Why It's Time to Reject Gay Separatism

This week, my guest on The Sewers of Paris (a podcast about how entertainment has changed the lives of gay men) is Raymond Miller, a Canadian actor who had doubts about coming out of the closet. But once he finally made the leap, he discovered a big huge queer community waiting to catch him.

The week that this episode comes out is the week that the Supreme Court overturned marriage bans across the United States, which is amazing and revolutionary and I'm still kind of in disbelief that it's finally happened. It changes a lot, and not just laws about marriage. It means an end to one of the biggest, most visible ways in which queer people are oppressed.

But what is that going to mean for gay men? If we're not fighting oppression, is there anything that we have in common anymore? Well, yeah, there is one thing -- one common thing that we all want. Each other. Whether it's friendship, or brotherhood, falling in love or falling into bed, we'll always seek each other out.

And the less we have to deal with oppression, the more energy we can devote towards finding and being good to each other.

For my recommendations this week, please set aside some time for The Boys in the Band. And if you've already seen it, watch Making the Boys, the 2011 documentary about it. You can find the movie on YouTube, but you might enjoy reading the play instead. It's a beautiful and heartbreaking depiction of all the ways that gay men use our own pain to inflict pain on others. In the world of The Boys in the Band, we come together for comfort and companionship, but we come so battered and abused by the world that we can't help battering and abusing each other. Whether you watch it or read it, The Boys in the Band is a vital text, but I should warn you: brace yourself.

Imagine what the lives of gay men would have been, 50 years ago, if they had been as accepted by society as we are today, or will be in another decade? How much damage and suffering could they have avoided, whether inflicted by the world or by themselves? But with the acceptance that we now enjoy comes a new challenge: we don't have that common bond of outsider status that once connected us. And sure, we'll still share a bond in that we're all interested in what's in each other's pants. But that interest is probably not enough to constitute a fully realized community.

So I think now's a good time not just to appreciate each other and everything that queers have accomplished together, but to ask ourselves, "okay, I'm gay -- now what ELSE am I?"

Fortunately, John Waters has some helpful advice in this area. For my second recommendation, I want you to go watch John Waters's 2015 commencement address at the Rhode Island School of Design. I can't even imagine how much controversy must have surrounded the decision to invite him, but thank God they did, because here's what he has to say:

Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers. Gay is not enough anymore. It's a good start, but I don't want my memoirs to be in the gay section near true crime at the back of the bookstore next to the bathrooms. No! I want it up front with the best-sellers.

In other words, he's saying times are changing. These days we're accepted in more and more places. For the first time, the straight world is extending us a welcoming hand without asking us to change. Let's see what happens if we accept it.