More than a generation after the Stone Wall Inn riots, post “Will and Grace” and despite the public coming-outs of Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell, gay men are still confronted with an overwhelmingly heterosexual world. We are neither virtually normal nor freaks to be labeled with pink triangles, though both happened. We are different because we are born and raised different no matter what our parents’ intentions were. So why would we try so hard to convince the world that we are just like anyone else? That our relationships are no different than boy-next-door falls in love with girl-next-door and they live happily ever after. We know that we are not like that because we feel it in the core of our being. Because billboards still scream it at us from every corner. Because government forms still call us deviant and disordered, a thing to be disdained.
Yes, we have come a very long way since men like us were rounded up in concentration camps. But after the barbed wire fences and prison walls were torn down, the walls in our heads often remained. Even worse, we rebuild, maintain and reinforce them every day. Denying that we are different in fundamental way, whether it is through nature, nurture or both perpetuates these walls. When have we started to confuse claiming equal right with claiming that we are no different? We proudly claim equal rights because we are different. Otherwise there would be no point. Landowners didn’t discriminate against other landowners, but people who were poor. Yes there are innumerable ways of seeing and declaring differences, in speech, skin color, sexual orientation or preference, religious observation, diet and hair stiles. Humans are social and tribal animals. To recognize our own we need to be able to see what separates us from them. The fear of the other is the survival strategy evolution has carved into our genetic memory.
That’s why I believe that we will have to deal with the effects of homophobia and repression for generations to come. Our younger brothers might disagree with me. It’s the privilege and obligation of the older man to teach younger men. Even if they choose to ignore the words for now, as they will and have every right to, the words might resonate with some later. Some seeds need to lie dormant in fertile soil for years before they sprout. But let us not be quiet. Let us not lay aside the tools that we have sharpened so painfully on our own lives. I believe that as gay men we are born and raised differently and that we have different views, skills and gifts to offer to the world. I believe that to survive as individuals and as community we have to discover and sharpen these talents, our way to see the world and our way to relate to others. I believe our purpose is to own who we are, to stand proud in the light and to share ourselves with the world.