The first time I realized that the word “gay” did not mean what I thought it meant was when I was in San Francisco (of course). I was out there for a family vacation when I was about 14, and I was walking with my brother through Golden Gate Park, and I saw a congregation of men who were all upwards of about 250 pounds, all of it muscle. I also noticed that many of them had acne on their backs, which I would later learn probably meant that these guys were using steroids. They were all wearing wife beaters, Daisy Duke cut off shorts and Doc Marten boots. They were arm-wrestling, lifting weights and doing pushups. These were not the lisping, limp-wristed stereotypes that I had been briefed on. These gays could quite easily kick somebody’s ass.
This stereotype took another beating five years later, when I stepped out of the exit at the Smithsonian Metro stop and found myself in the middle of the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. (I was 19, and this was pre-internet, and like any pre-internet 19-year-old I was completely clueless that this event was happening at all. I was more concerned with drinking Milwaukee’s Best and listening to Fugazi at ear-splitting volume.)
There were around 300,000 people on the Mall, and they were not stereotypes at all. They looked completely normal, except we had as a nation determined that they weren’t. AIDS was killing gay people practically wholesale, it was still completely ok in a lot of states to discriminate, gays and lesbians were slandered on television and in the movies, and in a lot of localities, beating up homosexuals might as well have been considered a varsity sport.
These people on the Mall were scared and angry, and their concerns were met with stunning callousness by people like Senator Jesse Helms, who routinely denied funding for AIDS research and simply advised them that if they “stopped what they were doing,” AIDS would go away.We don’t live in 1993 anymore. All the old fears and stereotypes are being revealed as utter nonsense.
Kids grew up on Will and Grace. The boy bands they all used to listen to almost inevitably had at least one member come out of the closet. Nobody is buying the garbage that was considered dogma just two generations ago. The military recently released a report that shows that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell did absolutely nothing to reduce morale or our readiness. Even football players, the most alpha of the alpha males, are recognizing the futility and the stupidity of preventing gays and lesbians from marrying.
Let me preface this by saying that if the Baltimore Ravens stadium were on fire, and I had just finished drinking a six pack of beer, as a Redskins fan I would do nothing to help put the fire out. But I was impressed by Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo's bravery in coming out for gay marriage in the way that he did. I was equally impressed by Vikings punter Chris Kluwe in his defense of Mr. Ayanbadejo when Maryland State Delegate Emmet C. Burns said that the Ravens ownership should “inhibit such expressions from your employee.” Kluwe’s defense has to be read to be believed.
The main point of Kluwe’s letter to Mr. Burns is that African Americans should be the first people to recognize bigotry and fear. If you go over the standard slanders and falsehoods that were used against black people, many of them have new versions that apply to gays. “Gays try to recruit people into their lifestyle” is simply this decades “Black men like to rape white women.” “Gays are weak and effeminate” is another version of “Blacks are lazy and ignorant.” Sadly, Mr. Burns and many other African American political leaders don’t seem to find any of this familiar, which I suppose could be viewed as at least a measure of progress in American race relations, but not really.
Can we just get over this? How on earth is sexual activity between two consenting adults the business of the government? How does gay marriage affect yours? We’ve burned enough calories on this, and none of the apocalyptic warning of Gay America have come true (unless you read The Washington Times, and nobody really does.) Let this one go, people. You will be amazed at how little it will all matter once you do.