This is the beginning of gay history month.
So why not go back into my own history and timeline for a story this week?
I may not be one of the 40 icons selected this year by the LGBT historians, but I have a history of columns on gay rights going back, four decades to the 1980s, when I was a counsel and columnist for TWN, the Weekly News, South Florida’s original gay weekly newspaper. I remember one of the first pieces they published, in 1986, outlining the civil liability of Rock Hudson for failing to disclose to his lover of many years that he had AIDS.
Related: LGBT History Month
Today, 30 years later, the Supreme Court has on its docket as one of its oldest pending cases, a decision to make on whether the failure to disclose your sexual status to your same sex partner is a crime under Florida law. The ruling is overdue, by almost a year, and could come any day. We already know you can sue civilly if you fail to disclose your status to your partner and cause him to become ill, but can you go to jail too? We will know soon.
Well, anyway, to inaugurate LGBT history month for the South Florida Gay News, I am going to run some historical columns of my own, from the days I was a columnist for Hot Spots, Scoop Magazine, and the publisher and owner of Express Gay News, from 1999 to 2004.
Here then, to kick off the project, is one of my favorites, from 1998, entitled: ‘Just Born That Way? A Privilege, Not an Excuse’, relating the story of two candidates running for the city of Fort Lauderdale commission in 1993.
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Being ‘Born that way’ is a Privilege, Not An Excuse
In the Fort Lauderdale Fall of 1993, the race for City Commissioner in District 2, which includes the predominantly gay community of Victoria Park, as well as my collie, Daylight, pitted a gay rights activist against a straight city commissioner. However, while the activist had played off his sexuality in the gay community, he steadfastly avoided ever mentioning to the hetero crowd that he was a dick worshipper. This upset the hard-core gay activists, who did not want to elect a squeamish gay commish.
The activists reasoned that the incumbent straight commissioner had been gay-friendly. He had not only appointed gays to positions of influence, but actually came to gay bar openings, if only to drink for free. Anyway, the District 2 elections became a hotbed of controversy, with each candidate spending enough money on the campaign to cure the common cold and Athlete's foot.
The campaign was vicious, as our community masturbated on whether to endorse a supportive straight commissioner, or an openly gay candidate who wanted to talk political, not pubic, affairs. Commissioner Cary Keno fought hard to capture the gay vote. He took out ads in gay publications like ours. One was a classic. It will live with us forever, testimony for generations that some people just don't get it..
The ad featured a picture of Commissioner Keno on his bicycle, pedaling for votes. Under his smiling face, the caption rivaled the gay quote of the century:
"I can't help it that I'm heterosexual... I was born that way. Please vote for me anyway."
Fast forward now with me to 1998, and you are playing darts at the local bar, like the greatest one ever built in this century, Georgie's Alibi. Ever overhear the following anguished comment on gay life from some dork that goes like this: "Do you think I would ever choose this lifestyle - exposing myself to ridicule, exclusion and hurt all these years? I would much rather be a happily married heterosexual with children." I hate when this happens.
Please stop presuming that heterosexual life is one happy rock garden of Fred and Wilma Flintstone living. The bed can be bumpy on both sides of the fence. As an attorney, I have been to Domestic Violence court enough to know. And while gay activists are urging legislators to grant the homosexual community marital rights, breeders are getting divorced more often than they are getting married.
My buddy Al Goldstein, the world-renowned publisher of Screw Magazine, who has been married four times, and pilloried by ex-wives and lawyers and judges for his wealth, says we are out of our minds to even consider same sex-marriage: "Just go get your dick sucked," he says: "Go get laid...."
We are all born equal. Then we sail out on our own. Sometimes you have to leave the sureness of the shore. There will always be threatening squalls and sparkling sunsets. A smooth sea does not make for a good sailor. Those who succeed in life often weather storms that make the sunshine more inviting. In the muddle and middle of every difficulty, the strong soul will find an island of creativity and opportunity. In truth, because so many gay men and women have been unjustifiably ostracized solely because of who and what they are, then gay men and women should be the stronger for it.
Given the way the gay lifestyle has been castigated, ridiculed and demeaned over the years, we should be made of iron. Mounting masses of ferrous oxide. Steel. Supermen. X-Men. Human Torches. Hulks. The Justice League. Hell, I've been to Fantasy Fest in Key West. Most of us already have the costumes. George Michael might need one this week, but that's his doing. And apparently, he's been doing it quite a lot. Imagine getting caught like that in Will Rogers Memorial Park. I suppose Michael never met a restroom he did not like.
So let's kick the lamentations of despair. The next time someone lays a rap of self-pitiful sorrow on you, slap him around. Tell him to butch up. We don't need affirmative action. We can fight back. It was seven years ago today that then Sheriff Navarro raided the Copa, declaring falsely that it was 'awash with cocaine.' Only four arrests were made. Innocent gay men and women were herded out of the club by armed and hooded law enforcement officers at gunpoint, required to hold their hands over their head, only then to be humiliated by waiting TV cameras. But we kicked ass in court afterwards, and BSO wound up paying big-time.
Society has been putting gay men and women through inner hells for generations. Hasn't that been quite enough already? So stop beating yourself up, okay? What is Evita's song: 'Don't cry for me, Argentina.' I don't want to hear how tough it was 'being born this way.' Someone who is true to themselves need never be a liar to anyone else.
Greg Louganis is apparently coming to town for a book signing next week. Unlike what a Scoop columnist wrote last week, he is no hero to me. He is a guy who dealt with everything you have in your own life, but he was blessed with popularity, talent, skill, support, and eventually, the wealth to have made things easier for others. If he remained silent and imposed a self-inflicted torture, then learn from his colossal mistake. Don't do the same thing to yourself. Joe, he may be a great diver, but he ain't no hero.
The more relaxed each of us become about who we are the easier it will be to assist the vast majority of heterosexuals who are not gay, but just like to 'fuck around with other guys'. Our lives will be healthy if we manage well the circumstances we encounter every day, and respond resiliently to adverse occasions as they arise; if we do not let our own misfortunes become the misfortunes of others; and if we stand steadfast in our true identity- then we will become the people whose character and strength are worthy of admiration.
Within our community, there are many such individuals. Indeed, within our lives and daily interactions there are such individuals gay and straight, persons worth meeting regardless of their sexuality. Don't get trapped within the walls of a ghetto most people spend their lives trying to get out of. Expand your horizons, not your fears. Born that way or not, life is a gift and a garden. Make it grow and blossom.
Because of legal and political and social discrimination, as well as disease and death, the gay community has forged a new iron will that is stronger and more solid than any law that could ever be passed. We have stood naked against the cannon and survived. That my friends, is something to be proud of; not to lament, but to praise. You're lucky. Even if you were not born that way; even if you are no Commissioner Cary Keno, you are stronger now than you ever have been.
By the by, the straight incumbent, Keno, prevailed in that 1993 race. So can you in yours in 1998. We need only to remember that in a sense we are all running for re-election everyday. We need to remind ourselves confidently, and with purpose, that we each create the world we live in with each and every choice we make every day. If we make good ones, our lives will prosper.