NOTE: I have said it before and I’m going to say it again. If you want stop bullying towards LGBT kids, then gay history needs to be taught. Only when ignorance is shown to be just that, only then will it be stopped.
There was something said by a M/M author this week that at first, I shrugged and said, “Well, that’s nothing new.” and proceeded to go on my merry way. Mostly because I was really busy this week and didn’t give it much thought. But… it lingered there in the back of mind. And as I was lying in bed, trying to get to sleep, it just kept making me more and more angry to the point where I gave myself a headache and got up to write this.
Now then, let me be perfectly clear here: I am in no means attacking this author for making this identity statement. However, I would like to point out a few things to all the women, and there have been quite a few, who have said to me that they identify as a gay man, especially in this genre.
They clearly have no clue as to how insulting this can be to gay men, especially those who are as long in the tooth as I am. I am going to try and temper this and be as logical and as forthcoming as I possibly can and not insult too many people, which I seem to be able to do without even trying. It seems I have that talent, or so I’ve been told.
First off, there have been gay people for as long as well… there have been people. I am only going to give the bit of history that I can attest to, since I lived it.
Back in the sixties there was a group, founded out of San Francisco, if you can imagine that, who decided that homosexuals deserved to be treated equally and basically get homosexuality off the list of mental illnesses. They dressed in business attire and walked around carrying signs stating that they were not sick and that this was not a life style choice and blah, blah, blah. They got a little recognition but mostly they were pretty much ignored.
They implored gay people (this was before lesbians broke off and decided they didn’t want to be lumped in with the men) to not try and shove their sexuality down people’s throats and to act like the normal moral population around them. Yeah… well, I think we all know that didn’t work.
Here come the ‘70’s and the revolution was upon the establishment. Kent State happened, Viet Nam was in full swing and young people were really tired of being told they were wrong and basically immoral. Bras were burned, Roe v Wade was judged and damn if our country wasn’t changing and fast.
Then Stonewall happened. Drag queens were on the national news, riots happening and… there you have it. It got right up in everyone’s face, drag queens, butches on bikes and the whole sordid queer community got right up in America’s face. The fight was on and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty.
I can attest that being chased down 10th Street in Atlanta by rednecks with baseball bats wasn’t exactly on my agenda that particular Saturday night, but it was on theirs. By the way, those aluminum bats hurt just as much as those wooden ones, in case you wanted to know. Eggs, rotten veggies, stones, bricks… yep, those hurt too.
I can’t even tell you how many gay murders happened that were never reported by any news agency. Who cared? It was just another dirty faggot. Many gay bashings were never reported because there was just no use in it, so why bother. We learned to deal with it. We fought back when we could, but most of the time it was by cowards who ganged up on one or two gays and beat the every-loving shit out of them. For them, it was just sport.
I don’t know of a gay man alive who hasn’t at one time or another held their breath, afraid that they may have said the wrong thing, or were terrified of… being themselves. Oh there may be a few who maybe in the twenties and never had to be afraid, but chances are, those are a very few.
Back in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and even 90’s there was a good chance of losing your job, getting kicked out of your apartment or disowned by your family if it was found out you were gay. This was a real fear and justifiably so. It happened. I saw it. I was there.
Then we had AIDS. The President of the United States refused to say the word. During his whole term, he only said the word once and that was because he was shamed into it. But he only said it that one time.
Our government turned their backs on us. Health insurers turned their backs on us and refused to cover AIDS. Families, friends turned away and those who didn’t were just afraid of us. Hairdressers started losing customers. Waiters were no longer needed. Not that they were sick, they just happened to be gay. People were terrified of catching ‘the gay disease’.
It was the gay and lesbian community that pulled together and supported each other. That’s not to say there weren’t some good straight people who stood there with us, but they were a very small minority. I knew some fantastic nurses who tended to our sick and dying who went far beyond the call of duty. They became family and fought the fight right alongside us. But as I said, they were very few and very brave souls. They also lost a lot during those years, just by association.
It was our own community who had fundraisers to pay for rent, food and medications. It was the gay community that educated and looked out for one another. Not the government. Not our neighbors and in many cases, not our families. It was us, our own that took on that job and quite often that was all.
I cannot begin to tell you how many friends and loved ones that I lost during those years. As many of you who know me, I don’t even send out Christmas cards because of it. (This past year I did send out a few for the first time since 1990.) That is how hard it was for me personally.
So when a woman, who is my age or younger who says to me “I identify as a gay man,” I cringe. What I want to say is… have you ever been beaten with a bat? Have you had to sit there and hold the hand of the man you’ve loved for the past seventeen years die, drowning, his lungs full of pneumonia, for which there is no cure for and no one but you gives a whole goddamn? Have you ever attended a funeral once a week for a full year? Have you ever had to call all your friends and see if you couldn’t find a place for a young kid to live because his parents just kicked him out or left on the side of he rode because his parents found out there were gay? Have you ever been afraid twenty-four hours of the day, looking over your shoulder constantly?
This was a very real life for me and for many gay men. So when you want to say so casually, that you identify or feel like a gay man, I would really appreciate it if you would consider all the things I’ve said and think long and hard first. Does the reality of history still make you feel the same?
I think the thing that really struck a nerve with me and what got to me the most was this one author did a semi-apology after the identify thing and then bragged about their book sales going up; book sales that depict gay men’s lives.. sort of. Of course this was only after they got called on the carpet for it. I felt as if someone had just spit in my face. Yeah, that hurt and pissed me off.
Now, I think that I can safely say that we, the LGBT community greatly appreciate all the support that our friends and allies give us. We truly do. Our communities are stronger and much better for it. We feel safer now than ever before… for now. (I’m still holding my breath on that one for the time being.) We thank you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, I really, really do. But please, before you make such a broad and casual statement, think about what you’re saying and who your audience is. There is a lot more to gay men than just a rosy romance with a lot of fucking in it.
Normally, this is where I tell everyone to go and do something nice for someone else. Today, I’d think I’d like for everyone to just take a step back and do a little self-reflection. Gain a little peace, as I plan on doing.
Have a grrreat week y’all,