When I began trying to locate myself inside the gay community and construct an identity around my attractions, growing up in Eastern Kentucky provided certain restrictions on the sources of information that were available to me. Almost all of my initial exposure to gay life came from literature, and, looking back on it, primarily from gay men writing about the AIDS epidemic in the form of novels and essays. I also was lucky enough occasionally to locate an Out magazine that I would devour from cover to cover. I enjoyed and still enjoy these staples of gay culture. However, something never seemed to fit quite right. I found it incredibly difficult to locate myself inside the stories of these men who were primarily living either upper middle class or affluent lives while I was watching my single mother work long hours just to make sure we had food on the table. Could I be gay if I didn't have money?
There are so many directions to take this conversation in because the intersections of social class and gay and/or queer identities is not a simple topic, and it's certainly one that needs to be addressed in a more complex way. However, I will talk a little bit about social class and politics. I have been avidly following all of the Democratic and Republican debates and am saddened by the absence of any substantial discourse about social class in this country and the harsh reality that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. John Edwards is the closest exception to this silence, and he is not speaking nearly as much this time about these issues as he did during his first campaign. In a New York Times article about Edwards, social class, and Paris Hilton that comes out today, Edwards is quoted as saying,
The issue is what are we going to do to create one America with universal health care, with more economic equality, having, raising the minimum wage, access to decent housing, access to college for kids who can't afford it? Those are the tools, some of the tools, that allow us to close the gap that exists in America today between those who are doing well and everything else. I think the next president of the United States is going to have a huge responsibility. Last year the top 300,000 income earners earned more than the bottom 150 million, and that gap is not healthy.Do folks think that there just isn't an audience for real honest conversations about social class in this country? It isn't news that everyone and their brother consider themselves to be middle class with incomes ranging from twenty thousand to over a hundred thousand dollars. Is this refusal to engage in the conversations that must occur about the sad realities of social class due to our persistent belief in the American dream? I am really curious what folks think, so share.