May 2010 Archives
Almost everyone in the LGBT community is disappointed with the Obama administration. Granting hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners was a step in the right direction, but then came more of the same: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) -- the most visible gay issue nationwide besides marriage equality -- has yet to be repealed. This latest failure to achieve equality has come to embody the totality of Democratic inaction in recent years regarding gay rights, and LGBT resentment is mounting as the party continues to balk at the gay agenda.
Some -- John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay, to be precise -- have made it their mission to finally stick it to the Left after years of waiting in vain for change. Their brainchild, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give” campaign (DADG), is a boycott of the DNC pending the repeal of DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Unfortunately, DADG won't force Democrats’ hand on these issues. Even worse, it will likely damage the gay rights movement in the long-run.
As a jazz pianist, I'm asked this almost every time I’m at a session. In this context, it is slang that we musicians use to verify that players know what the form of a tune will be before it starts. Among a few close musician-friends who know my sexual orientation, I sometimes joke in reply: “No, actually.” But when the question comes up at a gig or jam session with unfamiliar musicians in France, Holland, or Boston, I just smile to myself and reply, “yeah.”
It goes without saying that one’s sexual orientation -- just like gender, race, religion, you name it -- has no place on the bandstand. All that should matter is what a player brings to the musical conversation. If any genre has come to stand for an affirmation of common humanity, it is jazz. Despite being borne out of the suffering of a distinct ethnic group, its endeavor to transcend the historical memory of African American suffering has earned it almost universal appeal.
Coming to Princeton as a brand new, bright-eyed freshman is, let’s admit, a terrifying prospect all on its own. While we’re being honest, I should confess: Arriving as an openly homosexual male has brought its own set of challenges. Battling through the suffering that accompanies hiding an identity for years, then rejoicing through the triumph of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when the truth demands to be liberated — these experiences taken in their entirety represent a coming out story. But that was before Princeton. Since arriving — and approaching the end of my first year — I have learned that the story is far from over and, for better or for worse, requires rethinking.
There has long existed a stereotype about homosexuals coming out of the closet: The Midwestern boy secretly stashes away some savings and quietly packs a suitcase so that, on his 18th birthday, he can announce to his corn-husking parents that he is gay and flee to New York or Los Angeles with nothing but his gayness. With a self-congratulatory attitude, many like to believe this stereotype is a relic of the past. It’s possible that the new coming-out story, however, will make us yearn for that original rainbow stereotype.
Which reminds me of the 2005 pop news obsession with her alleged "hermaphroditism". Sound like something we heard in 2009 about another female artist, the one-and-only, the ever-so-queerpopular Lady Gaga?
Gay plays, as they've proliferated and mainstreamed over the last 10 years, tend to address relationships between lovers, friends, and family. Plays by and about gay men often delve into sexual conquests and disappointments; the more exploitative ones use nudity to draw audiences and encourage a prurient, if fun, spectatorial pleasure. Plays by lesbians, which thanks to gender discrimination remain relatively fewer than those produced by or about gay men, tend to be more relationally based, dwelling on family dynamics and the domestic sphere.
I'm overstating grossly here to underline how refreshing it is to see a play about gay (or "homophile") activism in the 1950s as the focus of an evening at the theatre. Written by Jon Marans, The Temperamentals tells the story of Harry Hay, considered by many historians to be the father of the U.S. homophile movement, who doggedly persuaded men to sign the manifesto of what he called The Mattachine Society. The Society was named after a troupe of medieval dancers who only appeared publicly in masks, an apt metaphor for closeted homosexuals of the '50s. Hay was the first to publicly call gays and lesbians a "minority" and to argue for homosexual rights along the lines of what would soon become the civil rights movement.
As an event happy to succeed by telling its important story, this production's one acquiescence to commercial pressure is director Jonathan Silverstein's casting of Michael Urie (of tv's Ugly Betty fame) in one of the supporting roles. Although some of his tv character's flaming gestures and flamboyant sarcasm seeps into his performance as Rudi Gernreich, Harry Hay's young Viennese-Jewish clothing designer boyfriend, Urie's acting is subtle, generous, and sincere, bringing depth and intimacy to the complicated exchanges between the two lovers.