Gradually receding

Ahh, the secrets we keep.

For instance, the secrets revealed in a biography of author Truman Capote. (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, In Cold Blood)  I am reading it, although the book came out many years ago, after Capote died.

Its pages were filled with details about the homosexuality of any number of celebrities.  Capote was gay, of course.  So were various he-man movie and television stars.  So were a raft of musicians, composers, poets, authors, members of royalty.  So were many famous wives. And husbands.

Virtually all kept to their closets.  People who wrote about them knew.  People who interviewed them knew.  People who publicized their marriages knew.  Yet all kept silent, so far as the fans were concerned.  They participated in a massive conspiracy of silence.

This was not just because we might not buy tickets to the movies of gay actors or scorn the books of gay writers. It was also because if news slipped out some of the actors and writers could land in jail.  Or be blackballed in their work.  Blackballed by people who knew all along they were gay but figured the audiences and book buyers could not stomach this.



Much of that sort of punishment is gone today, of course.  But some remains.  It all depends upon what side of the political fence the gay person stands.  Senator Larry Craig was barbequed for jiggling his foot under the divider of a men’s room stall.  But then, he is a conservative, or at least Republican.

Congressman Barney Frank is openly gay.  His live-in operated a gay prostitution business from Frank’s home.  “Tut tut, so what?” was the response from media types.  But then, he is a pretty liberal guy.

Imagine: Hundreds of millions never knew author Gore Vidal, actor Rock Hudson, composer Leonard Bernstein, actor Montgomery Clift and many many more entertainment guys were gay.  Kept a secret.

Little by little the public has learned to accept homosexuality.  So that the veils of secrecy have been lifted.  Some have, anyway.  Little by little we have begun to use our laws to protect rather than prosecute gay people.

In some countries, of course, your choice of sex partners can still lead to the gallows.  There are Iranian and Saudi homosexuals who will not dare set foot on their native soil again.

We can see the tide of prejudice against gays gradually receding.  In the village where I grew up a woman minister and her partner operate one of the churches.

In my current home town a college is welcoming a lesbian as its new president.  And welcoming “their” children and her partner.  Thirty years ago?  Not on your life.  In fact, twenty-some years ago a congregation bounced their minister because of her affair with a married woman.

Last weekend a gay man gave me a tour of his house.  “This is our bedroom,” he said matter-of-factly, meaning the bedroom of his and his partner.

I contrast that with a similar tour a gay woman gave me of her house 35 years ago.  “This is Becky’s bedroom,” she said.  “This one here is mine.”  Right.  Years later, after a few beers, she admitted what everybody knew.  The big one was their bedroom.

There will always be sexual secrets, of course.  And there will always be people who brandish secrets of gay people in order to hurt them.

Who knows whether we will ever reach a state which I call the Shrug State.  That is, a time when for most of us the secret about a person’s sexual orientation will call for a shrug.  Whether that secret is about someone who lives at the White House, or the house next door.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                   

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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