In the name of...
The parade passed by and I wasn’t proud of the gay actor who’s fabulously out and proud each time a camera clicks. It’s nice to see him encourage others to be themselves, and to watch fans scream "I love you!" when he passes. But I don’t respect people who phone you at all hours when they want you for a project, then drop your calls and emails when they’ve changed their minds. There’s pride in business.
Nor was I feeling enamored of the gay screenwriter who’s offered up some of the most memorable screenplays on film and who speaks on college campuses. I know him socially, and when I asked him if he’d read something of mine, he said sure, "for a blow job." We’ve not spoken since I declined his offer. As my gay actor friend in Los Angeles says, "That’s why I let people know I’m a pervert now; when I’m rich and famous they won’t have false expectations."
The gay filmmaker with the unbelievable Cinderella story didn’t make me misty either. He grew up in obscurity, had a criminal record, and was discovered by one of the most brilliant directors in the world. Since we attended school together and I starred in the first film he ever made, I contacted him years ago and asked if he’d be so kind to take a look at a project I was working on. He drilled me for days on why he should bother reading anything of mine. After I passed his test and sent him a pilot, he wrote back and said he’d changed his mind, and to never contact him again. Perhaps I should have opted for the oral exam.
Then there’s the Broadway director who used to smother me with tales of how he overcame more struggles than Joan of Arc to make it gay on the Great White Way. I never quite understood exactly what he overcame, as he comes from a wealthy family and graduated from an Ivy League School. Regardless, I was flattered when he called me once and insisted I attend his new show, and to bring a guest. When my date and I showed up, he said hello, then disappeared just before I found out we had to pay for the tickets, and were escorted to the back row of the theater. I decided that what he overcame is courtesy, as we were needed to fill up the empty seats.
A couple of years later when I was directing my own play, and asked his advice on publicists and such, he wrote back saying he wouldn’t know, as his people always take care of that kind of stuff. Then he told me of his three new leather jackets, which, having also overcome the use of his own checking account, he’d received for free.
No one makes me pray for rain on the parade more than the entrepreneur who started out building a gay social network site, hired me to write for it, then illegally sold my stories elsewhere. After I confronted him, it was goodbye job and goodbye all communication. When he’s not running his bigger, better site, he’s all over the press for his AIDS charity work. But don’t cry for me; I have the privilege of having my old stories still available on the Internet, although I’ve never received more than the original $150 I was paid for each piece. Now I know how the cast of "The Brady Bunch" feels.
At Gay Pride this year, I witnessed two men arguing over queer credentials. One, a New Yorker, told a guy from Los Angeles that he should have left his attitude at LAX because he was spoiling pride for the rest of us. The guy from L.A. swung back with the assertion that he had pride in spades, and the price of an airline ticket to prove it. Both men were fighting for the baton, yet neither one knew how to twirl it. Before you hop on the bandwagon, always check what the float represents.
Pride means believing in yourself and your heritage. It means you’re allowed the same rights as everyone else, including the right to be a jack-ass or to pimp your song to Rush. What’s shameful is unethical behavior using "community" as cover. When gay people turn discrimination to their advantage they’re no better than the woman who poses nude for a magazine and then screams "Sexism" when the pictures are published.
Sexual harassment took center stage in the last part of the 20th century, and for good reason; women had tolerated abuse for centuries. Problem is, now you can’t smile at a co-worker for fear you’ll be slapped with a lawsuit. Criticize a certain big-wig Hollywood gay producer and he’ll scream "bloody homophobe." Tell him you won’t bring a fag-hag along to a meeting - as he requires -- and you’ll never get to pitch your project. Like the group in "The Big Chill," when did we become the people we hate?
Before the parade passes by, it helps to remember why you’re watching. I signed books at a gay wedding expo recently, and a planner told the crowd that the first thing you should do when dealing with vendors is to tell them you’re gay. Not, as one would think, because you’re proud of your queer love, but because vendors are likely to give you free stuff! Turns out, the bridal business is bending over backwards to please the new-moneyed fags, and it’s time to cash in. If we’ve learned anything from gay cliques on Fire Island and excluding all who are not as pretty as the football player who beat us up in high school, it’s that "Do unto others" doesn’t work if you change the ending to "as was done to you." The female couple who tried to steal my book afterward must have taken the speech to heart.
Years ago, on Gay Pride Day, a man who’d never spoken to me before approached me on the street, French kissed me, and said "Happy Pride" before wandering off. I remember the incident because the guy went to my gym, resembled Ken in the new "Toy Story" movie, and never once acknowledged me again. I decided that Gay Pride was like Ecstasy Night at the Roxy; until the drug wears off you make love to all men equally. Years later, on another Pride Sunday, I slept with a guy who’d just gotten back from the Pines and was still feeling the rush. When I left his apartment, a block away from my own, he asked me where I got my beautiful body and if I was new to Chelsea. John was one of the first people I met when I moved to the neighborhood ten years earlier. Back then, my underdeveloped body didn’t make men proud.
While the gossip world ponders over who’s more gay, once-closeted former Menudo member Ricky Martin, or never-closeted former Menudo member Angelo Garcia, the people for whom pride is a way of life, neither a runway nor a barricade, tend to live under the radar. I don’t need to name them because idolatry is not their goal. For every Stonewall veteran like 89-year-old Storme DeLarverie, profiled in the "New York Times" for her past activism and present life in a Brooklyn nursing home, untold others devote much of their life to fighting AIDS, marriage equality, the repeal of DADT, and discrimination. Whether or not they carry a rainbow flag is no different than whether you hoist the American flag. Gay pride doesn’t have a theme song because it’s already the dance.
Who would you pick to be more proud, the Poster Boy gay activist in the long-term relationship, complete with children, a beach house in the Hamptons, and a weekend crystal-meth and group-sex habit? Or would you choose the married man who admitted to his wife he’s gay after she insisted on kids, tried "straight therapy," and is now in rehab because the denial drove him into a bout of Cocaine? I know both men and I can’t answer that riddle. But I can tell you which one skipped the parade.