The Gays. They are all over the news lately. I'm not just talking about the latest Republican conservative homobasher doing the naked YMCA with a male escort (this week's is Rep. Richard Curtis of Washington State). Whether it's Larry Craig's lovelorn men's room foot, Obama's tour with ex-Gay Rev. Donnie McClurkin, or even the outing of Dumbledore, Gay news items are all the rage. And why shouldn't they be? What other topic evokes such anger? What other subject can cause a conversation (or even Entertainment Weekly's message board) to devolve into sermons, with people intoning the Bible like the sky was swirling above them in almighty agreement? Certainly not the wars causing all that death. Maybe evolution? Science? Booor-ring! Let's talk about the Gays!
Days before the Dumbledore reveal, I had just come off a whirlwind of gay activity (no, it's not going there) with my mother (see?). We had just attended a PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) convention in Washington, D.C. As two straight single women this may seem like an unexpected choice for a family vacation but we were there for my mom's company, Open Closet, a family friendly gay greeting card line. Open Closet came about when my mom noticed that gay card selections in stores tended towards the raunchy or only addressed couples. There were no cards from two same sex parents to their children or from a child to his or her gay parents for holidays, like Father's Day. Essentially there were no cards honoring the family traditions celebrated by greeting cards for the straights. So my mom launched Open Closet and a year later we found ourselves at PFLAG hearing stories about the challenges of coming to terms with one's sexuality in parts of the country that are not tolerant of homosexuality.
While the center stage of the drama "Boo Gays" is occupied by conservative religious groups there are other players lurking in the background, over by the fake tree and cardboard sun. This is a group of people who don't identify themselves as homophobic, per se, (who would want to be some crazy Bible-thumper?) but still don't accept homosexuals as "regular" people. They say things like:
I'm okay with gay people so long as: 1) they don't hit on me 2) I don't have to see them act gay in public 3) they don't try to make their lifestyle appear normal and appealing to my children.
My favorite of these types of comments is that gay couples in public are offensive. Aren't all couples in public offensive?
To me, this tacit form of homophobia is scarier than anything Christian groups can "Thou art" on their blogs and newsletters. It's what compels politicians who I want to vote for, like Obama, Bill Richardson, and Christopher Dodd, to oppose gay marriage for the sake of voters who are "okay with Gays but..." All three support civil unions and believe gay couples should have the same rights as married heterosexual couples, so then if it's not a legal matter, it's clearly a cultural one. By legislating against marriage, gay culture is once again marginalized, part of a fringe circuit, something outside of the "normal" straight world. A gay couple raising a family is somehow weirder than housewives swinging around stripper poles at the local Crunch for their husbands. Hmm.
In years to come, hopefully the ban on gay marriage and general homophobia will be just another patch on the American heritage quilt of folksy bigotry. Like quaint minstrel shows and women not being allowed to vote.
Meanwhile, there's no Halloween parade in the Castro tonight because in recent years the event had become too overrun with violent hate-mongering agitators.