In Hollywood you don't come out as gay. Heck, being gay is expected. But to come out as Conservative...and worst of all, a Conservative gay...that's really pushing it (and man, it's just downright weird).
But I detect a bit of a trend recently...with this post by a Gay Conservative screenwriter being an example. It's a long post, and worth reading it all. I feel he underplays the importance of Proposition 8 in California (the ballot measure that removed marriage rights from gay couples) and the resulting hostility toward the Mormons who financed the measure, but that's fine. Here are some excerpts:
I probably should have done this a long time ago, but it has been too convenient (though hardly easy) to simply keep my mouth shut and try not to displease people or get myself into “trouble” in so-called polite society. I’ve always been a people pleaser, constantly changing my opinion to suit others - and frankly, most of the time, I’ve actually been afraid of saying what I really think. But I’m pushing 50 now, I’ve been through a lot – as we all have - and I simply cannot do it anymore.
I am gay and I am American. I didn’t choose either, but those are the facts. I have spent a lifetime working hard to overcome guilt and fear about being gay – and in my lifetime, I have seen a lot of progress in our society regarding the acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships. No matter what obstacles gay people have faced, and no matter who was President, things have always moved forward. That’s a good thing, and at this late stage in my life I see that America is one of few places on earth where that is possible. A lot of people who do not live here are well aware of America as a place of change. But it has taken me all these decades to understand and appreciate how unique and special that is in this world.
...I always had a sense of being in a luxurious bubble – that could burst at any moment. On the morning of 9/11, the bubble burst....I was glad to be thousands of miles away in sunny LA, which had always seemed to me like a safe place. But as a boy, I had watched those towers go up from our terrace, and I was stunned just like everybody else at the magnitude and horror of the destruction. I am grateful that I was not there to see body parts hitting the sidewalks, or to smell the burning bodies and debris, which I was told you could smell way uptown for weeks. I got out of there just in time. For once, my timing had been perfect (I had relocated in July 2001).
But here in LA, something equally bizarre was happening – or my eyes were being opened to it for the very first time – and it was almost as difficult to comprehend as the devastation. Literally within hours of the attack, an old school chum, now also living in LA, forwarded me a mass email from MoveOn.org – urging people not to give in to their feelings of fear and anger (normal in a grieving process), but to ask why this violence had been directed at us and to take a hard look at what we had done to inspire such an act.
I had never heard of MoveOn.org before. I had always just assumed that my friends and I were on the same smart, liberal wavelength – wanting equal rights for gays and women and minorities, cynical about the US government, distrustful of evangelical Christians and rightwing bigots, suspicious of American history as portrayed in patriotic films and in the textbooks of my boyhood – the usual stuff. The few times I had voted, I simply hit every lever that had a “D” next to it. That’s how I was raised. That’s what I believed in.
But this email was different. I met my friend for dinner and we talked about the attacks, the details that were coming out, this weird religion that appeared to be behind it all. I knew nothing about Islam or the Middle East, except that they had been calling for “death to America” recently and there was always a lot of violence over Israel – which frankly, I could not even locate on a map. I always pictured Israel as an island where Great Britain is. And I was 41 years old.
...Meanwhile, back in LA, my old school friend paid lip service to the tragedy of it all and to the disturbing emotions that were running high. But she was always quick to remind me of what the MoveOn.org email had said: we needed to ask why - and we needed to learn to listen. She had taken a Native American Talking Stick Circle workshop; she and others were taught to pass the “talking stick” and to listen quietly as whoever’s turn it was to hold the stick, spoke. When you got the stick, then it was your turn to speak. I didn’t argue with her, though the anecdote struck me as more than condescending. And the meaning was clear: 3000 people had been murdered in Manhattan, but it was just part of a broader human dialogue. America was arrogant and hadn’t listened, and now we were paying the price – so don’t be emotional, we deserve it. We need to rise above the violence and hear what the perpetrators are trying to tell us – after all, they are downtrodden. We owe them.
I tried to process this line of thinking, but it was so soon after the attack, it only added to my guilt, confusion and anger. Meanwhile, the MoveOn.org emails kept being forwarded to me everyday, with similar messages. It began to seem like MoveOn.org did not want ordinary people like myself to go through a full grieving process – which would include, at the very least, a period of anger (denial), and then sadness. There seemed to be a mass effort afoot to undermine peoples’ natural human reaction to 9/11 – to take away the power of their emotions, and try to replace those emotions with correct thinking ASAP. (In retrospect, someone must have been very afraid of those emotions.) I was very torn about this. I certainly didn’t want to antagonize anyone. I had always thought I was a cool person. Maybe I wasn’t? Part of me felt guilty for being angry. I wondered if it was wrong - when in fact it was perfectly natural.
...People I knew were generally very quick to blame their own country for the attack, and this notion was spreading fast. The ongoing email campaign didn’t hurt. Under most circumstances, I would have been happy to join in with this idea – there was comfort in it. It was familiar. But for the first time in my life, I felt it was inappropriate, and too easy. I began to realize that I did not really believe in the knee-jerk attitudes I had affected for most of my life, in New York. Like most people, I was too worried about what was yet to come – and I also looked back.
I had actually had my first taste of radical Islam in 1989, while I was working at Book-of-the-Month Club. This was long before the US invasion of Iraq. BOMC was a stodgy, unprofitable, harmless little company that was constantly being sold and bought by bigger corporations. We were always on the lookout for books that would sell, since so few did. Then, in 1989, our Editor-in-Chief, a prim and proper British lady who idolized Jane Austen, decided to offer Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses. I had never heard of Salman Rushdie and the book sounded like a literary bore.
The next thing we knew, the FBI contacted our Editor-in-Chief. They told her that the Ayatollah Khomeini had declared a fatwa on BOMC because we had dared to print the book - which had the effrontery to fictionalize an incident in the (probably already fictional) life of the Prophet Mohammed. We could all be killed. None of us had ever heard of fatwa before. But the idea of shrouded, machete-wielding crazies coming up in the elevators to slaughter all the book editors was bizarre and more than a little terrifying. The company name was removed from the lobby directory, and an armed guard was hired to stand in reception, right next to the Oxford English Dictionary. Guns had come to BOMC – and not because we wanted them. Meanwhile, much to the surprise of ordinary citizens like me, the FBI was quietly taking these threats very seriously.
If we have brought this violence on ourselves, then we’ve also certainly bent over backwards to whitewash that same violence during the past eight years. And yet nothing has changed.
...The point is: that old, perverted German ideology known as Nazism, which we all agree is a bad thing, has never gone out of style – it just moved mid-east. I’m not sure many Americans realize how big a part Swastikas and Nazi salutations play in the radical Islamic world.
In 2006, I had to update my own book, Split Image, for a new, 10th anniversary edition. I very much wanted to add an epilogue about Berry Berenson’s death on 9/11, which was always on my mind. When Split Image first came out in 1996, many people had remarked on the book’s snide tone. I thought they were just angry over the gay content, and I was hurt. But re-reading it after several years, I was shocked at my own snideness. Peppered throughout the entire book were snotty asides and insinuations about American hypocrisy, aspersions about how conformist and rigid our society was, how evil Republicans were, the whole shebang. And I realized something awful: I had just been parroting what I was taught all my life from watching television – which was where I got most of my notions about the world while I was growing up. So I performed major surgery, made the text more neutral – like Switzerland – except, of course, where it directly applied to the story of Anthony Perkins.
...What have I learned since then? I have learned that the word “conservative” isn’t, in fact, a dirty word; sometimes, it simply refers to peoples’ belief about finances and government spending. A lot of that makes sense to me. But growing up, I always thought it meant something much more sinister and backward and evil, perpetuated by what I saw on television and in movies. Republicans were American Nazis, working to put black people back in chains, force women to have illegal back alley abortions, and force gay people to turn straight and convert to Christianity.
...I have over the past eight years also observed – and experienced the lash of – an increasing unwillingness by otherwise decent, intelligent people to tolerate points of view that do not adhere to “politically correct” guidelines. In other words, the “talking stick” schtick no longer asks that you merely listen, it demands that you shut up. And you must conform. Just days after Sarah Palin’s powerhouse speech at the Republican National Convention – before Tina Fey had even unleashed her incredible spoof – I attended a business lunch where withering remarks about the newbie candidate went down around the table like well-lined-up dominoes. Palin was already being labeled a “self-parody”; it wasn’t Tina Fey’s fault. When it came my turn to pipe in, I decided to try chivalry, and simply said I liked the lady.
Silence. Whoops. Party over. Lesson learned: don’t defend the white trash.
Everyone in LA – or NY or SF - should try saying something un-PC in “polite” company. Just to experience the sting. Talk about change: in an instant, you begin to understand how single women in Salem must have felt. Suddenly, you feel naked, exposed, wishing you had Tourette syndrome instead of common sense. After a few such experiences - and they usually involve some degree of verbal abuse - you start thinking twice about speaking your mind. Funny, I thought that was what we were all supposed to be fighting for. Diversity and freedom of thought and expression are supposed to be what makes us different from most other societies. Sadly, I am only just beginning to understand this concept now, the hard way, in middle age, having never known anything else and taken it for granted most of my life.
There's much more. Do check it out...
Hat Tip: GayPatriot...