A Gay Day is a Good Day

NEW SLAUGHTERAny day 20% of the population has a basic right affirmed — otherwise known as a “freedom” by our conservative friends — is good day. So it’s easy to appreciate the enthusiasm and celebration taking place over a law putting to rest decades of legal prejudice against gay people in Minnesota.

But I have to confess to a certain emotional detachment. While this may be another symptom  my chronic, morbid, sociopathic tendencies, (I should probably drink more to modulate them), an easier explanation is that as a straight male I’ve never had a direct personal investment in the gay rights campaign.

As a squishy liberal it’s not like I had to be educated in the fundamental injustice at play in the treatment of gays. But since it wasn’t me, it was simple enough to consign gay prejudice to the sloshing bin of intractable cultural malignancies doing their rotting work on the American promise. The same applied, I guess, to the civil rights movement of the Sixties, when all I could do as a kid was watch from a small Minnesota town. (The highest pitch of anti-Semitism was before my time.)

Voting for progressive politicians, doling out a pittance of cash to various causes and making explicit my distaste for bigoted comments is fine … as far as it goes. But there was a resignation factor at play here as well.

What’s interesting this time around is both the speed with which the gay rights campaign surged from minority-to-majority support and the events that catalyzed it.

I do hope at some point, celebrants in St. Paul or in bars around the state hoist a glass to Archbishop John Nienstedt, his retrograde wing of the Catholic church, various other ersatz “Christian” religious organizations and of course the usual clutch of conservative policymakers who feed off the ignorance and superstitions of the ill-informed. The blowback against that crowd was vital and fierce. A lot of people, myself included, had an “enough all fucking-ready” moment over the past 18 months.

In my humble opinion the over-reach of cultural dead-enders like Nienstedt and his fellow travelers was the accelerant that jump-started this final campaign. In particular, Nienstedt’s notorious $400,000 anti-gay DVD mailing, (financed by persons still unknown), was a bell-ringer for people like me. The appalling hypocrisy of that move — from an organization nearly bankrupted by the cover-up of criminal sexual activities of its closeted clergy — plus the tenor of fear in their canonical warnings, was like someone telling me, “these guys are sweating.”

The time had come to put down a sick beast.

Pre-dating that though was a long campaign of the most effective messaging imaginable in a pop culture-saturated society. And by this I mean to compliment Hollywood and the entertainment industry for its genuinely positive contribution to advancing the cause of gay citizens — much as it had done for blacks in the era of Sidney Poitier, and Jews with “Gentlemen’s Agreement”. (There are of course abundant ironies in Hollywood’s long resistance to pushing the question of discrimination against Jews).

Hollywood has plenty to answer for with its persistent, numbing reliance on sadistic violence to sell tickets and goose ratings. You don’t have to listen to more than one “gun rights debate” to appreciate the effect a century of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, “Lethal Weapon” and all the other vigilante/revenge fantasies have had on the culturally isolated and simple-minded. Every other gun-clutcher parrots Hollywood-like verbiage about “them” coming through the windows and how manly heroism requires their twitchy “good guy” trigger on a loaded .44.

But with everything from Liberace to “Will & Grace” to Frank Ocean, the entertainment industry has painted sympathetic portraits of gays as co-workers, friends, neighbors and engaging personalities. When sociologists study how this “victory” happened, they’ll credit the impact pop culture had on the young and urban and how acceptance among that group worked its way up the age ladder, marginalizing the most resistant along the way.

On my personal list of “shit I want fixed”, Wall Street’s on-going buy-off of government and our lunatic levels of gun ownership and violence ranked a bit ahead of gay rights. But with experience you learn to take progress where it comes and be happy with it.

But as messaging/cultural  education goes, the process that achieved this win in gay rights can be replicated. Apply the techniques of the most popular, broadly accepted, role-model creating medium ever invented — entertainment — and watch the proportionate collapse of the ill-informed and bigoted.

23 thoughts on “A Gay Day is a Good Day

  1. Jockomo Feenanay says:

    Nice. I don’t think you’re alone in having no sense of personal involvement. Apathy or indifference played a significant role in this sea change — arguments against same sex marriage, especially moves against the amendment last year, relied on getting a significant portion of the public angry. That never happened.

    No groundswell, no momentum, no victory.

    1. … and a complete, 180 on the intended effect of playing the usual wedge issue. I love that. I really think there is a consensus building against treadworn fear-mongering. People have enough bona fide concerns without the constant noise over contrived crises … . I mean, how many functioning adults ever had even a flash of concern about the negative effect of gay marriage on their lives?

  2. Jeremy Powers says:

    I never used to have a direct connection either. I have some gay cousins; a gay sister-in-law.

    Then, one day, I realize my only child is a lesbian. Then it becomes personal. Really, REALLY personal. Grandchildren? May not happen. I can live with that. She moves to another state – one that isn’t run by a bunch of Bible-billies? I supposed. Her living like a third-rate citizen. Couldn’t stand for it.

    As a typical parent, I’m willing to suffer slights, taunts and prejudice with the idea that my children won’t have to. Unlike race or religion, though, I was never called “fag.” But washing the painted words “lez” off her junker car when she was 17 years old hurt just as much as if it had been aimed at me. Maybe more so. And it’s not even a tough word. Not like the N word.

    I’m sure our social dinosaurs are blaming my lack of fire and brimstone – that someone listening more frequently to a 2,000-year-old fairy tale about all the rules and hatred they accidentally found in Jesus’ words would somehow overcome some complicated bio-chemical reaction with a probable genetic factor – if they believed in any of that.

    1. Well, you might even have a chat with Dick Cheney about that particular situation. Life has a way of slapping us with consciousness-altering revelations and ironies, doesn’t it?

      Better to get the justice system squarely on the side of common sense and decency.

  3. PM says:

    I think the most effective aspect (and the one that should be replicated) was the educational effort– getting gays to come out and introduce themselves to their relatives, friends, neighbors and even strangers. The effort at the State Fair was a great example–supporters of the “No” campaign walking around the fair in t-shirts and introducing themselves to everyone and talking about why the amendment was a big deal. Humanizing the players involved, so that everyone knew someone to whom this mattered–made a huge difference. It took the “them” out of the them vs. us equation.

    1. No doubt. I’m just arguing that the most effective “humanizing” campaign came through people’s television screens. Put another way, Hollywood made gay “cool”, and anti-gay decidedly “uncool”. It seems superficial, but in a pop-riddled culture “cool” counts for plenty.

  4. bertram jr says:

    Well, folks, the right-thinking majority will still believe in the sanctity of right and wrong. That’s the way it is. The rest of you can fiddle away in the face of the flames.

    The likes of Scott Dibble use his ill-gotten office to forward his personal failings. That can not stand.

    And in the end, it will not.

    This country was founded on values, and with the gun.

    It will be thus.

  5. bertram jr says:

    PM: The fascist pathology of PC will not prevail.

    No shouting, just argue the facts -it has nothing to do with “education”.

    To say otherwise is to ignore the fundamental issue of what we were designed for.

    Inmates running the asylum, indeed.

  6. bertram jr says:

    BTW, I’m having T-shirts made. Is there an extant royalty clause on your headline?

  7. bertram jr says:

    I’d also posit that the God fearing, family raising, hard working folk are so busy trying to produce that there’s not much left in the tank to combat the freaks.

    It seems so here. And that is not a good thing.

  8. bertram jr. says:

    It’s pretty well known, among the do-right, family raising, hard working, high information crowd.

  9. Jed Leyland says:

    Ageism… the next big bias to fight. If you don’t believe it exists just wait a while…and if you live long enough..experience it first hand.

        1. PM says:

          as if that would make a difference!

          but seriously, maybe you should get one of those t-shirts. maybe with “The Same Rowdy Crowd” on it instead. or better yet, get one of those t-shirts, and give it to bertie as a gift!

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