Sunday, June 25, 2006

I Know Why the Gay Boy Dances

Why are there Pride parades?
Why do gays and lesbians need their own Pride Day anyway?
Why is there no Straight Pride Parade?
Why are gays so flamboyant at Pride?
Can I go to gay Pride if I'm heterosexual?
What's the deal with rainbow flags, pink triangles and "gay, gay, gay?"

I have often been asked these questions and given that the month of June has traditionally been gay Pride month, I thought I would briefly address some of these questions (please read this month's previous posts if you haven't and check out the links to find out more!).

During my childhood I had sayings such as "pride goeth before a fall,"and "handsome is as handsome does" ingrained into my being. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins in the church. Even today a student asked me if I thought I was handsome and I explained that I was uncomfortable complimenting myself. When I witness a student bragging, I often quote "It's better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt." So it's ironic that pride is something I would possibly advocate.

I ran across this definition of pride recently that challenged what I had heard growning up. I just love it and must share. "Pride is faith in the idea that God had when (God) made us." (Isak Dinesen, the pen name of Karen Blixen, in her book Out of Africa. Incidentally she's also the author of Babette's Feast which was made into a movie I really loved!) She goes on to say "As the good citizen finds his happiness in the fulfilment of his duty to the community, so does the proud man find his happiness in the fulfilment of his fate. "

For centuries, gays and lesbians have been told that we are unnatural or even evil. We have come so far since that time but there is still a long way to go.

Here's the infamous "gay agenda" that the fundamentalists rant about.
Because the government will not allow all people to marry their person of choice;
Because people are still denied jobs, promotions or denied accommodation because of their sexual orientation;
Because gay teenagers are disproportionately at risk of suicide;
Because people are still beaten or murdered for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered;
Because people are still made to feel uncomfortable when holding the hand of a partner while walking down the street;
Because informational materials are still censored by the government and banned from schools;
Because these relationships remain unrecognized in hundreds of federal and state laws. (source)
These aren't "gay rights" but human rights. So for me, gay Pride is when celebration, demonstration and affirmation combine into one colourful, musical and meaningful event. Gay Pride is our way to say, “We’re here. We’re proud of who we are. We’re celebrating ourselves.”

Friday, June 16, 2006

I Want the World to Know

This will probably come as no surprise to anyone that knows me but one of my all time favorite books of the Bible is The Book of Esther. It's all there for any drama lover to enjoy. History, bit o' romance, intrigue, betrayal, a beauty pageant and a girl who saves the day! Recently during my morning devotional, I have come to a whole new appreciation for this story.
Somehow Esther was able to "pass" as a Gentile and no one knew that the Queen was a Jew. Even when circumstances turned dire, her uncle didn't "out" her but basically just said "Why do you think God put you in this position?"
"Passing" is something I learned about while attending a lecture on differences between African-American and Anglo-Saxon cultures. The speaker noted that many white people have black ancestors they don't know about because they were able to "pass" into white society. That blew me away because knowing that you had that heritage would certainly change the way you viewed the world! How many fewer hate crimes and bigots would there be?
Most of my life I've been fortunate to be able to "pass" as a straight man. Much like those who "passed" as white, I would take note of my differences and try to hide them. I would have opinions on football and would go to sporting matches. I would see action films and drink beer. I would wear plaid and listen to country music. People generally see what they want to see and so no one saw me for who I was.
The problem with passing is that it takes waaaaay too much time and energy! And that's just not the life God intended for us to lead when he put us on this Earth. Another problem is that it's not fair to the others out there that aren't able to pass as white or straight or Gentile or whatever the preferred majority is at the time. This is why I have so much respect for drag queens and really effeminate men. They have no choice but to be tough and fearless. Sadly many of them pay for this with deadend jobs, deadbeat lovers or ending up dead themselves.
Furthermore, it has started to bother me that in the gay community, many of us specify that we are only interested in "straight-acting" men or "fem" women. I get that everyone has a flavor of ice cream they prefer. However the over-emphasis on wanting/wanting to be ubermasculine or lipstick lesbian almost seems to hint that we are ashamed our sexuality on some level. We want someone that can "pass" as heterosexual.
And the fact of the matter is that everyone knows several gay people but not everyone knows that those people are gay. Bigots aren't necessarily unpleasant/bad people. Mostly they're just people who are ignorant and afraid of the unknown. Would all these marriage ammendments pass if the voters had someone gay in their lives? To answer let me put it another way: Do you think King Darius would have signed off on the massacre of all the Jews in his country if he knew his beautiful queen was Jewish?
All of this came to a head I guess last Saturday at the 7th Korean Queer Culture Festival March. (Note that it's not called Pride.) It was a demonstration to increase visibility. I went as a spectator but ended up marching in solidarity with the rest, some who could "pass" and some whose "flame burned bright" bless them! It was one of the first times in my life I decided to be visible in an unfriendly environment, waving my rainbow flag and singing along with all the silly songs.
Let's just say Queen Esther inspired me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Breaking the DaVinci Closet

It seems to me that the word "DaVinci" is on everyone's lips these days! Last month my boyfriend finished reading the book ( I bought the Korean version for him for Valentine's Day because I had read it and knew he'd enjoy it.) and started reading "The Investigation of the The Da Vinci Code" (but it was so boring he couldn't finish it). A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I attended the overhyped film version (I left underwhelmed). And to top it off, DaVinci appeared in the text that I use for my 102 writing class!
It occurred to me that in none of these exhausting ad nauseum recent references is DaVinci also identified as being gay. (Ironic that the same churches who preach intolerance have no problem at all using DaVinci's work, such as the Last Supper.) Some of us might not see this as important at all. The sexual orientation of anyone is irrelevant to what they have accomplished in life. I can totally see this point and before now would have agreed. However I ran across this quote and it completely changed my mind:

"Within the typical secondary school curriculum, homosexuals do not exist. They are 'nonpersons' in the finest Stalinist sense. They have fought no battles, held no offices, explored nowhere, written no literature, built nothing, invented nothing and solved no equations. The lesson to the heterosexual student is abundantly clear: homosexuals do nothing of consequence. To the homosexual student, the message has even greater power: no one who has ever felt as you do has done anything worth mentioning." -Gerald Unks, editor, The Gay Teen, p. 5.

Wow. When I read that statement it struck me to the core. As a student who was in love with history, it was only natural that I looked for historical characters I could relate to. I found many fellow Kansans but never discovered any famous gay people until I entered university. It was then that I discovered that gay people had existed in history and, in fact, had made great contributions! So with this mind and with Seoul's Queer Festival going on now, I've complied an incomplete albeit completely arbitary list for your entertainment, education and enlightenment! As you read over my list, consider how less our world would be without these people in it. If I've overlooked a celebrity you feel is worthy of mention, feel free to add your favorites in the "Comments" section of my blog! Happy Pride everyone!

Queer People Who Made the World a Brighter Place
(for me at any rate!)

Michaelangelo- he gave the world (among other things) the Sistine Chapel
Frida Kahlo- absolutely loved the recent film on her life and loved the DVD extra interview with her lover who sang and appeared in the movie as "La Llorna," a song and legend I learned of the summer I spent in Oaxaca with my brother. We also went to Mexico City and saw Frida's studio .

Cole Porter -He's classic! Anything Goes and of course taking Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew and making Kiss Me Kate.
Tchaikovsky -He gave the world Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. I grew up loving our record of the Pathétique Symphony.
Steven Sondheim- I recently blogged about seeing Westside Story and my former school did a great production of Into the Woods.
Leonard Bernstein- composed the music to Westside Story.

Freddy Mercury- lead singer of the ironically named Queen
Janis Joplin -Me and My Bobby Magee
Ani DiFranco -too many to mention!
Tracy Chapman -Fast Car, Gimme One Reason
Elton John- Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock, Candle in the Wind
George Michael- Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Faith, Freedom
Dusty Springfield- Son of a Preacher Man is still one of my theme songs.
Michael Stipe- I grew up on REM. Love them.
Andy Bell- Half of the group Erasure. When I worked in the basement of the university library, I discovered an Erasure tape that always made things better. Especially loved the song Chains of Love.

TE Lawrence- Lawrence of Arabia
EM Forester- His posthumously published novel Maurice, was much better than the movie, even with Hugh Grant as the lead!
William_Burroughs - spent his last years in Lawrence, Kansas. His book, Queer, was one of my first gay novels. Can't say I loved it though...too much drug use.
Willa Cather - I liked that she was from Nebraska. I read her in high school and loved her.
Emily Dickenson - As a kid, I read a Judy Blume book where the main character memorizes this Emily Dickenson poem and in the process discovers the beauty of poetry.
James Baldwin -Giovanni's Room was a beautiful novel.
Truman Capote- I read In Cold Blood because the setting was in Kansas. Didn't find out until years later that Capote was gay...Recently watched the movie.
David Sedaris- He's amazingly funny and witty. I love it when he writes about his family.
Fannie Flagg- I loved Fried Green Tomatoes and was saddened that the movie "de-gayed" this beautiful story. Also an actress with many credits, Grease for example.
Walt Whitman- One of my favorite books, Linden Hils, featured this poem by Whitman from Leaves of Grass. This is how I discovered he was gay.
Reinaldo Arenas- read Before Night Falls for my book club in Kansas. Also went by myself to see the movie in Kansas which was a big deal since it was controversial.
Dan Savage- He is smart and witty. I aspire to have a job like his someday. Only perhaps not so profane.
Michelangelo Signorile- Another great writer.

Alan Turing-developed the theory that led to the creation of Computer Science. Also one of the first to come up with the concept of "Artificial Intelligence."
George Washington Carver- another tie with my homestate of Kansas!

Oscar Wilde - "The Importance of Being Earnest" seemed to me to be Wilde talking about being in the closet. When I went and saw "Lady Windermere's Fan " in London, it seemed the same way.
Noel Coward- When I was in high school drama we had to do some scene from Blithe Spirit.
Tennessee Williams- saw Glass Menagerie in university and of course he gave the world the classic Streetcar Named Desire.

Children's Books
Tomie dePaola- Especially loved his book Clown of God.
Hans Christian Anderson -I loved his stories because they were all about being different and the quests where the characters discovered themselves.

Film Makers
Ismael Merchant and James Ivory of the Ivory-Merchant movies. I think it's amazing that they were both in business and in love. Not many couples can do both!
Gus Van Sant- My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting- I'm so excited he's doing Time Traveler's Wife! I loved that book!
Joel Schumacher- I loved The Lost Boys and I think The Client is one of the few examples of the movie being better than the book!
Clive Barker- Loved Nightbreed. I liked how he had this concept of parallel worlds coexisting side-by-side. He's also a novelist.
John Cameron Mitchell- I've seen both the movie and musical of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. A great story and love it more that Hedwig gets her start in Junction City, Kansas!
Lily Tomlin- She is so funny AND classy at the same time. Not many comics can pull that off. Enjoyed her on The West Wing.
Ellen DeGeneres- I remember the moment her character came out on television. I actually teared up a little and thought things would be different in the future. Looking back on that moment, I really don't think things have changed that much in the US.
Elvira Kurt- I discovered her during my all too short hiatus in Toronto. She's so great!
Rosie ODonnell- I watched her talk show daily when I was on my summer vacations in Kansas. I still think she's the Queen of Nice and look forward to seeing her now on The View!
Ian McKellen- He's brilliant. Especially liked him in Gods and Monsters. Looking forward to the new X-men movie! I should probably also mention he appeared in the DaVinci Code.
Leslie Cheung- I loved Farewell My Concubine and really want to see Happy Together. I was saddened to hear he committed suicide. Even when you have it all, living in the closet is no life at all.
Rupert Everett- I fell for him in My Best Friend's Wedding. I think represents gay people really well and I admire that about him.
Sara Gilbert- originally she caught my attention as Melissa Gilbert's little sister but then I loved her character on Roseanne. Such a dry wit!
Cynthia Nixon- I wish I was Carrie but in truth, I'm more Miranda (or Charlotte).
Greg Louganis- I read his biography and really liked it. I love watching men's diving. Um.. yeah.
Tom Ford-the man that breathed new life into Gucci. Plus he's easy on the eyes...

Indifference vrs. Tolerance

The other day I was reading an article in one of those "fag rags" and came across a quote from someone from the "Queer as Folk" TV show that said he wasn't advocating tolerance but indifference. That got me thinking about how I see myself in this society and this world. Let's just assume for the moment, shall we, that I can wave my fabulous fairy wand (no wisecracks!) and *voila!* the whole world would be indifferent to the fact that some of us ARE different.

Now imagine this world with me. Would it be one great happy family? Or would there be a sense of loss? How much would I miss the identity of being set apart, a special member of a "family" with our "gaydar", code words and inside jokes ? Would there be no more gay literature, clubs, music, art, dance, politics or sensibility? Would we still be "camp?" Or would we be totally mainstream?

I have to think that in this world there would still be cruising and places for cruising. Consequently there would be still clubs but they wouldn't necessarily be classified as "straight" or "gay" but perhaps "rainbow"- straight people I'm noticing breeders are already flocking to our hangouts because we have the better music, dancefloors and entertainment. This phenomenon is good in a way (more people being comfortable with homo-eroticism) and bad in another (you might have to filter someone through the gaydar where usually you can skip that step in a gay club or bar).

I guess rather than indifference or tolerance in this world, I'd like to have appreciation. Thanks right folks, appreciation! "The Gays" have a great sense of humor, fashion, and taste. We are compassionate and empathetic as well and make great care-givers of children, sick and others alike. We have made significant contributions to cultures in the past and present in numerous many areas (literature, art, music, and theatre just to name a few).

I guess for today, the here and now, we will have to take what we can get, whether it's tolerance, indifference or appreciation. And "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow!"