Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not Ready to Make Nice, Not Ready to Back Down

I noticed a "where is he now" piece flit across the internet concerning one of the (many) men who I credit with turning me gay (not really): Greg Louganis. Olympic diving gold medalist wunderkind, whenever Greg competed, I was glued to the television when I was a teenager. Well before he came out, I was nursing fantasies of what that incredibly crafted body of his would be like in some man-on-man action.

There's a pathos about Greg's story these days that's compelling. He didn't expect to live past the age of 33, so on his 33rd birthday, he celebrated as if it were his last. HIV positive and past the point of being competitive in world class diving, Greg apparently had trouble imagining that he'd still be alive, much less what his life would look like at 50.

There's a generation that's gone through that hell, now approaching their "mature years." Well, to be fair and entirely respectful, there's a fraction of a generation that went through the hell HIV/AIDS in the 80's and 90's, now left to face the arrival of an unimagined future. When we've got some well-earned distance from this moment in history, I'm certain that generations will look back in wonder at the toll that HIV/AIDS will have taken out of the population of gay men, and the even greater toll that society's response had, and the mass of survivors will be seen for what they are (yet unacknowledged today): fierce resistors of a society conspired to destroy them.

Normally, I try to have more of a sense of humor about this blog than I do today. World events seem sobering, but actually that sometimes just drives me that much more into the pleasing distractions that I typically ramble on about here. There's something about Greg's story, though, that's capturing a feeling within me today that's doesn't feel very light-hearted. Today, I'm feeling a little bitter about the continuing use of "gay panic" to justify all sorts of heinous acts of interpersonal as well as political assault. I'm feeling resentful of a generationally and racially fractured gay community that often as not seems just as ready to tear itself to pieces before the haters outside of the community ever have a chance to. Then again, I'm also feeling deeply, fiercely determined today to not play nice, to not blend in, to not believe the message that to be gay is to be unproductive, expendable, irrelevant or infectious. Strike that last bit. I'm feeling like I want to be a little infectious right now, as unpopular as that probably sounds. I want to make some bigots sick to their stomaches. I'd even like to make some of the gay apologists, the we-can-be-as-straight-acting-as-you-want-us-to-be crowd feel a little feverish and flushed. I'd like to be the sort of gay today that festers under the skin, no matter how much straight-privilege strives to cover us up with make up. I want to remind everybody I see today that I come from a people that are god-damned resilient enough to endure one of the nastiest, most aggressive viruses to wash across the globe in the past 100 years and still survive as a fiercely strong remnant today, even when society is piling on at the very same time with condemnation, discrimination, and outright lies told to strip us of our humanity.

I'm feeling strong, impatient, unruly and socially unacceptable today. I, for one, think the world needs more of all of those things.


  1. My older sister had a crush on Greg Louganis, so I'd watch him on tv with her. (I liked him, too.) And we saw when he hit his head on the board... Owwww.

  2. Bard, I like you strong, impatient, unruly, and socially unacceptable. Keep it up. You're a goddamned wolverine, babe.



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