Evolution: Any process of formation or growth; development.
I never cared much about getting married. And this was long before I realized I was gay. A time that, I might add, was long after many of my friends and relatives realized that I was not heterosexual. What can I say? Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on to things, to evolve. But when I finally did for the first time, back in 1979, the very last thing I EVER imagined or even considered, or even dreamed I wanted, was the right for same sex couples to get married.
Maybe it’s because my parents were divorced and never seemed particularly happily married. Who wanted to be like them, and, incidentally, many of their friends? Or maybe it’s because it seemed so constricting and square and I so desperately wanted to be hip and cool and superior – or at least get out of Queens. I’m old enough where I can’t quite recall.
Then as the years progressed and I lived through two heartbreaking decades of AIDS related deaths of some of my best friends, colleagues and peers — young gay men just like me but unlike me because they had not lucked out and won the survival lottery — it felt, and actually still sort of feels trivial. Marriage? Uh, how about the Reagan government showing some interest in not burying any more of my brothers, friends and loved ones if they can manage the task in between deregulating the economy for the rich and super rich, if that’s not too much trouble? If I still sound bitter, well, uh, yeah, maybe I am – just a little. Though I am working on it.
Of course, the eighties are over (aren’t they?) and I’ve been in a relationship/domestic partnership/common law something or other for the last 25 years. And now that as a society we’ve moved past the deregulating making money for the super rich and it’s part of our history (oh, we haven’t and it isn’t?) –- gay marriage sorta/kinda feels (and I’m just speaking for me) well, besides the point. Like getting permission from your 90-year-old mother to have a sleepover you’ve been having for the past two and a half decades that she actually knew about in the first place.
I take a lot of crap from my gay and straight friends for this – particularly the many who are in couples and are either married or banging the doors down to do so. I don’t get it. I mean, I do get it, sort of. But after all this time, I resent someone telling me that my relationship is now okay and acceptable and, if I try real hard and devote a lot of time and energy could even be legal one day. Really?? Well, screw you (while I screw who I want) and the pulpit you
rose rode in on. In short, don’t do me any favors.
But — and I’m not saying I’m heading to the altar any time soon (so don’t ask and I won’t tell!!) –-
And the man who is responsible is The Evolver in Chief, Pres. Barack Obama. A man I never met and has never met my partner and is not even the person I voted for in the Democratic primary when he was first running for president. Well, as Katie Morosky says in “The Way We Were” about her beloved Franklin Roosevelt, the president she also at first didn’t campaign for– “some people work out better than we think.” (Note: KM is one of my favorite movie characters).
I suspect Pres. Obama will go down in history as the person who mainstreamed the legal evolution of marriage equality and helped make it as much of an non-issue as whether the sequels to “The Hunger Games” and “The Avengers” will make money. In all three cases it’s not if it will occur but how much and to how many.
As for gay marriage – he certainly mainstreamed/evolved it for me. When I heard Wednesday morning that he was announcing his support I thought it was important for those who wanted it even if it seemed a bit politically facile and didn’t feel much in terms of my own life personally. But upon actually hearing his words live on tape/digital -– I actually — teared up.
Know that I HATE admitting that. Almost as much as I hate admitting I laugh out loud at reruns of “The Nanny,” a show I couldn’t bear when it first aired in the early 1990s, or the fact that I’m the one who never really liked “Pulp Fiction,” “Waiting for Guffman” “Vertigo” “Desperate Housewives” or “The Good Wife.” Plus I refused to see “Jaws” (because I like body surfing in the ocean) and gave the little seen 1981 movie “Four Friends” a rave review while I was a movie critic at Variety and STILL think it’s a fine, touching movie despite all other reaction to the contrary. But there, now I’ve said them all. So hate me if you must.
Of course, re-watching or re-reviewing any of these I could change my mind but it’s not likely. Unlike many in the public square, I almost never flip flop. On anything. I feel really deeply about what I think and seldom change my mind. Except – when I’m evolving or absolutely forced to (another line from “The WWW” but who’s counting — 2).
How the hell does Obama do this to people??? That’s what I’d like to know, even more than what gifts I’d be getting if I were to consent to marriage and my partner would actually have me after all my diatribes against it. Aren’t I too old to register? Shouldn’t the gift money go to charity at this point? Since I don’t need any household items would it be too unsavory to ask well-meaning friends to contribute to a fund that would finance a belated honeymoon touring Italy for a month before I’m too old to travel from town to town in awe? Suddenly, there are questions (too many questions), which makes me sorry that the president even went there with this whole thing.
Except – I’m not. And I think I know why.
In no time in our history have gay people truly had the most powerful person in the world on our side without equivocation. Never. Metaphorically, it’s like a young teenager knowing the smartest, most powerful and most popular kid in school has your back. Yes, I know the goal is to stand up and save yourself and yes I know that no one can prevent bad things from happening to good people all the time. But — it still feels good to be accepted, and yes, loved, unconditionally. For all of us in the LGBT community, to have a US president do that while declaring that our love for our mates is no different than anyone else’s and shouldn’t be treated as such – trust me, that is true evolution.
Is the president, or even this declaration, perfect — no. But neither are “The Hungers Games” (don’t get me started) or “The Avengers.” Yet they are embraced as a part of contemporary American culture – no matter how much one does or doesn’t feel about them.
To deny that is to deny reality.
Which is really what the fight has always been about anyway. You don’t have to like or even go see either movie. But you can’t pretend that they’re not there.
As for evolution, Rachel Maddow put it better than me on the first segment of her Wednesday (May 8) show as she traced the evolution of presidents concerning marriage equality and noted that it was important to understand both the personal and political history of our past presidents of the last 30 years in order to understand our present one.
Yes, Rachel is gay, but her reportage is fact-based and as unbiased as it gets. Certainly a lot less biased than anything you’d find sitting in your local chair.
The second (and not yet final) example of evolution would be a Washington Post article that ran the other day detailing the prep school escapades (some would call it bullying but that’s not for me to say) of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The former Governor did issue a statement through his staff that he didn’t recall ANY of said escapades in the article and then went on to admit that though he may have participated in a lot of “pranks and hijinks” in school “if anybody was hurt or offended he was sorry.” Still, he added he was “not going to be too concerned about the item” and that he grew up in a tolerant environment. Some might call that last statement the beginning of an evolution while others (not naming any chairs here) might see it as a smug, misstatement of fact. Read it for yourself and see what you think.
Yet the last word on Evolution needs to come from the classic film “Inherit The Wind,” where two lawyers argue the case for and against a science teacher accused of the crime of literally teaching EVOLUTION (the ape to human kind) in the public schools. In this particular moment, the conservative lawyer (played by Frederic March) questions why he and more progressive attorney (Spencer Tracy) can no longer agree to disagree and must publicly come to blows in court.
Matthew Harrison Brady (March): Why is it, my old friend, that you’ve moved so far away from me?
Henry Drummond (Tracy): All motion is relative, Matt. Maybe it’s you who’ve moved away by standing still.
Amen, Hallelujah or well-said. You choose. All three are equally valid.