This may have been the year that Mike Nichols was talking about when he said, “Homosexuality used to be the love that dare not speak its name; now it’s the love that won’t shut up.” Although it sounds like a put-down, this remark sticking in my memory actually was in reference to the tidal wave of script submissions involving gay themes that was lapping across his desk. I think for a lot of straight people, Mike has unintentionally hit a nerve. The world does seem to be getting gayer by the year, if not the New York minute.
As more and more of us come out–still the single most important thing a gay person can do to change the world–the divide between the gay-friendly general population and the increasingly isolated and marginalized fundamentalist right wing of American society becomes sharper and uglier. But the scales are tipping heavily in our direction. More straight people like us and accept us than don’t, and the ones who don’t are finding themselves in a leaking lifeboat circling a sinking ship.
The rantings of certain media pundits look increasingly out of step with what most people really think, especially as the administration in Washington that gave the right wing its moral force loudly collapses under the weight of its own corruption and hubris. Hey, the ultimate clue to where we’re going can be seen every day on Ellen DeGeneres’s show. She doesn’t have to talk about being gay because everybody knows about it, to the point where it’s used as a subtle joke by the guests every now and again–the way it used to be used by Ellen before she came out.
It’s a brave new world, and I want to date some of the creatures in it. I don’t suppose any gay people have to be reminded of what flew into their satellite dishes this year–three new networks devoted entirely to programming for the suddenly discovered queer market. Some fearful straight folks may take this as evidence that the world is turning an ever deeper shade of lavender. But here’s what’s wonderful about television: It’s the great equalizer. People who use the remote control for isometric exercise (and that’s just about everybody, and certainly every single male with power in his wrists) flip from channel to channel and see women’s TV, black TV, Spanish TV, men’s TV, kids’ TV, military buffs’ TV, and now–gay TV. In the great commercial scheme of things, we’re just another niche.
Prolonged exposure to this fact will ultimately neutralize that worried straight perception that all you hear about today is gay. The more ordinary our integration becomes, the less that will happen. Yes, the right wing uses us as panic fuel, but such efforts are becoming less and less effective. Massachusetts has been marrying gay couples for a little while now long enough even to witness a gay divorce, and not the Astaire-Rogers kind–and the world hasn’t ended. Massachusetts has not fallen into the sea, the Salem witch trials have not reconvened, the Boston Strangler has not gone gay. Matters of far more weight to far more people have filled up the papers and the courts. Life has gone on. We’re still in a fight, that goes without saying, but the other side is choking on its own mean-spiritedness. We are winning year by year, just by being real people.