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Cousins Day, December 2007

NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT

9 January 2008

I read something disturbing yesterday that has been churning inside me ever since.  This was an entry in a blog by a guy who is presently in a production of La Cage aux Folles.  I'm not going to link to it because I don't have his permission.  I suspect some of you will know who I mean--and if you don't, you don't need to.  It's not necessary.

If there is anyone reading this who doesn't know the plot of La Cage aux Folles, the name is the name of a famous (fictional) nightclub on the Riviera and its performers are mostly male transvestites, with a few women thrown in to confuse the crowd.  Albin is a fabulous drag queen who is the star of the show.  He has been in a committed relationship with his partner Georges, the owner of the club, for 20 years, and the story revolves around what happens when their son (conceived in a one-night stand that Georges with a woman had many years ago) falls in love with the daughter of the French equivalent of the head of the Traditional Values Coalition.  As they say, "much hilarity ensues."

When the show premiered on Broadway in 1983, it won all the big awards, including the Tony for Best Musical and best actor Tony for George Hearn, who played Albin.

The blog writer plays one of the "Cagelles" (the chorus girls) and also appears as a man who owns a cafe with his wife in one small scene.  I have gone back to his blog today and can't find what I saw yesterday, so I'm wondering if he has edited it.  If I remember accurately, he was talking about the experience of being a straight man performing in drag and how he agreed to take the role because too many men didn't audition either because it made them uncomfortable or the parents of the younger actors objected for moral reasons.  What he wrote was really quite good and I'm sorry it's not available any more.

But it upset me on so many levels.  Mostly because La Cage aux Folles isn't about being gay or being a drag queen.  La Cage aux Folles is a love story about two people who have been committed to each other for 20 years and have raised a child together and the sacrifices that each makes because of his interpretation of what that child needs at a time of crisis.  It also shows how a strong relationship holds together no matter what.

Until someone has shared a life with the love of his or her life for more than 20 years, nobody has any right to cast aspersions on the relationship between Georges and Albin.

But it brings up the old stereotypes and how they keep being trotted out time and time again.  All gay men are effeminate, all lesbians look like truck drivers, gay people are only interested in sex and are incapable of controlling desires. You can't have a meaningful relationship with someone unless opposite sex parts are involved.  All comments made by straight people about gay people, straight people who can never know what it's like to be gay.

Get a photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and see which one makes your heart go pitty-pat.  If you were going to take one of them to bed, which would it be?  If I pointed a gun to your head, could you make yourself feel the same way about the other one?  If gender attraction is a choice, when did you choose to be straight?

I have heard time and time again about how people are nauseated at the thought of relations between people of the same gender.  How it makes them want to vomit. 

Why then, do straight people -- especially straight men -- have such a low opinion of themselves?  If the thought of sexual relations with someone of the same gender makes you want to vomit, why in God's name do you think that if a gay man touches you, you might "catch it," that you would instantly toss aside a lifetime of heterosexual urges and suddenly "become gay?"  Or that this thing that makes you want to vomit is somehow so wonderful that you would be willing to give up all the pleasures you've had to that point and take a class in "Being Gay 101."

Why are men so afraid to touch each other in a loving way, or if they accidentally happen to touch, make a joke about it or hasten to explain, with nervous laughter, that they aren't "that way." 

One of the things I absolutely loved about Lawsuit, when the band existed, was that the guys all were openly affectionate with each other.  They were completely comfortable with their sexuality and had no problem expressing their affection for the rest of the band, be they male or female.  None of them "became gay."  They are all now married with children and seem none the worse for allowing themselves to be openly affectionate.

I lost a lot of respect for George Hearn when, accepting his Tony, he went out of his way to say "it's amazing what a straight man will do to get a good role."  He had to make sure the audience knew that he "wasn't like that."

I recently heard two straight women joking about lesbians and their fear that they might be showering with a lesbian and one said "just don't bend over."  That doesn't even make sense.  Though it's a stupid thing for men to say, at least male "bending over" exposes an orifice to a pointed object and if you're paranoid you might fear being struck from behind as it were, but with women?  It does not compute.

The whole "don't ask, don't tell" arguments, by straight soldiers, make no sense (especially including the "don't bend over" remark).  I've asked here before what semi-intelligent gay man, when in the company of a platoon of straight fellow soldiers at their peak of physical prowess would risk life and limb just for a quick moment of satisfaction.  He'd be pummeled within an inch of his life, if not beaten to death.  I know a lot of gay men and none of them are that stupid.

Generals say that in time of war, you have to trust your buddy. Who can honestly believe that if you're in a foxhole with a bunch of Marines and Al Qaeda is bearing down on you, that the only thing the guy next to you wants to do is get in your pants?  (And what makes you think that you're God's gift to gay men anyway?)

I cringe when I hear gay jokes because they play on stereotypes and reinforce the kinds of attitudes that get gay kids beaten up or killed, and that cause parents to refuse to let their young men audition for a play.

Anybody who thinks lesbians all look like truck drivers hasn't watched The L Word and anybody who thinks that all gay men are effeminate doesn't know the truck drivers I know!

I just wish -- often, actually -- that people who make offhand comments and toss around funny one-liners would stop and just think about the whole thing rationally.  Gay people are your doctors, your lawyers, your tax accountants, your mechanics, your teachers, your children's teachers, your ministers, priests and rabbis.  There are wonderful gay people and there are jerks.  Just like in the straight population.  Why do we have to point fingers, make jokes, attack, shun, and deny rights to an entire segment of the population?

Any why, for heaven's sake, would you refuse to take a great role in a play just because you might have to put on a costume and wear make-up and act like a woman for a couple of hours? How could there possibly be anything morally wrong with that?

PHOTO OF THE DAY



Les Cagelles (from the Tony-award winning Broadway production)

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