Confession: I can be a bit of a snob. Take white rappers for instance. Generally speaking I have no time for them. Oh sure, I love the Beastie Boys and don’t deny the talents of Eminem, but typically, I’m suspicious of Caucasian rhyme the same way I am of white boy blues. And before you start screaming, yes I’ve heard of Stevie Ray Vaughn, and I adore Chris Whitley (so should you). I’m just speaking in generalities, which as we all know, can get you in trouble.
Which brings me to the song, “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I had already heard “Thrift Shop,” and I had considered it nothing more than a cute novelty tune. “Same Love” is anything but that. Not only is it forward thinking in sound, but also in message. In it, Macklemore tells a highly personal story about growing up as a hetero kid who questioned his own sexuality due to stereotypes and personal environment. Macklemore could draw and so could his gay uncle. Did that mean he was gay? Of course not. But the greater point the song and the rather wonderful video made to promote it makes, is does it even matter?
This got me thinking about my own journey.
I’m a straight guy too. I used to be able to draw when I was a kid (a skill that has left me entirely). I liked comic books. I came to sports late and was always intimidated by girls. I grew up in a home with an alcoholic who was mean even when he wasn’t drunk. If I made a funny noise or just did something slightly less than masculine, he would say that I was “going to be a fag.” I had a habit of walking with my elbows bent and my hands pointing down. He used to slap my arms and say “He’s going to be…” You get the idea. It’s worth mentioning that this was during the 70s, and being gay was not nearly as acceptable as it is now (not that there aren’t miles to go). So I grew up thinking being gay was not only bad, but one of the worst things you could ever be.
As I reached my teen years and played 3 sports year around, the most common slur used to describe someone on the other team was ‘fag.’ Hell, the most comment insult in school was the same. I am ashamed to say that far too often I took part in this type of behavior. It carried on to my high school years as well. There were times I was mean to effeminate boys that I went to school with for no other reason than they were “different.” I realize now that my actions had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me and the house I grew up in. You see, calling someone a ‘fag’ wasn’t just done to denigrate someone else, it was also to make it clear to others that you were not like them.
Once I got out of my small town, backward ass high school and moved on to college, I began to gradually change. More gay people were open about their sexuality, and my resistance changed to ambivalence and eventually, acceptance and finally, support.
The final turn came in of all places, a movie theatre. I was visiting a friend in Ann Arbor and we went to see The Crying Game together. Spoiler Alert: Read no further if you don’t want to know specific plot details. The film was an out of left field sensation at the time. Marketing cleverly positioned the film as having a shocking reveal in the final act. I was intrigued. Hitchcock used to refer to a device called “The Macguffin” when referencing his film career. The idea being that the “Macguffin” was what you thought the movie was about, only to find out that really wasn’t the case at all. The “Macguffin” in The Crying Game is to make you think that the movie was about an IRA terrorist who flees his group and leaves to England to lie low. There he meets a beautiful girl named “Dil” (played by Jaye Davidson) and we soon find the movie is about something else altogether. Let me just say, with her dusky complexion, long curly raven shaded locks, and taut physique, I thought Dil was hot right away.
As the film continues, the ghosts of the former terrorist (wonderfully played by Stephen Rea) begin to close in on him as the Irish Republican Army wants to bring him back into the fold. While trying to navigate through the pressure being applied by his former compatriots, his love for Dil becomes more complicated…a lot more complicated. In the back half of the film, they finally begin to the process of consummating their relationship. Dil comes out of the bathroom in a short, thin robe. As they become amorous, Dil drops the robe and reveals…a penis.
I thought my head was going to explode.
Rea’s character reacts by striking Dil and generally freaking out. He didn’t know. Hell, neither did I.
At this moment, I was confronted by my own prejudices in a way I had never expected. I was attracted to Dil. To be honest, more than a little. Minus the violence, I was responding much like Rea’s terrorist. At first I was shocked, then–if I’m being completely truthful–a little repulsed (I still had some evolving to do). But a strange thing happens after. Rea does not hurt Dil anymore or even cut her out of his life. He loves Dil. Even if later he admits that he liked her more as a girl. The film reaches a wonderfully ambiguous conclusion that ends with Lyle Lovett singing–rather ironically–“Stand By Your Man” over the closing credits.
I left the theatre not knowing what I felt. After the big reveal, there is a scene where Dil visits Rea at the construction site he is working at, and damn if she didn’t look hot in that moment too. It was fair to say I was a little confused. Not about my own sexuality–I think I would have preferred Dil as a girl too–but rather about those who embraced the hoary cliche of “alternative lifestyles.” As my friend and I walked back to his apartment, we both had difficulty talking about the movie even in the most basic terms. When we referred to Dil, should we say “he” or “she”? It was a perplexing question that got in the way of any further discussion. Finally my friend said, “Fuckit. I’m calling her SHE!” And he was right. That was how Dil self identified, and who were we to say differently?
It may seem trite, but that movie changed my life. Oh sure, I was probably headed in that direction anyway, but I sure got there a hell of a lot faster because of it. What I learned that night is something so simple it is absolutely stupid. We all want the same things. Seems obvious doesn’t it? We all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. Gay, straight, bi, or whatever. That doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t fucking matter.
That’s what I’ve been thinking of during the whole “gay” marriage debate. You see, I think it’s wrong to even refer to it as such. What we are talking about here is “marriage,” and whether a whole group of people can be denied the same rights as the majority. To conclude that they should not be able to live and love as they choose is to suggest that they are “less than” the rest of us. That’s not a world I want to live in anymore.
Their love is the same as mine. So should their rights be as well.
ps. A couple of years later, I found an abandoned kitten outside of the record store I used to run as I was closing up shop. I took the poor cat home. Originally I thought the little street urchin was a boy. Turns out she was a girl. I named her “Jaye.”