considered "controversial" in various important matters (like immigration and the military and
religious institutions and the law), I simultaneously find frequent over-the-moon awestruck
delight in how very, very much better things are for gay people than they were when I first came to
consciousness. This is so not the world I thought I was growing up to live in. I can get teary
about this at the drop of a hat.
I thought about this an awful lot over the years when my life revolved around the lesbian and
gay community band movement. What I specifically thought back in 1985 when I was part of
a group that started the Freedom Trail Band in Boston was that if I had seen that band perform
when I, myself, was 11 or 12 years old, the next five years of my life would have been
incalculably easier. I played with national lesbian and gay bands at major concert halls
throughout the country, and even at the two Clinton Inaugurals. I had many opportunities to cry
those sentimental tears of wonder.
In fact, I consciously try never to forget just how things used to feel when I note how things
feel now. I don't feel as if I'm wallowing in old baggage, really. It's more that it keeps me
sharp and alert and even wary to remember.
I had a similar sharp moment of comparison the other night while watching one of the awful new
tv shows with gay characters. I think the show is called It's All Relative, and it's sort
of The Mothers-In-Law for the new millennium, or perhaps Bridget Loves Bernie. The
groom's parents are homophobic Irish Boston, the bride's parents are snotty Cambridge gay men.
Imagine the yuks! Gosh-darn and a tee-hee-hee.
What the show set me thinking about was some stupid comedian I saw about, oh, 12 years ago on some
Comedy Central show as I was flipping the channels. The comedian's riff was about how funny it
would be if gay men made fun of straight men the way "we" make fun of
"them". While the humor wasn't making-fun-of-fags humor such as I really grew up with, its
premise was so homophobic that I found myself uncontrollably angry. I mean, yes, of course gay
people make fun of straight people -- they do it all the time, it was one of the first things I
learned when I came out and it was empowering and invigorating and helped me come to terms with
things as much as anything, to turn the social tables (even in a limited community). But the premise
of the comedian's joke was that such a thing was inconceivable. That was the source of the
humor, not the wit of the pseudo-fun-making (well, there was no wit there). There was also
the we-they premise, as if, say, somebody like me couldn't possibly have been flipping the channels
to watch this.
Half the jokes on the episode I caught of It's All Relative were along the gay-people-making-
fun-of-straight-people lines. At this point this is so far from groundbreaking that it's actually
cliched, which is the point. It's part of the cultural currency and even the easy laugh (although
the crew on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, to my eyes, brings great fun to the premise,
mostly because they are not "scripted" and talk just as many real-live gay men I've known talk
about straight people, with a humor that's vicious but hysterically insightful).
It was not long ago at all, by any measure, that a straight guy could premise a joke on the
shared assumption that there couldn't be anything funny about being a straight man because ha-ha
this is what normal is. To go from there to the joke-cliche stereotypes about the various
inadequacies that presumably characterize straight men is a long distance to travel in such
a short time. I'm truly amazed.