American Life Coming up queer, before and after Stonewall
By Scott King
“Out and proud!”
Jodie Foster was in a prom dress, mocking 40+ years of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. The members of the Hollywood audience, most of whom were closer to her age than mine, were applauding her, were cheering, were in tears.
I was livid.
“Fuck you, you ungrateful hack!” I yelled at the telly. I was at a Golden Globes party, so such catty remarks weren’t uncommon. But my remark wasn’t catty; it was telling.
I think she hit a nerve.
I couldn’t understand why she still wasn’t coming out, why she was being so glib, why she was talking nonsense about eschewing one’s truth in order to pursue “the right to privacy.”
It’s in the Constitution.
I’ve seen every happy and sad documentary about the Stonewall riots and the early days of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement. I even read a book once. Back then, we were not referred to as LGBT. On a good day, we were referred to as gay and lesbian. Let’s just say the people who called us queer back then were NOT progressive.
These days, even pro wrestlers are “out and proud.” But the stigma still lingers, on both sides of the closet door. Both Jodie Foster and troglodyte pro wrestlers talk about how “mean gays” kept them in the closet. Resplendent, medal-winning Adam Rippon gets chastised in the comments section for talking about his sexuality. “Focus on your skating and keep your mouth shut!” they scream. It’s impressive that they find time to be freelance life coaches in between Trump voting sessions.
At the 2016 Republican National Convention, DT promised to protect LGBTQ Americans from radical Islamic terrorism. It got more than polite applause and more than its share of spilled ink.
But fuck you. What does that shout out with pseudo politically correct terminology mean? Is he suggesting that some other political candidate might NOT protect LGBTQ Americans from violence and terrorism? It’s almost as if we are actual Americans, worthy of our share of constitutional and civil liberties and protections.
I was shocked because I am for some reason consistently shocked by stupidity when PDT declared that doctors and other medical professionals could refuse care to LGBTQ Americans, based upon the doctor’s religious faith.
You can change the terminology, you can polish a turd, but the vitriol and ill-will of the right-wing will always be there, and it will always stink, no matter how many of them get drunk and cruise divorcees at our gay weddings.
Speaking of wedding singers, did y’all see the remake of “It” last year? Or Stranger Things? Although it was cute when Winona Ryder whispered it like it was verboten, I was happy and gay to see that they left in the F-word. As shocking these days as any of the plot twists or imagery employed in those two horror shows, use of the F-word and or even using “gay” as pejorative was as common as shoulder pads in that era.
Imagine ten years before that. Or twenty.
Now, do you see why Jodie Foster may have been hesitant to come out? She was born in 1962, years before the Stonewall riots in 1969. Before the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973. Before Newsweek magazine published a groundbreaking story on “The American Homosexual” in 1975. Before Harvey Milk beat back Anita Bryant’s Briggs Initiative in California in 1978. Before the AIDS crisis decimated a generation of gay men and brought the remaining generation out of the closet and provided a path for succeeding generations to come out as well.
I was born in 1981, along with Jake Gyllenhaal, Britney Spears, and MTV. We are not quite Millennials, but we are the beginning of what they call the post-Stonewall generation.
Despite the fact that my generation, the 80s babies, are the brokest in history, I feel very fortunate to have been born when I was. I understand and appreciate the difference between the olden days and the new smartphone era of the illusion of ubiquitous acceptance. I know that just because most of my friends are liberal and queer or queer-friendly, that does not mean that we are living in a safe space.
The haters, the portion of the citizenry who feel they are entitled to a white, heterosexual, gender-conforming country, they can all go fuck themselves. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t engage with them.
When I post an m4m missed connections ad on Craigslist and receive a reply from someone sending me a comic strip about how anti-gay Americans are oppressed because they can’t protest a pride rally without being charged with a “hate crime,” I return their email. If they are capable of responding in language that they haven’t stolen from the telly, I will take them even further down the path of dialogue. I don’t see how it could possibly make things any worse.
I am here. I am queer. Come talk to me. I will tell you my story. I will live my truth. I will smash your illusions.
Out and Proud.