Gays are scary people.
Not the gay next door who provides for his parents and carpools his nieces to day care. Or the fellow who fixes my car. Or the lady who cuts my hair.
It’s only the media-hyped homosexual that makes me cringe and withdraw. Those clusters of erotic exhibitionists captured on camera for our viewing displeasure. Scurrilous straights cause me discomfort. But vulgar gays make me ashamed.
Harvey Fierstein has expressed impatience with people like me. He once called us “leeches” sitting silent on the sidelines while proud gays pave the way to equal rights for the majority of us “slackers.”
I like Harvey a lot. I admire and respect him for his courage and integrity. I think he’s a superb actor and writer and a fine role model. He gives gays spirit.
But I don’t think he understands that most gays don’t want to be enslaved by the duplicities of straight society. We don’t want to clone our ethics, or edit our emotions, or conform our lives to any corrupted concept of happily ever after.
If I could sit down with Harvey Fierstein, I’d tell him I’ve been hopelessly in love with the same woman for 43 years. But we won’t wed, not even though we work to support those who choose to. Not even if the Supreme Court makes marriage rights a reality.
Because, for most of my generation, love is our legacy. Not marriage. We aren’t joined by dowry, arrangement, prestige, or necessity. We aren’t bound by license, law, or nuptial contract. We don’t stay together for the sake of religion, parents, children, social stigma, economics, or expediency.
We’re connected only by love. Since time began, it’s has been the code of our culture. And, since love is holy, what we have is sacred.
So, I’d assure Harvey that – even though the alleged “gay agenda” seeks to stir us into the debauchery of that marriage melting pot – wedlock isn’t the priority of our majority.
It isn’t even our dream. Our culture is just more valuable, valiant, imaginative, romantic and hopeful than that.
I’d tell Harvey we dream of the day when gay men, who have the highest rate of disposable income in America, stop wasting their resources on purchasing the promise of eternal youth and utilize it to create safe havens in the heartland instead.
We imagine gay doctors, nurses, therapists and health care officials joining forces to build medical centers. Gay lawyers combining talents to establish legal firms. Gay singers and comedians backing gay-owned-and-operated restaurants and nightclubs. Gay athletes creating gay health complexes. Gay financiers building banks. Gay actors starting theaters. Gay educators forming charter schools. Gay religious leaders developing denominations that embrace gay people by interpreting ancient text in the spirit of divine law.
Our desire is to cultivate our culture, not to abolish it.
To elevate, not to assimilate.
To create, not to copy.
To lead, not to follow.
To record our history, not to erase it.
I’d question Harvey as to the purpose of new laws, when the constitutional law of equality has not yet been upheld for all Americans – guaranteeing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable.
I’d wonder aloud why we continue to chase after a society that doesn’t rise to the talent and tenderness of our own.
Why we insist on being accepted by those who haven’t earned our respect.
Why the blessing of love isn’t regarded as its own reward.
And why we must diminish the sanctity of ourselves by kowtowing to those who quietly curse us.
Finally, I’d extend my arms in friendship to Harvey Fierstein, asking his pardon on behalf of all (perceived) leeches marching proudly, quietly, differently, but wholeheartedly beside him.
Because I think he understands we hold these truths to be self-evident:
That cowards follow the crowd.
That courage follows the heart.
That virtue makes equality inevitable.
And, that straights are scary people – too.
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This freshly edited, updated essay by Marguerite Quantaine first appeared in the St. Petersburg Times nine years ago. (Copyright by Quantaine © 2004 • 2013)
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