Monday, October 26, 2009
Gentlemen Of A Certain Age, Part 1
OMG. When I tagged this picture of B-Boy Blues series author James Earl Hardy, author Taylor Siluwe (Dancing With The Devil), me, and Da Doo Dirty Show radio host DJ Baker and posted it to Facebook, reality hit me smack in the face. Not long after I posted it, James Earl Hardy pronounced it the "Gentlemen Of A Certain Age" photo! I was ready to run out to CVS right then and there to grab a case of Just For Men, to hide the encroaching gray hairs on my head. But then, it got me thinking, gee, I am getting older!
When I was born, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States. Barack Obama was still in diapers, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was hard at work making it possible for Barack to one day move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and the resulting anti-war movement was just getting started. While I was attending kindergarten, local NYC gays and lesbians started the Stonewall Rebellion to protest police harrassment of LGBT's, and the crew of Apollo 11 landed and walked on the moon.
As I made my way through grade school, the world grew up, too, facing such serious issues as the Watergate scandal which destroyed Richard Nixon's presidency, and an energy crisis that made Americans realize their precious oil supply was not entirely under their control. I remember my parents complaining about odd/even gas rationing, at a time when just about every car on the road was a gas-guzzling monster. But the '70s also brought us disco, the soundtrack of the LGBT community in that era. It appeared that gays and lesbians were finding their way into the musical "mainstream" when the gay theme group, The Village People, appeared on the scene. They ushered in a musical genre that included legendary songstress Donna Summer, the Gibb brothers, better known as the Bee Gees, and perennial icon Chaka Khan.
For a time, disco personified a carefree lifestyle, where tolerance was on the rise, and it looked like bigotry was on its way to history's dustpile. I was in junior high and just beginning to struggle with my sexuality, when Harvey Milk was elected as a San Francisco City Supervisor. Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to high municipal office in the United States. It looked as though I might actually grow up into an era in which my orientation wouldn't be an obstacle to life. Of course, harsh reality flooded in, when Milk was assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone, by a homophobic fellow city supervisor named Dan White. White then skirted punishment for the murders by using an outrageous legal argument that has come to be known as the "twinkie defense". I clearly remember watching Dianne Feinstein, then also a San Francisco city official, announcing the murders on television, and that White was already in police custody. I was utterly (and secretly) devastated, and this assassination was one of the reasons I stayed in the closet for years to come.
It was around my junior year of high school that reports began surfacing in the news about a disease called "Gay-Related Immune Deficiency" (GRID), which later became known to the world as HIV/AIDS. A new challenge to the survival of the LGBT community had emerged, and together with a resurgence of homophobic bigotry, would shape my life and the lives of gays and lesbians everywhere, for the forseeable future.
In Part 2 of "Gentlemen Of A Certain Age", the Eighties arrive, and with adulthood, I see changes in the world scarcely dreamed of in the Sixties of my childhood, plus the more things change...stay tuned.