Friday, January 15, 2010

I Proudly Support the Homosexual Agenda

I commonly torture myself wondering if I’d have repudiated homophobia if I’d lived in less enlightened times, like my dad’s, and concluding that I might very well not have.

I didn’t know a “queer” from a box of cornflakes when I was first exposed to one, or, more accurately, a couple. I was around six, and my parents had taken me to a public park in the San Fernando Valley to watch 4th of July fireworks. I remember the local, uh, menfolk seeming very exorcised about the presence of what I infer retroactively was a gay couple that dared display its mutual affection.

In junior high school, my former SS officer (I suspect) PE teacher, Mr. Heydenreich, warned us emphatically against the sort of “bushy, bushy blond hairdo” of which the Beach Boys later sang in “Surfin’ USA”, as it was clearly indicative of…queers. These vile creatures also apparently loved to watch one another work out; we were advised to stay on our toes in weight rooms. Coach H seemed to love intimidating timid, modest little souls such as I by referring to changing for PE as stripping, and I can well imagine him having been a gay sadist behind closed doors. But of course that’s true of every PE teacher I ever had.

I was universally (except by my girlfriend) assumed by my classmates at Santa Monica High School to be…queer because even on non-performance days I occasionally wore to school the blue velour turtleneck and winklepicker boots my first band had bought to try to evoke The Beatles. That summer, when I was working as a parking lot attendant at Ted’s Rancho Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway, Johnny Mathis and a carful of what looked like hairdressers came in wearing exactly the same sort of turtleneck and smelling too good, and I thought maybe I’d better stop tempting fate.

Or maybe not. Within months, my hair was long enough to get the football team braying, “Which one’s the girl?” when I walked past with my girlfriend.

In college, I worked up what I was assured was an hilarious imitation of lispy steretotypical gay speech, but nearly regretted it one night when one of a group of fellow scholars with whom I’d gotten high — a lapsed football player — mused, “You do that a little too good,” while squinting at me menacingly. I am filled with shame to remember later doing my impression around a dear friend who I didn’t realize was gay, and of his feigning great amusement.

Ward, my (straight) best friend right after college, had a gay roommate, whose extremely flamboyant love interest, Fifi, wept and wailed in falsetto so as to depopulate Santa Monica after Ward’s roommate dumped him. It seems to me people commonly behave in arbitrary ways they think are expected of them. I wonder if, 15 years later, Fifi wasn’t muscular, mustachioed, and closed-cropped; it obviously wasn’t being gay that made you wear ruffled Technicolor blouses and wail in falsetto, but the society’s expectation that you probably would, in much the same way that in 1967 the same guy who 15 years earlier might have felt duty-bound to hold up a liquor store after smoking a reefer instead gobbled corn chips and pretended to really enjoy the music of Ravi Shankar.

I was slow to try LSD. I’d heard stories of men discovering under its influence that they were queer, and that was a chance I was hesitant to take; it wasn’t as though I’d never noticed particular male classmates’ charisma, after all. One of the many, many psychotherapists I’ve consulted over the years speculated that my depressiveness owed to repressed homosexuality, but I could see he was just trying to hit on me.

When a famous male record company talent scout, without whom the last three decades of rock and roll would have been very much less interesting, found himself unable to seduce me, he made me feel a rube. What we all were deep down, he scoffed, beneath the inhibitions in which the culture encases us, is pansexual, capable of expressing affection or attraction physically with either sex. I’ve never acted on it, not even after Mr. Bowie made bisexuality terribly chic for a while, but I suspect he was right.

In the course of researching my famous NWA piece for Playboy, I interviewed an LA rapper who called himself Tweety Bird, presumably so that someone, in taunting him, would give him an excuse for mayhem; he was as malevolent as huge, and very huge. When he started talking about his contempt for faggots, though, didn’t brave Johnny get right in his face, telling him he should be ashamed of himself? One of my finest hours!

Nowadays, I’m not only fervently anti-homophobia, but also outspoken on behalf of the consensually kinky, who come by their sexuality exactly as gays do — and exactly as you did.

For having discomfited my friend with my “faggot” imitation, it was only fair that I should be the victim of heterophobia at the big fascist law firm where I worked 17 years later, after my daughter was born. I was one of a very small number of straight male “support staff”, and several of my gay supervisors and others made no secret of their antipathy. Naturally (he said cynically), it was the non-heterophobic one with whom I became friends who didn’t make it through the first years of AIDS. This one’s for you, Bob.

See the line of homophobic-baiting products I designed in 2006 here. Facebookers: Read lots more of my wee essays and subscribe here.

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