We Love Your Art, But You Can't Exist - At Least Not Like We Do
[This editorial/art and cultural study is in recognition and celebration of Gay Pride Month (June)]
There's been a lot of talk in various circles about equality, and what constitutes that. As many of us have heard, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Equality, and the right to live and have equal access to the fundamental benefits given to all in the Constitution of the United States should be a no-brainer.
However, there has been a recent firestorm over an equal freedom, the notion of marriage, and what exactly that means. Doesn't everyone in America have an inherent right to marry the one they love? Does there have to be a set of rules, or norms, set up by a certain few, that all of us must follow in order to enjoy this right? And, if we don't, does that mean we're less of an American, or a person? It has become increasingly aware to me, sadly, that this is so.
Of course I'm speaking of Marriage Equality - for all. To some, it may not seem like such a big deal or possibly may even be a non-issue. But let me tell you, as a guy who has invested an entire life trying to fit in and sit at the table with the other class, it is a big deal.
[If you haven't yet heard, the Supreme Court of California rececently ruled that a state law denying marriage to those of the same sex as unconstitutional. In the ruling, the Court stated that anything less than a full right to marriage, even if allowing domestic partnerships or civil unions, is not equal and is considered discriminatory. The "Protection of Marriage" folk have already obtained the signatures needed to secure yet another hateful ballot for the November election that would literally change the wording in the Constitution to reflect that "marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman". If passed, this would be in the State's Constitution, and extremely difficult to change.]
As a Gay person, it's almost like our community has never truly existed. Of course, there are the stereotypical "gay" scenes in the media and certian venues where the underlying joke about flamboyance and a penchant for floral design are always good party fodder. And, many of us know, that, especially in the arts and entertainment areas, "the gays" are everywhere. But, are we? At the end of the day, are the true lives of Gay men and Lesbians really cared about or at least understood, and, this is a stretch, accepted? Do we really
exist in the minds of those who are not of this Community as being on equal terms and having equal rights to what they're automatically given? Maybe this sense of equality is alive in many of these minds, maybe to some it's not really thought about, and, to others, well maybe it's something they'd rather not talk or think about at all.
To many people, in my opinion, the mentality is, "We like you and accept you, but keep your lifestyle at home, I'm not comfortable with it and don't really want to see it". To that I say, "Thank you for your conditional support, but that's not acceptable and that's most certainly not equal". It's almost like we really
don't exist. Hmmm...
Since this blog is about art, let's take a look at some of the most influencial Gay and Lesbian figures in art and entertainment, and think about what it would be like if they
I went back to a great book, The Gay 100 - A Ranking of the Most Influencial Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present, by Paul Russell, and discovered a lot of interesting information.
Based on this book, here is a list of some of these people from the world of arts and entertainment, who might as well have
never existed, according to the views of many:
Socrates - writer and philosopher
Sappho - Lesbian poet, 6th century B.C.
Oscar Wilde - writer and poet
Walt Whitman - poet
Gertrude Stein - writer
Virginia Wolfe - author
Michelangelo (Buonaroti) - visual artist
Leonardo da Vinci - artist
Christopher Marlow - playwright
William Shakespeare - playwright
Emily Dickinson - poet
(Peter Ilyich) Tchaikovsky - composer
Marcel Proust - writer
Andy Warhol - visual artist
John Cage - composer
James Baldwin - writer
Adrienne Rich - poet and writer
Larry Kramer - writer
Tennesse Williams - playwright
Audre Lorde - writer
Pier Paolo Pasolini - filmmaker and novelist
Yukio Mishima - writer
Rock Hudson - actor
Liberace - classical pianist
Allen Ginsberg - poet
Marlene Dietrich - actress
H.D. Hilda Doolittle - poet
Benjamin Britten - composer
Mary Renault - novelist
Francis Bacon - painter
Derek Jarman - filmmaker
Alan Turing - computer design and programming
Bessie Smith - Harlem entertainer
Holly Near - musician and singer
Rudolf Nureyev - dancer
Freddie Mercury - singer
Edmund White - writer
Ethel Smyth - composer
Halston - fashion designer
Yves Saint Laurent - fashion designer
Sir Ian McKellen - actor
And some more contemporary artists, not from the book:
k.d. Lang - singer
Ellen Degeneres - comedienne
Rosie O'Donnell - comedienne
Sir Elton John - singer
George Michael - singer
Robert Gant - actor
As you probably know, this list is only partial and could go on and on. Let's not forget the point of this, though. Those people who are under the notion or philosophy that, if you're Gay or Lesbian, it may be okay to be who you are and do what you do, but do it over there and most certainly not where I am. Be
invisible. Protect the children. Those people think we're equal, but wish us to remain separate. Separate, But Equal. Does this sound familiar?
Let's take a look at the list, above, again, and imagine how different life would be today if all of those people were
invisible, or never existed? Our culture, studies, science, fashion, music, design, and art would certainly be vastly different.
Why weren't/aren't they equal to their supposedly 'normal' counterparts? Why is the notion that a class-system, in terms of access and availability to inherent freedoms, like marriage, even considered acceptable?
Why is it OK for me to contribute to society, pay taxes, spend my money as I please, go as I please, but have to live a separate life when it comes to the option of getting married?
What does Equality for All mean anyway? Shouldn't it be (Conditional) Equality for All?
What did I do to be born so wrong and treated so differently?
I will disappear now)