LGBTay-Tay

When Taylor Swift gave a surprise performance of her new anti-hate song, You Need to Calm Down, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the modern LGTBTQ movement at the very place where it started – NYC’s Stonewall Inn – it made an impact.

After all, the 29 year-old singer/songwriter is one of the best-selling recording artists of all-time with over 50 million album sales and 150 million in single digital downloads.  She’s won 10 Grammys, was included in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Songwriters back in 2015 and has appeared three times in Time’s 100 most influential people, including 2019.

She’s a goddamn icon

Whether you are fan, frenemy, enemy or simply indifferent, it is undeniable that once Tay-Tay sets her sights on, or music to, a subject she carries an indefinable weight towards changing hearts and, more importantly, minds on said subject.

As a gay man of a certain age I do not take any support for granted, especially hers, and finally understand that each small and large gesture are essential building blocks forward.

A TS lyric like, shade never made anybody less gay in a song heard internationally more times than any of us likely ever will be, can’t move the needle alone.  Still, it can certainly be the single straw that breaks the back of hate in all sorts of different people for all sorts of different reasons.

YAY TAY TAY

At this point it might be worth remembering that it was on the day Judy Garland died that a group of trans people, gay men and drag queens stood up to police harassment en masse at the Stonewall Inn and birthed the modern gay liberation movement.

The fact that they rioted in the streets of Greenwich Village for several days, refusing to be targeted where they lived, did not happen just because a gay icon was gone, as the history books like to simplify.

However, it would not be overreach to write that when that final straw dropped on that specific day, a bunch of us were extremely pissed off, much more so than usual.  Just like you don’t throw a lit match onto a gas station or sass your Mom and Dad just after they’ve gotten home from a double shift at work. There are limits to what any of us will tolerate on a very bad day.

Even Joan has limits #nowirehangers

You can’t blame it on the sass or the match or the day or the shift.   It takes the combination of some or all of those elements (and more) to fuel the uncontrollable fire that was sure to come once all the kindling fell into place in exactly the right (or wrong) way.

It was in thinking about all of the above that it became undeniable that a week had just passed where all three of the new mainstream films and TV series I had just consumed for the first time centered specifically on members of the LGBTQ community.  This would have been unthinkable just two or three decades ago not because my tastes had changed but due to the fact that no one was making this much openly gay content back then for mass consumption.

Not even Charles Nelson Reilly was technically “out”

There was Halston, a feature length documentary on the gay designer of Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat, Liza Minnelli’s sparkly stage outfits and just about some part of every trendy female fashionista’s wardrobe back in the 1970s.

Then scrolling on Netflix was Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story.  This was a hard look at the celebratory life and tragic death of young gay man credited as the greatest makeup artist who ever lived.  A guy who worked with every female supermodel of his era, including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, and then segued to work with the likes of Cher, Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Gwyneth Paltrow and Andie McDowell.

The master at work

This was all before branching out to create best-selling books and makeup lines and

dedicating his own time and money to mentor other young, forgotten gay kids, many of whom came from the same small homophobic home towns he himself had grown up in.

Watching his adopted father’s account of how the young Kevin had to drop out of high school at the age of 15 after several of the school bullies tried to run him down with their truck was enough to make any viewer question if anything has really changed at all.

Of course, this would be foolish thinking since his very own path to international fame as a proudly out gay man occurred years after the Stonewall Riots and the rise of a very un-publicly gay designer like Halston.

and certainly after Keith Haring’s “Heritage of Pride” Logo from the 80s

It is on the wings of countless real life people that Kevin was able to rise just a little bit more and the memorable gay characters of contemporary fiction emerge.  That is why watching Netflix’s just released 10-part limited streaming series, Tales of the City, based on Armistead Maupin’s best-selling books of 1970s, 80s and beyond San Francisco, seems a perfect cultural bridge to a 2019 public, yet now somehow almost routine, LGBTQ ally like Taylor Swift.I can recall devouring those Tales novels when I first came out because it was the first time I saw the gay and straight worlds melded together into the one more integrated, albeit messier, world that I lived in.

BONUS Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis together again!

Sure, it was a somewhat idealized world but it spoke to my reality closer than anything I had come across up to that point, straight or gay.  Good as the early PBS miniseries (based on the first two books) was back in the early 1990s I can recall how disappointing it felt to have it viewed as both exotic and controversial when it was first broadcast during the AIDS era.   So much so that the PBS network declined to do any more movies/shows based on the next books, which were finally produced by Showtime but gained far less attention.

For those of us still around, and for so many others, it is therefore a partial triumph of both endurance and history that the gay-themed issues tackled in the latest Tales on Netflix are today barely controversial – only merely reflective of where the world is now.  Far more potent is how the middle-aged (Note: ahem) characters of my generation co-exist with the younger out(er) and proud(er) generation after them and how they all grapple with the full history of those left from the still older generation that came before either of them saw the light of day.

Kinda like the feeling I get when I see this guy out on the trail with his husband #PeteforAmerica

It is in this more full depiction of the many inroads and detours taken in the full path to get here that these newest Tales really soars.  This is done through expert performances from the likes of Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney and Ellen Page as trans, straight and gay/bisexual characters, respectively, of different ages whose many stylized stories not only naturally but casually intersect with a core truth of not only how it was but how we would want it to be.  Perhaps, in some ways, how it now is for all of us.  Or, well, more of us.

This new Tales miniseries is memory piece of today that is built on the past but exists clearly in the present as it consistently looks towards the future.  It is not unlike what Taylor Swift does when she comes fully out as a straight LGBTQ ally in 2019 and uses her celebrity and talents to boldly admonish all current and future homophobes in a fun but clearly commercial pop song pointedly entitled You Better Calm Down.

Taylor Swift – “You Need to Calm Down”

Because We Can?

Definitely not kosher.

Definitely not kosher.

There’s a famous scene in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives where the brilliant Judy Davis plays Sally, a recent divorcee who terrorizes the unlucky new guy she is about to leave with on their first date when he tries to reassure her that not all men are, essentially, cads.

Davis, sneering with the authority of a jilted Medea, turns sharply to him and, after a long scary moment, ferociously roars: Don’t defend your sex!  It’s true!

Judy Davis is not in the house tonight (which is too bad for so many reasons), but I couldn’t help feel those words reverberating in my head many times almost every time I came across a news story this week.  If you’re an adult male of, well, any age, it’s pretty hard to stick up for the peanut gallery of ass hats who have been making it so much more difficult for all of the rest of us deeply flawed males in the world to hold our heads – well – not even high, just upright.

Who knew of these three Spitzer would come out smelling like roses?

Who knew of these three Spitzer would come out smelling like roses?

1. NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and his serial sexting.  Oy.

2. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and his serial gropings (not to mention female headlocks). Oy vey.

And even:

3. Fox “newscaster” Geraldo Rivera posting a shirtless (naked?) photo of himself on Twitter declaring:  “70 is the new 50.”   Oy, no.

This should help get Geraldo out of your head.

This should help get Geraldo out of your head.

This is not to even mention in the last several weeks:

4. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signing a bill that REQUIRES all women seeking to terminate a pregnancy to undergo a mandatory ultrasound in order to bond with the fetus and potentially save it.

5. Texas Governor Rick Perry and his mostly male cohorts in the state legislature passing a law that will not only close 37 of the state’s 42 women’s health clinics but will also require all females to get their doctor’s approval before being allowed to obtain full doses of the morning after pill.

And even:

6. Virginia Attorney General (and current gubernatorial candidate) Ken Cuccinelli desperately trying to resurrect an old edict that outlaws sodomy, oral sex and just about any other kind of sex aside from the missionary position (could I make this up?) in the state.  Note: Certainly this is not so much anti-female as anti- human, not to mention what it will do to tourism, but it bears inclusion nevertheless.

They might want to reconsider motto.

They might want to reconsider this motto.

WHAT.     IS.       GOING.       ON????????????????????

Okay, so I’ve taken a survey and this is what I’ve come up with:

A. The intellectuals reason that this is the final expected retro grasp of the white male heterosexual patriarchy trying to expel its last burst of ever-dwindling authority over the rest of us.

My reaction:  Too glib.

B. The liberals blame Weiner and Filner for being idiots and blame the rest of this stuff on bigoted, hypocritical Republicans who want to require all of us to go to the Church of their choosing and re-institute school prayer (and Ayn Rand), as we await the Rapture.

My reaction: Too easy, not to mention impractical. 

C. And finally – The women I know, ALL of the women I know (which is many because, after all, I am a homosexual) are just plain disgusted.

My reaction: The correct response.

Though they are thinking about bringing back castration.

My reaction to that:  Uh, sorry ladies – the wrong response!!  

But still  —  who could blame them????

You should be sweating!

You should be sweating!

I haven’t seen such a motley group of guys since high school gym class – a class I, granted, did not attend much but one in which I was able to observe behavior on most days I was in attendance because I did little other than observe while I was there.

Weiner: I’m not gonna say he’s a dick because that’s too easy.  What I will say is that in the first go ‘round I didn’t understand why everyone was making such a fuss about a guy who liked to send naked pictures of himself to women who showed some interest, and occasionally pleasured himself over it when his wife was away.  I cared more about how he did his job, not what he did in bed (or out of it, or even standing up).  Also, like most native New Yorkers I began to resent the outcry from the morality police in the rest of the country (as if they’ve never done anything tawdry – and if they haven’t they certainly couldn’t relate to most of the rest of us), so I decided I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and show my support out of sheer Big Apple spite.

Field day is putting it mildly.

Field day is putting it mildly.

However, there comes a time – hard as it is for me, a Scorpio, to admit – that even spitefulness has to give way to common sense.  Suddenly, we now get online pix of the Full Monty Weiner.  Then we’re treated to a spinning press conference where his highly intelligent spouse, Huma Abedin, does a millennial generation version of Hillary Clinton standing by her man as she bares the details of her personal life to the world in an attempt to defend a flawed guy she happens to love who clearly and very desperately wants to remain in the politically relevant limelight.

Okay.  But then, just when you thought it was over, there are more naked Wieners revealed, as well as rolling admissions by the candidate of there being “6-10 women” he’s met online as recently as six months ago, though he can’t be sure of the actual number since behavior that is immoral is a matter of personal opinion – the implication being his opinion is that he has done nothing else wrong with #’s 11, 12, 13 or more….

It wasn't me, it was Carlos Danger!

It wasn’t me, it was Carlos Danger!

Yuk.  I think I need a shower.  Don’t you?  Not because I give an Instagram about whether Mr. Weiner is, indeed, a large tool but because he has become an impossible public figure to govern what is perhaps the most important and complicated city in the country – primarily at his own hands (pun intended, sorry).

Addendum:  Recently, I was shocked to learn that Mr. Weiner was 6’5”.  As a Jewish guy from New York, I’d always assumed he was closer to around, say, 5’7”.  My height.  It just goes to show what I’ve always secretly hoped – bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better – especially when it has to do with wieners.

Filner: Any 70 year-old man who has, with the women he employs, chosen to:

  1. Put them in headlocks
  2. Grope their asses
  3. Asked them to come to work not wearing underwear
  4. Forced them to hug him, kiss him and tongue him and
  5. Rinsed and repeated on all of these behaviors many times over —

SHOULD. GO. AWAY.

Do Not Pass Go and go directly to Jail

Do Not Pass Go and go directly to Jail

Instead, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner gave a press conference Friday where he announced he was entering a two-week program in behavior counseling for…well, something – WHEN his microphone cut out the audio and we couldn’t hear what it was he was actually going away for.  One wag tweeted that “even the mic didn’t want to hear,” but this didn’t stop the mayor and his staff from getting him another mic and podium so he could restart his mea culpa from the beginning (Oh, goodie).  And speaking of staff, just after the revelations of sexual misconduct towards women came out days before – the San Diego city attorney announced that as an interim measure the mayor, who still refuses to resign, would no longer be allowed to be alone in a room with any female who worked for him.  At all.  This was particularly fascinating since that same press release also stated that Mayor Filner had just hired yet another woman to replace his exiting chief of staff. Certainly it gave new meaning to the term team players for everyone else nearby.

By the way, the fact that both Mr. Weiner and Mayor Filner are Democrats is meaningless.  This has nothing to do with political affiliation as current Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter (you know, the former Congressman who was kicked out of office in the prostitution scandal, then reelected) and current Republican Congressman Mark Sanford (he’s the former South Carolina Governor who a few years ago disappeared to Argentina with his mistress when his aides told us he couldn’t be reached because he was out camping – the gayest excuse I’ve ever heard a straight guy give) serve as only two of the most recent analogous examples of sex scandals from the other side.

Who knew Animal House would be so right??

Who knew Animal House would be so right??

No, what this all has to do with is this:  When it comes to the penis, and everything it connotes for them – some men have remained in permanent adolescence.  Sexual compulsion/addiction; it’s about power, not sex; generational shifts in mores; they’re all just the extreme examples; blah, blah, blah –  I get it.  But as a guy, I gotta tell you – there has been too much of this kind of stuff in the news lately to intellectualize it away.  There’s something going on with some of us men out there and it’s not pretty.  Or even handsome.  Actually, it’s kind of abhorrent.  And unless the rest of us guys stand up to the bullies it’s not gonna go away any time soon.   I’m not talking about what guys do in the privacy of their own – well, you know.   I’ll be the first one to fight back against anyone who says we have to stop doing any of that.  I’m talking about – well, you know what I’m talking about.

Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley pondered a variation of all this in his Oscar-winning screenplay, Moonstruck.  Faced with the knowledge of her philandering husband, Olympia Dukakis (the Mom) spends her time surveying various opinions of the other characters on one particular question:  Why do men cheat?  Finally, one person, the biggest philanderer in the film, gives her the only answer that ultimately makes sense:  Because they fear death.

Interesting answer.  But it’s movie dialogue.  As it applies to the mistreatment of today’s women via sexual scandal, which is not about so much as cheating but behaving like an immature idiot – the answer in the real world is more like: Because we can.

Though just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  That might sound like a response from someone’s mother.  But maybe it wouldn’t hurt to think about it that way.  After all, Mom’s a woman, too.  And us men, we’re just wieners.