(Note: There might be a few of you who are totally mad about what I am saying here. If so, I’m sorry. Also, if so, please argue with me in the comments section. We all have things to learn from each other, as long as you always remember that I am right. Nah, just kidding. But if you have issues, yes, let’s talk about it.)
Joe brings us this quote from Dr. Tom Roach, an author, speaking at Bear Week. It rubs me the wrong way. See what you think:
One of my biggest fears as a gay kid was that I wouldn’t find that ‘special someone,’ that one person who was supposed to complete me, fulfill me. We’re all in one way or another trained to believe this is the apex of human relationships. After learning more about gay history and politics, after reading brilliant feminist and queer critiques of marriage and romance, however, I came to understand gay friendship networks as a viable and perhaps more fulfilling relationship alternative to marriage and family life.
“This is of course not to say that I’m against love, romance, or coupledom; this is not an either/or debate about friendship versus love, or friendship versus marriage. That’s silliness. Instead I ask readers to take seriously gay friendship networks as a unique cultural innovation, legitimate and gratifying in their own right. In recent years, as we all know, gay rights organizations have sunk enormous amounts of time, money, and energy into securing marriage and family rights for lesbians and gays. One of the main points of my book is to remind the gay community that friendship is the bedrock of all gay politics, of all gay rights struggles.
“If it weren’t for networks of friends: friends who marched in the streets together in the 70s, friends who cared for one another during the AIDS crisis, friendship networks that historically offered an alternative to obligatory heterosexuality and compulsory coupling, there wouldn’t be much of a gay community to fight for.”
So you should give up what you really want based on “gay history and politics?” Please, but some of us don’t live our lives based on such strictures. Some of us want the same damn things as everyone else and, you know, friendship is wonderful, I’d take a bullet for my close friends, but no. Moreover, what in the hell is different about close friendships whether they’re between two gay people, a gay and a straight person, a straight and a transgender person, two straight people? What? A close friendship is a close friendship is a close friendship.
I’m sorry, because again, I would take a bullet for my closest friends, but part of the implicit understanding in our relationships is that we are all on a pathway in life, seeking that which fulfills us most, which, for most people, is to have someone who understands us best, and who isn’t going to flit away because they found a new “friend.” Bear in mind, I really don’t differentiate between my straight friends and my gay friends. As Sharon Needles told me tonight [ridiculous pictures forthcoming], the fact that she, or I, am gay should be about the tenth thing you know about me. It’s irrelevant when dealing with people who actually care whether you live or die. We’re not in the gay ghetto anymore, darlings.
I understand that in the generations before me there were a lot of cultural circumstances that caused LGBT people to live very differently from the way we do today, in all our varied glory. Much of that wasn’t actually good, for the record. Some of it was cool, but a lot of it was a product of circumstance. I also understand that, for some LGBT people, the last thing they want to do is to conform to cultural “norms.” That being said, the reality of the fact, and the reality of the younger generations growing up NOW, in a place where they’re more comfortable coming out, where their President supports marriage equality, is that those kids, for the most part, want the same damn things as everybody else. We’re different, but we’re not that goddamned different. Generations of LGBT people never allowed themselves to dream those dreams of love, marriage and family, because it wasn’t realistic. Well, now it’s realistic, and people need to understand that, for so many of those coming up, that’s exactly what the hell they want.
Personally, I’m all for that change in the dynamic.
I appreciate everything that Roach says about a time which I am fortunate enough not to have lived through. I have close friends who did. Friendship is amazing, and I’d like to think that, given a crisis akin to that experienced by the LGBT community in the 1980’s, my closest friends would band together in the same way. Considering the quality of my friendships, it’s likely. The author states that he doesn’t want to create an “either/or,” but he is. He’s devaluing committed, one-on-one relationships, and asserting that there’s some special “difference” between friendships between gay people and other friendships. That may have been the case in 1975, but it simply isn’t anymore. We are well served to understand our history, but, thank the gods, we are not beholden to it.
People who are gay and who are close friends with each other are not a “unique cultural innovation.” They’re human beings who made friends with other human beings, sometimes through shared struggles and successes and commonalities and whatever else. They’re friends. Gays have contributed a lot to the culture, but friendship isn’t some unique innovation.
LGBT people in 2012 are well served to know where they came from, movement-wise. At the same time, we are not well-served by dwelling on a counter-culture past that dictates what we can and cannot dream of and wish for. The truth of the matter is that the only thing that’s f*cking diffrerent about us is that, if we’re LGB, we’re into people of the same sex, and if we’re T, we were born in the wrong gender, but still are into whatever we’re into! At the end of the day, we all have different struggles, but, if we’re honest, we yearn for the same stuff. Connection. A partner in crime. Friendship AND also, at the end of the day, love.
I want to like what Dr. Roach said more. But everything I read in that quote smacks of settling for something less than what people really want. Why in the hell should LGBT people settle for less? Good god.