Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
April 13, 1999

Our own worst enemy.
Author/s: Bruce Vilanch

"This is Bob Dole for erectile dysfunction." Sort of writes its own punch line, doesn't it? A few years ago I got into trouble by commenting that it was impossible for Bob Dole to do the macarena without putting his eye out. I was politely informed that the pencil he gripped in his injured hand (a war injury, yet, and one gotten fighting a good war) was to prevent muscle spasms. Now he's out selling his other pencil, the one he's happy to have spasming away. (Elizabeth Dole's book, The Nightmare of Viagra, will be published soon.)

People like Bob Dole make it so difficult to be politically incorrect these days. Over at the White House our leader is pretending nobody noticed he couldn't keep himself in his pants. Meanwhile, the erstwhile leader of the loyal opposition has turned himself from stolid Republican into Silver Stud.

Intellectual theorists call this sort of behavior Moral Relativism, as if your own relatives were not enough to deal with. MR--it's so much friendlier when abbreviated, like a disease we're already containing--has been much debated of late, especially among intellectuals of a certain age.

Aging radicals who are also parents--which covers a lot of the new gay moms and dads I know--find themselves on the wrong, or at least the other, side of traditional arguments. Busing your child to a school miles away is a great social principle until you have a child and you don't want to put him on that bus every morning. What if something should happen to him and you're, well, miles away? More than one social firebrand in my Rolodex has quietly abandoned her foxhole over that one.

The New York Times recently devoted most of a Sunday magazine and several daily stories to the dilemma of hard-line intellectuals who find that their positions change with age. And not just their sexual ones. What was remarkable about the writers and tastemakers interviewed was their ability to (a) acknowledge that such change was inevitable and (b) maintain their personal friendships with people on the other side of the position. Maybe (b) could happen only because of (a). Or maybe they realized that friendships are built on more than positions.

Clearly these people are not members of the gay community. In our house you either subscribe to every belief of the group, or you must be hounded out into the street. Many, many friends of mine felt that Ellen had become "too gay" in its final season. I didn't happen to agree with them, and I would love to have seen the season they would have written after the coming-out episodes. When Chastity Bono reported on their opinion, and maybe offered it herself, she was hounded out of a job. There was no room for an unofficial opinion.

When Nathan Lane outed himself in an interview with me and pretty much laid all his cards on the table about all the reasons he hadn't come out before, I got angry letters from people. "I don't buy it!" one reader shouted, "It's all internalized homophobia!" You don't buy it? Who's selling it to you? The man spoke from his heart. I can't think of many people who could stand up and say, "I have internalized homophobia--but that's OK." Do you live in a world of Smart Smalleys? Or do you live in the real world?

I get angry mail all the time from people who can't understand why I work with closeted performers. I don't like that they're closeted either. And every time I work with them, I work to get them to open the closet door a little more. Would you rather I boycotted them? Would that get them out? These are people, and these are personal decisions. We're not bringing Coca-Cola to its knees here. We're changing minds one mind at a time.

I even got an angry letter from Wyoming, from a guy who said, "Nobody ever pointed at me on the street and called me a `fag' until I got to West Hollywood!" Here is a man who took time out of his busy day to address the burning issue of Wyoming bashing. And it goes on. Poor Andrew Sullivan, when he endorses gay marriage, is vilified by a cadre of queens who enjoy viewing themselves as sexual outlaws. I'll tell you, if we don't quit being so mean-spirited to one another, we're going to choke on our own bile. And I can think of a lot better things to choke on.