Yesterday’s podcast with Susan Ryan-Vollmar found me babbling briefly about the old days — the mid-1960s in Greenwich Village. Maybe nothing’s more boring than hearing about how it used to be, but maybe that can be a useful perspective.
As a married lesbian mother, Susan certainly has her own investment in the pending drive to put an amendment in our commonwealth constitution stopping same-sex marriage. Among her concerns is that her kids not get subjected to a year and a half of screaming about how they are inferior because of their home life, their two moms.
In his early 20s and openly gay, Ryan is impatient with social progress. He also expects his generation and the next to drive the anti-gay old farts out of the state house, as well as crushing any anti-equality legislation that lawmakers or citizens might promote. As a long-term Democratic and progressive activist in her early 30s, Lynne is neither as pessimistic as Susan, who considers that the amendment might advance and might even pass nor as optimistic as Ryan about Massachusetts’ gay friendliness of the near future.
In the midst of all this, as an early boomer, I recalled my own experiences as well as those of my gay friends from the sand box onward. One was my summer and vacation buddy from pre-school. He lived in a small town in farming country in West Virginia. He was quite literally a boy in the band. He was bright and funny and nice. Most people figured he was a homosexual early on, but nobody beat him up. Many boys avoided him. He didn’t speak about his sexual identity and any feelings of isolation, even with me, until our early 20s. That’s a little sad. We did share everything else. He was likely 99.44% sure it would not be a problem, but in the spirit of the times, he kept quiet.
Back to the 1960s, the old stereotype of the mincing, lisping queen lived in Greenwich Village. I had grown up in Virginia and elsewhere knowing women in Boston marriages. They did not affect identifying mannerisms. Again, in the spirit of the times, the behaviors that produced such films as Boys in the Band had some basis. In that period at home in New Jersey, I was aware that homosexuals or suspected ones, male or female, might get assaulted. There was certainly no overt gay-rights movement to provide protection and equality.
As Ryan and Susan note, things are better here and in many urban areas, but in many parts of the country, it’s still not safe to be out. I lament our social retardation, as the rest of the First World seems to pass us in equality and egalitarianism.
Another friend from college grew up as the oldest of 12 children in South Carolina. He and a brother are gay. They are Black. It wasn’t always easy for them growing up and they were cautious. Both moved far from Columbia to be adults. My chum lives in Somerville, where it seems OK to be out. He makes a great and active godfather to one of my boys. I solemnized his marriage. That is all life as it should be.
Not There Yet
Last night, we podcasters kicked around the dueling ideas of how far we have come in gay rights and how far we have to go for real equality. I confess that I held the idea in college and shortly after that my generation would continue its progressive behavior. A funny thing happened on the way to equality. Not only have the boomers aged predictably toward conservative political leanings, but many were never involved in the early struggles. They never marched for civil rights or to end war or for women’s rights or for gay rights. They were bystanders, voyeurs who had many of their parents’ ideals.
Perhaps I’m foolish again with Ryan’s generation. Yet, poll after poll of those in their teens and 20s are promising. Not only are those groups not anti-gay, they are indifferent. They don’t feel any threat from two homosexuals marrying and getting the benefits thereof. They may be impossible to manipulate with fear or hate.
Now, if we can quash this amendment thing one way or another, we can get onto real issues that need addressing.
P.S. I should cross-post this at Marry in Massachusetts. I’ve walked back onto my own turf.