was struck by a comment made by George Will as the panel was discussing the issue of gays in the military. Mr. Will remarked, “The culture is moving anyway…I have a daughter…26…in her cohort…being gay is just like being left handed…it’s just boring".

In terms of acceptance, perhaps that is a good thing which will ultimately, by default, manifest itself in the full granting of recognitions…including gay marriage. Call me a skeptic, but while many heterosexuals worry that including gays will diminish the integrity of marriage, I worry that our acceptance of marriage as the means and the measure by which we define our relationships may in fact diminish the fundamental premise of those relationships.

Perhaps loving someone in spite of society’s validation of that love is an added demonstration of love…a love that must be found and fostered absent the endorsements and benefits that society grants when recognizing an announcement of marriage. Frankly, I’m not convinced that marriage, in its current iteration, requires much more consideration than we bring to bear on the purchase of a new automobile. It seems to me that marriage has become another commodity in this zero-sum equation that typifies our consumption crazed society.

As such, when gays bestow idyllic attributes upon the acquisition of marriage rights, do we not endorse a failing system and in the process begin to minimize the relationships we chose to form in spite of their rejection by society? I, for one, reject the notion that society, in its current form, represents the best we can do and I believe that the state of marriage no doubt supports my premise. Gays should not accept the role of villain with regard to the state of marriage and they should not seek its sanction if it simply becomes a vehicle for their ongoing victimization.

If acceptance and the affording of full participation in society were to require we give up portions of our cultural identity...or if we were to succumb to the premise that it does in order to best achieve our objectives…then I would opt to remain detached but whole. Unfortunately, I’m worried our history and our heritage may be slipping into the abyss…exacerbated by the loss of a generation to HIV….a generation that facilitated so much of the progress we’ve made by standing strong and living large.

At the same time, I’m inclined to reject the current state of America’s morality…a morality that is worn as an external badge upon hollow human holograms of holiness. Our proximity to hallowed temples on Sunday is not a measure of our piety any more than another’s absence is a measure of their dedication to the devil. Morality cannot and should not be reduced to a sexual preference scorecard, a campaign slogan, or policies that deny or impose.

The state of grace must be our goal. It holds the power to promote change and to heal hearts. Graciousness is a conscious choice that is elected when innocence has been lost…an innocence that has long since evaporated but remains forever valued and painstakingly imitated. It is not an emblem we acquire…it does not flow to the winner of an election…it is an endeavor of example whereby words are not sufficient…it must be lived.

Our gay authenticity is no different and it mustn’t be wagered or mortgaged for any imagined or perceived prize. We must never accept that homosexuality and morality are mutually exclusive. Morality is an internal state; not a litany of state installed mandates. Morality maligned by the majority is nothing more than the manifestation of institutionalized immorality.

One’s love for humanity requires no higher being, no promise of salvation, no threat of damnation…it should be unconditional and absolute. It need not elevate nor annihilate those who are similar or dissimilar. It honors humanity simply because it is humanity. It seeks no special treatment nor does it require one to adopt any specious identity in order to find acceptance. We humans share the same origin but we also possess different identity’s…which is as it were intended. We mustn’t forget.

I love beauty queens and drag queens…I love girls who are cowboys and boys who are cowgirls…I love tin soldiers, toy soldiers, and our soldiers…I love rednecks and red lipstick…I love drama whether it’s on the big screen or just plain old big drama…I love cry babies and babies crying…I love hetero sexy and homo sexual…I love girls with big boobs and boobs that are big girls. They give us our texture, our color, and our depth.

I’m reminded of an old song that has always spoken succinctly and eloquently to these issues that I hold near and dear, “Don’t make me over, now that I’d do anything for you…Don’t make me over, now that you know how I adore you…accept me for what I am…accept me for the things that I do". May I suggest that there is no finer song to honor the sanctity of our shared humanity?

No individual…no sexual orientation…no skin color…no party…no religion…no nation…has a monopoly on goodness. We’re all at our best when we embrace the best our identity has to offer. I am not an opinion poll…I am not a debate question…I am not a threat to marriage…I am not that queer homo fairy faggot sodomite gay guy who blogs. I have always been first, foremost, and forever human. I should not need to tell you and you should not need to ask me…I have always been me. I will always be me. Wouldn’t it be grand if we Americans could find a way to embrace and celebrate the simplicity of that which connects us…our humanity?

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2007 | 10:41 PM
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