Politics & Policy

Straight Talk On Gays

This just in: Life is unfair.

Because my old grade school banned the celebration of Mother’s Day in part because it was unfair to kids with two fathers I’ve found myself making an odd argument: The decision is bad for gays. As Andrew Sullivan of the coincidentally named AndrewSullivan.com has suggested, banning Mother’s Day is precisely the sort of thing that hurts gays’ efforts to gain wider acceptance in the culture. Though I disagree with Sullivan on exactly what how much the culture should “accept” gays, I do agree with him on that point.

Still, I am awfully tired of talking about the policies of my grade school, so let’s look at some other recent items in the “gay news” and see what we can learn from that.

First, we know that Tom Cruise is suing a gay porn star and “erotic wrestler” for $100 million dollars because he doesn’t want the world to think his last name is a verb. Kyle Bradford, who goes by the nom de porn, Chad Slater — and hence my first choice to start in the snuff film/comic opera I’m writing about the Florida recount, Hanging Chad — says that he mounted the Jolly Roger with Cruise.

Cruise says he didn’t even dimple Chad. Whether he’s telling the truth or not I leave to the courts. But I should say I come from the grand tradition of heterosexual men who assume that all men more attractive than me are gay. This is very bad news for many of you — and has many anti-gay activists very concerned — because as I gain weight by the hour, it means millions of men around the world are fast becoming gay. Pretty soon the only straight guys out there will be Helmut Kohl, Patrick Ewing, and Moe Szyslak.

Anyway, because this Chad guy told a magazine that he and Cruise grappled on a mat together (“mat” being a cushioned floor-covering and not a third player in this sordid tale), Cruise says his reputation has been damaged. According to his lawyers, “Losing the respect and enthusiasm of a substantial segment of the movie-going public would cost Cruise very substantial sums.” “If people think he’s gay,” they say, moviegoers “will be less inclined to patronize Cruise’s films, particularly since he tends to play parts calling for heterosexual romance and action adventure.”

Another story to cause a brouhaha is the one about this study by a reputable doctor at Columbia University. He says that gays can be “converted” through a technique called “Monday Night Football and a stack of Playboys” … Oh no, wait; that’s a much older and thoroughly discredited method. The new method is called “sexual reorientation therapy.” The study says that with some extremely intensive and sustained counseling, some fraction of homosexuals can function as heterosexuals.

The study has been denounced by gay activists and counselors as misleading and “cruel.”

And here’s another interesting story from the pile. Ronald Edward Gay has pled guilty to murder after going into a gay bar and shooting seven people, killing one. Apparently he told police that he was sick of being teased over his last name. The AP story did not indicate whether Mr. Gay realized that in all likelihood he will receive extra special teasing in prison over his last name.

Here’s a small item I liked: On Tuesday, a wire story written by a reporter for Gay.com and something called the PlanetOut.com Network begins, “To no one’s surprise, gay performers, playwrights and themes were prominent among the nominees for this year’s Tony Awards.”

And lastly, there’s this blurb from today’s New York Post:

Model-turned-actress Patricia Velasquez who plays the evil princess Anck-Su-Namun in The Mummy Returns, is keeping mum about her sexual past. The Venezuelan vixen, 28, who famously dated Sandra Bernhard, is cagey when asked about the relationship in the new issue of Vibe. “We were very good friends,” she tells the mag, “but I don’t want to talk about that … I don’t classify myself as gay or straight.” Velasquez says she has dated men since her split with Bernhard, and reveals she has a strange way of knowing when she’s in love: “Honestly, I get really bad diarrhea.”

So what can we conclude from this small sampling of 233 stories that came up in the Yahoo News search engine when I typed in the word “gay”?

Hell, I don’t know — beyond the fact that I’m kinda glad Ms. Velasquez isn’t in love with me.

Actually, there are some more serious conclusions we can draw from all of this. First, we hear a lot about gays. Gays themselves traffic in stereotypes about gays. A lot of people like gays. A lot of people don’t like gays. A lot of people who may or may not be gay think it’s really bad either to be called gay or to actually be gay. And some people are uncertain whether they are gay or not.

And the one thing we know for sure is that gays aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. As they say on The Simpsons, “We’re Here! We’re Queer! We don’t want any more Bears!” No wait, sorry, that’s an entirely different point.

That’s Life.

Sorry for all the jokes, but I have a hard time writing about homosexuality since I have gay friends but I’m pretty conservative on “gay issues.” In my heart of hearts, I guess I’d prefer it if homosexuality didn’t exist, but in my heart of hearts I’d also prefer if there was no humidity, or if pizza made me thinner. The fact is that what I’d prefer doesn’t matter; life is complicated.

Which is a lesson I wish more gays could internalize. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure being gay involves a vast number of challenges, compromises, and hassles that make my life a cakewalk. But as a generalization, I do wish gays would stop making the argument that any policy or practice that doesn’t embrace homosexuality is bigoted.

Take this Tom Cruise thing. Andrew Sullivan — who is hardly in lockstep with the gay-rights community — is outraged about the lawsuit. It is “in fact a mechanism whereby ostensibly liberal Hollywood sends a deliberate message to its gay stars and actors: Stay in the closet — or your career is toast.”

Now, of course he’s right that the liberals in Hollywood have an inexhaustible well of hypocrisy and that championing sexual freedom in public while whipping the ranks (no offense) behind the scenes is but a small draught from that well.

But come on. Cruise’s lawyers are right too. If it were revealed that Chad the erotic wrestler is telling the truth when he says Cruise is a Top Gun with All the Right Moves who likes to dabble in some Risky Business, all of a sudden movies like The Firm, Cocktail, and a A Few Good Men would start to sound kind of dirty.

And the simple fact is that as a matter of marketing, that would be very bad for Tom Cruise. Is that unfair? Sure, I guess. But it’s also unfair that America will have an openly gay matinee idol long before it has a dwarf, obese, blind, deaf, stuttering, albino, or unibrow matinee idol — and such folks are born that way too. Indeed, there’s nothing even arguably immoral about being any of those things.

I know gays do not like being compared to the handicapped and I know some anti-gay types don’t like the comparison either. Gay zealots reject the suggestion that there’s anything “wrong” with them. And anti-gay zealots reject the suggestion that gays aren’t responsible for their own actions. But, without wading into any of that, it is fair to say that gay culture has some similarities to, say, deaf culture in a few different ways:

  • Membership in the gay and handicapped communities is not intergenerational — most gays don’t have gay parents, most of the hearing-impaired join a culture and speak a language distinct from their extended family and native community.
  • In a perfect world, most parents would prefer it if their kids weren’t members of these respective groups.
  • Some fraction of the members of these groups would also prefer not to be members of these groups.
  • And, not an unrelated point, no matter what steps society takes to be accommodating toward these groups, there will always be special hassles associated with membership in these groups.

This means that kids with two dads will have a bad day when all the other kids are celebrating Mother’s Day. That means some gay people will try to stop being gay. That means that some people will try to help them. That means in some fraction of these instances such efforts will meet someone’s definition of success, and sometimes such efforts won’t. This means that certain opportunities common for most people will be more difficult for you. Some people will be jerks and others will be infinitely kind and most will lie somewhere in-between.

But what it doesn’t mean is that if things don’t go your way, bigotry is necessarily to blame. Life is unfair, even to movie stars.


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