Today the sea in the Gulf of Mexico is burning. Added to the slick of heavy crude oil toxic, jet-black smoke polluting the air we breathe. The azure, pristine water marred with acrid plumes of shit colored oil. The marshlands and beaches painted brown, the life there dying because we refuse to doubt our dependence on oil. It is officially one of the worst man-made environmental disasters ever.
Yet, the massed people of the United States, indeed the world, politely ignored it. Until now. Blame is being apportioned, asses are being kicked yet today I will fill my truck with gas and think nothing of it. I am complicit; I am responsible yet I do nothing. Nothing.
It is maybe just the analogy I need to explain the human disaster caused by religious based homophobia that causes pain and suffering to those who live in it’s shadow.
Frankly, I don’t give daily thought to the fact that I am part of a community that is routinely demonized just as I choose to forget that hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spew into the sea. I have learned to live side by side a huge number of people encouraged to hate me and people just like me because of the way we were born and the sexual preferences we have.
Politically I have sat motionless on the sidelines whilst living in the USA. I have not demonstrated like I did in London, I have not written to my representative in Congress expressing my outrage at how my rights are diminished or devalued. I put up with things just the way they are because I feel powerless, that I am just one man with one lone voice against the angry mob.
Nowadays I am resigned, whenever I am with men who do not know that I am gay and say things that are blatantly offensive, to keep my mouth shut. I do not blame myself for their views but as I grow older I am less likely to defend my community or myself. It simply isn’t worth it. I am tired of being the uppity gay.
I am exhausted by confronting inequity and hate in my life and I am scared. Scared that I will not be able to fully defend myself against their physical abuse.
My entire career as an artist has been to serve the gay community. My plays and films aimed at men like me. I have been hugely admired (and reviled) as a filmmaker but even my gay friends do not respect that I describe myself as a ‘gay filmmaker’ a gay man who makes films for and about our community. They muse that I could have done so much better for myself if I had abandoned my principles. If I had gone ‘mainstream’.
All I ever wanted to be was a gay artist who uses the language and locations of our gay lives. I am proud to have done so. I am proud to have served my community thus.
I wonder how much damage we do ourselves in the way that we choose to be seen? How can we expect those who loathe us to accept us when we do so little to let them know who we are?
What is my part in the public relation disaster that still prevents fellow citizens from owning and celebrating my existence? What am I doing in my community to help those angry people understand who I am? How can I expect the mainstream to accept my demands for equality when I essentially live in a hermetically sealed ghetto?
How can I expect my gay fellow travelers to start reaching into their pockets and paying for a PR campaign that somehow celebrates our diversity when all we are seen to want is the right to fuck?
Call me old-fashioned but the love I have for another man always felt far more subversive than the act of fucking.
How do you say ‘I love you’ to another man? What does it mean when two men say that they love each other? Having sex with a man is easy-isn’t it? That’s why we all do it as often as we do..don’t we? But to say ‘I love you’ to another man is perhaps the most shameful phrase I ever uttered. My tongue, swelling in my mouth, choking me..rather than say those three tiny words to another man.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
What I know for sure about love between men is that others condemn the sanctity of that love. That I still feel a vague embarrassment when I am seen to hold another man’s hand in the street.
We, as a community, do not promote ourselves as hopeless romantics but as half-naked sex maniacs. By doing so we have become unwitting witnesses for the prosecution. By publicly sexualizing everything we do we devalue what we have. On Facebook the majority of my gay friends are shirtless in their profile pictures. When questioned why he was bearing his chest in his Facebook profile picture one erudite gay friend said that he was ‘proud’ of his body and wanted to show it off. It seems like a simple enough answer but is this what gay pride has boiled down to, our very own hard-fought perestroika reduced to this?
It seems so..undignified.
In West Hollywood there is a large poster on Santa Monica Blvd for a gay removal company; two half-naked men carry a small box grinning broadly. At the premiere LA gay bar The Abbey there is another huge poster celebrating it’s twentieth year. Three massively built and tattooed men, one of them mixing a martini on the rock hard abs of another; their naked truncated bodies engaged in what may be fellatio.
It was past this very poster out walking one evening last week when I had a full beer can thrown at me that very narrowly missed my head and landed squarely on my chest. The accompanying homophobic insults are not worth repeating.
I hated the smell of beer on my clothes and the pain in my heart but I hated that poster far more. It’s as useful as a picture of happy, smiling Jews counting dollar bills outside the Jewish Community Center.
The way we choose to be seen is the way we will be perceived. I am told constantly that there are thousands of gay men who do not go to gay bars, who live happy lives in monogamous relationships who work quietly and steadfastly beyond the glitz of the gay ghetto but, amazingly, I have never met those men. I don’t know what they look like. I have never seen them, been introduced to them. If I have never met those men then those who misunderstand us certainly never have.
The acrid smoke and crude oil are coming ashore; it destroys almost everything in its path. If we do nothing perhaps nature will deal with it, break it up over thousands of years so I don’t have to think about it. But, irritatingly, I am not that kind of man. I worry about the herons and the oysters and the dolphins. I am outraged by the incompetence and greed, just like I am every time my community is attacked because we do so little to let them know who we are, what we are, how we are.