Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy Coming-Out Day!

I had this whole long post about little old men going septic in my head, but then I just lost the will to type it all out. Instead, let me leave you with a Wayback Machine comparison of what things were like when I was sixteen, versus now, twenty-five years later (as a starting point). . . .

*woo-woo sounds of a time machine ramping up*

Twenty-five years ago, WHAM! put out a video that implied that George Michael was straight. Come to think of it, they also released a single ("Work") that pretty much declared right out that he was straight. (George, George, how little we teenaged girls knew ye.)

This year, a tweener pop star with a devastating hook ("Call Me Maybe") produced a video in which it became apparent that the boy she liked was gay, and the joke was on her.

Twenty-five years ago, I was two years away from making about a dozen friends in Chicago, all of them gay men.

This year, I have one close gay male friend who survived the AIDS epidemic. One.

Twenty-five years ago, as a matter of fact, "AIDS" came into being as a name. The other candidates were LAV and HTLV-III. The name(s) replaced what it had been called, either GRID (gay-related immune disorder) or "gay cancer."

This year, the majority of HIV positive people will be straight women of color, although the rate of HIV infection is again increasing in young gay men, who now see the disease as a manageable chronic condition, rather than the nine-month diagnosis-to-death thing it was in 1986.

Twenty-five years ago, my oldest friend was raped by some guys in our high school. He was targeted because he was gay.

This year, there was a special flag team composed of GLTBQ high-school students in a gay-pride parade in Bigton.

Twenty-three years ago, I saw posters in the windows of restaurants and bars in Chicago that showed the photographs of men suspected of having AIDS. They were put up as a public service to other gay men, so they knew who to avoid. The practice started in San Francisco in the early 1980's, when there was no test for HIV, and people's first symptoms were either Kaposi's sarcoma or PCP pneumonia.

Last week I had to explain Kaposi's sarcoma to a much-younger nurse who'd never heard of it, and who'd never realized that the AIDS epidemic was a big thing.

Fifteen years ago, Ellen DeGeneres came out on television, on the Oprah Winfrey show. That led some obnoxious so-called Christian minister to refer to her as "Ellen Degenerate." (Her response? "I heard that one in the fourth grade.")

Six years ago, Neil Patrick Harris coming out prompted a collective yawn from the public and, as far as I can tell, failed to incense any obnoxious so-called Christians.

Twenty-five years ago, I knew no gay people who were married. This year my friends Joe and George will get married. Deena and Deb have been married for five years and have a second baby on the way, and Sid and Sam are celebrating their tenth anniversary.

Happy CODay to all my gay and genderqueer buddies. Even though all of you are so far out that the closet's now lost beyond the curve of the earth, you all had tough times. Here's to real equality, the valuation of all people on the strength of their character, and the freedom to love whomever you love. Let's work to make it happen in a fraction of the time it took us to get this far.


bobbie said...


Anonymous said...

Bless you. This long time reader and longer time lesbian really appreciates this post.

Donna. W said...

What, no comments? I agree, but I have to stay in a closet with my agreement because so many people would hate me for thinking gay people have the right to happiness. Hopefully none of my friends will see my comment here. There are other closets besides the ones gay people hide in, you know.

RehabRN said...

Here's to real equality, the valuation of all people on the strength of their character

Amen, jo, amen!

And I have to say, I love my own gay friend, KM, like one of my own brothers.

When I needed him, and was damn near homeless, he was there for me, and never flinched.

Anonymous said...

A coworker came out to me just today. It just came up- I found out there was a medical code for lesbianism and homosexuality, but not bisexuality. (Discuss amongst yourselves! ;)). I thought it was funny that the codes existed- "our tax dollars at work!". She mentioned her ex wife and current husband. "you happy?". Yup. Okey dokey. This, at a catholic employer. Such a change from a few years ago.

Jenny Hart Boren said...

I remember specifically one of the cases we had to solve in my college epidemiology class (1979) was that of a gay man in San Francisco with purple spots inside his mouth and chronic wasting. Epidemic? It was a holocaust. Thank you, medical science, that this generation of gay men has a chance to escape this death sentence.

Rosanna said...

Thank you for this great post, Jo, particularly "the valuation of all people on the strength of their character." My two good, kind gay friends----(both "out"; both in "helping" professions; one HIV-positive)----have both suffered enormously, and needlessly, because of their sexual orientation. 'Makes my heart ache to even THINK about............ some of the cruelty/sorrow they've endured, you know.

Anonymous said...

As a straight woman living with AIDS I sometimes still feel like I'm in a closet but I'm working hard to end the stigma. Thanks Jo

jimbo26 said...

As I will always say : God loves everyone , religion doesn't .

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we ever met in Chicago 25 years ago. I had many male gay friends then. Like you, now, I only have 1 friend left alive from that time. It's hard to imagine, so many young lives, just wiped from the earth. Sometimes, I wonder why the epidemic spared some, but not all. But I can't figure it out. My husband and I have tried very, very hard to raise our kids to be non-judgemental with regard to a person's race, creed, color or sexual orientation. I think we have succeeded. For that, I will be forever thankful. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

Anonymous said...

Yes, unfortunately, you often found out that friends were gay back then when their illness was too bad to hide or you heard that they died. Horrible, horrible time. Such fear of rejection when you needed your friends the most.

Hearing that AIDS incidence has gone up in young gay men makes me see red. Every advance in diagnosing, controlling the spread, and treating this disease was so hard won. Why oh why they are ignoring their danger is beyond my comprehension.