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!)

Artists
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 .

Composers
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.

Musicians
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.

Novelists
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.
Poets
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.
Columnists
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.

Scientists
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!

Playwrights
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!
Comics
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!
Actors
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).
Atheletes
Greg Louganis- I read his biography and really liked it. I love watching men's diving. Um.. yeah.
Designers
Tom Ford-the man that breathed new life into Gucci. Plus he's easy on the eyes...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

A few comments here :)

You're missing Vin Diesel on your actors list, HA! (Ha! funny, not HA in your face)...although, your list was of great actors...nevermind.

And, (re: DaVinci code) if you hadn't read the book, would you have thought the movie was better? I felt let down mostly because I knew all the good stuff that was going to happen.

In completely unrelated news but I'm sitting at the computer, Kurt Vonnegut is now on my MySpace contact page...I wonder if its really him!?

nat

Anonymous said...

I LOVED the Time Traveler's Wife. Didn't realize that they were making a movie. When's it supposed to open?

Aaron and I went to see X-Men 3 last Saturday. It was okay. I'm still not thrilled with how much the characters deviate from the cartoon.

You're one of the people who make my world a brighter place. :)

Jill

Kethryvis said...

There's a bill winding its way through the state Assembly here in Cali that would require schools to teach about famous LGBT and their contributions to the state/country/world. It's causing quite an uproar, even here in supposedly open and welcoming California (even though Cali is a "blue" state, it's only blue on the coastline... everything inland is very red).

I'm kind of of two minds. On the one hand we need to teach kids early that "just because they're different doesn't make them less worthy" but at the same time if we keep going this direction, before too long we'll have so many sub sub sub sub groups we won't have time to teach anything else.

It's quite a conundrum.

Record Store Geek said...

Damn you! You've shattered my reality. Sara Gilbert is a lesbian? She was on my "list". And here I thought I actually had a chance with her.

Lance Noe said...

you forgot, oddly, famous teachers and educators. Socrates, Aristotle (yes, i know i spelled it wrong but he's dead, so who gives a f***), Sapho (what you got against the ancients?) Composers -Ravel, Saint-Sans, AARON COPELAND (he composed the rodeo suite - wonder how he got that idea? "steak! it's whats for dinner!"), BENJAMIN BRITTEN (he was very out and caused HUGE scandals in britian. he wrote all his operas for his tenor lover Peter Pears.) Leaders of the world - ALEXANDER THE F**ING GREAT! and of course ME!

Jolie said...

I also didn't know that Sara Gilbert was gay. She moved from Greg's list onto mine!

Very interesting post. I learned a lot. I had no idea about many of these people. While I do think that sexual orientation should not classify a person. I do agree with you that it's important for the youth (not just gay youth) to learn of the great people who made and changed history and were also gay. It's hard to like yourself if you can't identify with anyone like you. I believe that young girls no longer have this problem of wondering if they could be president (although it's yet to happen) or really be anything they want to be. They know of their self worth by the strong women they see around them. The model is no longer 'barefoot and pregnant'.

I do think that Rock Hudson is worth mentionally. He bravely came out and told the world he had Aids, which helped change the American viewpoint on homosexuals, and also helped get recognition to the disease.

abogado-david said...

Emily Dickinson? DANG! I was so hot for her....

No, actually, on some of these historical figures, I'm wondering how good the evidence is or if this is just speculation. I mean, Capote--well, that's pretty obvious. But George Washington Carver? Come on! Man, quit it. You're taking all the interesting Kansans! I mean, if you've got Melissa Ethridge AND GW Carter-- well hell! Throw us breeder Kansans a bone, will ya? Think of all the poor straight Kansan boys who would like to be cool, but they only have Dwight Eisenhower and Bob Dole to look up to--they're going to think they'll have to act gay just to have a chance to amount to anything!! I'd go drown my sorrows in some soulful Dusty Springfield, but I CAN'T! APPARENTLY SHE'S GAY TOO! All this time I thought I was the only one who could ever reach... oh, let's just not even go there! But maybe someday she'll switch sides again, like Ani DiFranco did--or did she? Oh, it's just all too confusing. I'll just go watch something undeniably hetero and masculine--like the new Superman movie....

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