Joan Rivers Defends Baldwin
The only reason I’m posting about either of these two is because it goes along with the next part of this post, and how gay men like Tony and I have had to deal with being gay and living in a world where gay slurs often hit so hard and with such force it can unhinge the very core of someone’s psychological well-being. The closeted gay Amish friend I have knows what I’m talking about. The gay teen from Brooklyn whose father is a macho cop and uncle a macho fireman knows what I’m talking about. Any gay man who can pass as straight and who has ever feared being exposed knows what I’m talking about.
You can call me pretty much anything now and I’ll live, trust me on that. And that’s because I’ve been called everything there is at one point or another. I might even come after you and enjoy every minute of it. But there are a lot of other gay men who aren’t as secure and when they hear a gay slur it stings hard. Harder than most people would expect. Especially when the gay slur is made with vitriol and used with other pejoratives that conjure the worst associations.
I’ve posted about Alec Baldwin and what’s been happening since he made his “alleged” gay slurs, and not for the first time. And today the elderly entertainer, Joan Rivers, came out and supported him with what I can only describe as some kind of quasi Lenny Bruce freedom of speech defense. And in her attempt to disabuse the notions of Baldwin’s critics and what happened as a result of Baldwin’s public rant she only comes off looking way out of touch with the rest of America at best.
“Everybody just relax,” Rivers noted, before hurling a series of slurs against Italians, African-Americans, Jews and gays, among other groups. “Everybody’s something, so why don’t we all just calm down?”
I’ve also posted about Rivers before, too, and how she often treats gay men as if they are pet poodles. I understand that a good deal of her thoughts and even her comedy material is generational and she comes from a time when the only openly gay men were the poor souls who couldn’t hide in a closet even if they tried. But the world has changed in the past decade, not all gay men are the same, and many of us don’t appreciate being treated as if we are a side show at the circus. At the risk of sounding like an angry gay man, it’s time to start giving all gay people the respect other minorities receive and that includes caution with words. It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humor either. Ellen makes us laugh and she’s not hurting anyone.
Gay Thanksgiving Throwback
Tony and I have a great deal for which to be thankful and we don’t take anything for granted. We’ve been through life and death situations and survived, we’ve been through opening businesses that were risky and did well, and we’ve been through living as a couple when gay marriage was still just a concept. For the past five years or so we’ve hosted a big Thanksgiving at our home for both our families. One year we emptied our living room and rented ten large tables and chairs so everyone had a place to sit. It varies from year to year because like all families brothers and sisters go to in-laws, take vacations, or just stay home and do their own thing. This year is smaller, with only twelve people, but the fact that we actually host Thanksgiving still blows me away.
We met in 1992 in December and our first Thanksgiving was in 1993. We went to separate Thanksgiving dinners because that’s what was expected of us. We both come from similar family backgrounds and neither of us was out of the closet at that point. In my case my family knew and it wasn’t discussed. In Tony’s case they had no idea. And for the first fifteen years of our relationship/marriage, that’s how we spent Thanksgiving day. For a while we became friendly with an older gay couple who hosted Thanksgiving dinner later at night each year. So Tony would go to his family, I would go to mine, and then we would meet up in separate cars later that night to be with other gay people. At least thanks to these friends we had a chance to spend part of Thanksgiving together. But just imagine for a moment what it would be like if you weren’t able to spend major holidays with your spouse for reasons beyond your control. Sure, we could have come out totally and slammed everyone at one time. But for us that’s not how things were done. And I know we’re not the only ones who lived this way.
But it started to get tired fast. Here we were living as a married couple and we didn’t even get a chance to spend holidays together because of the fact that we were gay. I never pushed Tony with the issue about his family because I knew it was a sensitive topic and I didn’t want to hurt him. You do those things for people you love and you make sacrifices. All that changed in 2007 when Tony was hospitalized and almost died. I’ve posted about that before and I’m not getting into it again. But that’s when I met Tony’s family for the first time, under the worst circumstances imaginable. Thankfully, it turned out to be a good thing and we supported each other through his illness and came out stronger because of that. I think of his family as mine now, and he’s the same way with my family. And since then life is much easier for us because of that time. It’s also better because we are living in different times and more and more gay people are coming out, getting married, and fighting for equal rights. However, I know there are other gay couples just like us doing the same things we used to do. And when I hear gay slurs, and I hear people defending gay slurs, it reminds me of all the holidays we missed and all the good times we lost when we were younger.
The first home we lived in was a town house about eight miles from where we live right now. But it wasn’t New Hope where things are more progressive, and we were smack in the middle of a cookie cutter town house development on a cul-de-sac in suburban Philadelphia, Newtown, PA. We were so busy back then we rarely took much notice of what was happening around us. But one Thanksgiving weekend in 1998 while we were putting up Christmas decorations outside our neighbor’s little boy said, “We should put up lights just like the fags next door, dad.” The father grabbed the kid and pulled him inside fast. We listed the town house the following week and moved to New Hope six months later so we’d never be placed in that particular degrading situation again.
I know I’ve told that story before somewhere, but when I heard about Baldwin and now Rivers, I felt like telling it again so people will understand the magnitude of what the word fag means to us.