It’s where we go and what
we do, when we get there,
that tells us who we are.
Joyce Carol Oates
It’s 8 degrees farenheit in Chicago, right at this moment and I’m suffering from a bitch of a cold. Just to depress myself, I checked the temperature in the Los Angeles area. 59. Lord, I miss California winters, and as I type this the snot is running down my nose onto my hands.Well, got that cleaned up.
I’ve told this story before, so just the highlights: I hitch-hiked down Route 66, in the late summer of 1963, and hit L.A. on my twenty-first birthday. That trip, and my marching in the first Hollywood Gay Pride parade (1970) honoring The Stonewall Riots in New Yok, the year before, are my two shining accomplishments. I should note, here, that at the time the L.A. parade’s main focus was about ending police harrassment and entrapment. It was a very heady time, those early years of “gay liberation.”
Now, forty-six years later, America is seeing gay marriages, adoption of children by gay parents, receiving legal parity with heterosexual unions. Gay people have become a political force, with city, state and federal legislators open and active for gay causes. Less and less is it a an act of political and/or career suicide for law-makers, and actors, and athletes to declare their sexual preferences openly. Even the armed services has moved into the twenty-first century; homosexuality is no longer a bar against serving, and no longer a reason for expulsion for those already serving. Being gay is becoming very middle class. My fear is that by being absorbed into middle-class, Gay will surrender a certain outsider’s perspective, a group, and perhaps an individual creative tension, just to fit in.
Not to say that there are not still stides, and opinions to be changed, in the larger society. We, as a group are becoming, rather than accomplished, members of that middle. Strides we have made legally, are not yet matched by total social parity. In the private sector, there remains an antipathy, or more truly, and ignorance, largely fueled by fundamentalist religionists. Some places don’t want to offer gay people services they offer to the public, at large. Some companies will not promote, or even hire, open gay people. There are political forces at work to move the clock back regarding gay liberties. We still have some way to go for full middle-class inclusion.
Of course, fifty years ago, I supposed that eventually homosexuals would be considered with no particular sense of differnce than the idea of red-heads or blondes. Little did I know it would be in my lifetime.
America gays, of course, are not the only one fighting for full dignity. I read this morning that the Russian Duma refused to pass a bill that would make public coming out and offense punishable by fine and prison. Enlightenment is a slow process. Ask our brothers and sisters in Uganda, or any Muslim nation.