Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Community's History

This afternoon I was privileged to spend a couple of hours with a wonderful group of gay seniors.  Openhouse, a San Francisco organization devoted to providing housing and community for LGBT seniors, invited me to read from my novel and lead a discussion. 
Every second Sunday, the group meets for a potluck lunch and open discussion on a particular topic.  Today, about 10 men participated.  As soon as I walked through the doors, I was made to feel at home.  We sat in a circle and I read a couple of passages from The Heart’s History, which sparked a lively conversation about what it means to be gay in the contemporary world.  I was particularly pleased to have a chance to discuss the topic with men from an older generation, many of whom had come out in the 1970s, or even the 1960s.  The characters in The Heart’s History—not to mention its author—have the luxury of being able to argue about gay culture and the degree to which it can or should assimilate into the mainstream.  For people of an earlier generation, coming out of the closet or holding your lover’s hand in public was an act of courage. 
We talked a lot about how to define sexual orientation:  Is it about sex?  An ability to memorize lines from Joan Crawford movies?  One person summarized it simply:  Gay people are survivors.  We keep living out loud and fighting for our rights, despite the odds.
And that got me thinking.  No matter what the Far Right wishes, or how hard they may try, they’ll never get rid of us, because you don’t need gay people to make more gay people.  We don’t have to reproduce ourselves, and we don’t have to recruit.  Straight people take care of that for us.  Mother Nature must know something that the homophobes don’t.  She knows that we’re an essential part of the fabric of humanity. 
Sitting with these men who paved the way for me, as an earlier generation paved the way for them, I was acutely aware of how essential our history is to all of us.  Ours is indeed a history of the heart.  And lest we lose sight of that, as each generation is wont to do, I saw this afternoon that there are some ways in which I simply can’t compete.  I met a man today who once had sex in a bathhouse with Michel Foucault.  Now that’s history.

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