Dear Father Tony,
I've been a reader on Bilerico for a few months. I've read previous letters that you have received and posted on the Bilerico website and wondered if I could do the same.
I am a 20 year old gay male, living in Florida. Even though here where I live, there is not much bigotry I read different articles from multiple gay press website (ex. The Advocate, Bilerico, Washington Blade) and I can't help but feel that eventually something is going to happen. I mean, with how the fight that is going on in Maine, I fear that someday, that battle will come here. I know that eventually it's going to happen in all states, but what is there to do when the National Organization for Marriage and all the anti-gay groups decide to come here?...I said to my boyfriend that I want to move out of this country and live in a place where we can be happy. I know it seems like a big rant or that I think negatively, and I apologize. But I can't seem to shake the feeling that this country can't have an wide view of the different people that live in it.
What do you think Father Tony? Do you have any suggestions on what you think will happen to this country in the future?
Thank you for reading this,
He's 20 And He's Worried
I am pleased to receive your letter considering the fact that you are surrounded in Florida by some of most apathetic gay men in America. I am refreshed to know that someone as young as are you is wrestling with his gay future to an extent beyond the timing of the next drink. Also, I've to admit that when I was your age, I was worried too, but mostly about my hair. Was it long enough, straight enough and shiny enough? When it thinned and whitened, I learned the futility of fussing over that which is transitory. (Sigh.) Here's my take on your future.
1) We are in for some tough times. My own husband is among those who feel that the dark clouds are gathering over America and that an unsettling eruption will soon shake us all to our roots. I am beginning to think that you and he may be right, but that the eruption will ultimately be corrective and purgative and regenerative.
2) We need to look at cultural patterns if we are to understand our own troubling times. My husband has been reading me sections of a book on Weimar Germany between the wars. An actor I recently interviewed spoke with surety about the ridiculous Puritanism of the middle classes reacting to recurrent Bohemia. Recently, men like Gore Vidal bitterly claim that there are no heroes and that we should not be looking for them. Our neighbors beyond our borders have devalued us. Permanently. Read Gibbons for the recipes of cultural rise and fall just as one would read Julia Child for the truth about the rise and fall of souffles. One wonders about the fearsome premise that "there are no second acts". Everything is now viral. As the song goes "Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide". Museums silently present us with the toys of empires not unlike our own. Things change by nature, Michael. It's important to learn the patterns. Read the gay authors. Edmund White, for instance, in his new book City Boy writes about a New York City in the 1970s redolent with uncollected garbage and wonderful gay life. Gay gentrification and assimilation seems good when we first pursue it, but it turns out to be deadly. Gay culture, by its own efforts can turn its own wonderful neighborhoods into valleys of the dolls. These random thoughts may be tied up into a package labeled "Unsafe repetitions that may probably be impossible to avoid because nobody lives long enough to see them through to correction".
3) Moving to a place such as Montreal is immensely tempting but is to be avoided until even our domestic water becomes as unimbibable as our biblethumpers' rivers of hate. No, we've to stick it out, we've to plant things that grow slowly and are winter hardy, and more, we've to be happy in our passage through chaos because we only get one journey through this world, and every generation has its trials and its troubles. As Ella Grasso said while she was governor of Connecticut, "Bloom where you are planted."
4) I've learned to be pessimistic about human nature and its twisted DNA, but I mark myself with the invincible warpaint of the optimist. Gay pessimists can never be activists (and an activist is surely what you will become). They are at best complainers. The optimistic activists are the surgeons who understand the need for bloodshed in order to make the sick healthy. I think Larry Kramer is of that breed in our gay community. I think Cleve Jones is of that breed. I think you ought to borrow the best of guys like that and form strong opinions about the way the world should be, and then choose a path of action whether quiet or loud, dramatic or shy that will be guided only by your informed inner sense of right and wrong.
5) Expose yourself to a wide range of scholarship. Read Ben Franklin. Read Macchiavelli. Read Sartre and Heidegger and Kafka and Edith Wharton and Flannery O'Connor and the metaphysically Floridian Andrew Holleran, and don't overlook Eva Gabor who once said of the arabs "They'll steal the ring off your finger." If she had been in charge of America's foreign policy we wouldn't be in the ridiculous circumstances that currently bind us and drain our national wealth. Seriously.
6) Focus on your backyard in Florida, an amazing mix of air-conditioned retirees welded to their remotes, South Americans with money to hide, gorgeous Cubans and Puerto Ricans, dazed gays, and Madoff victims. I think Florida is up for grabs. Recently I heard Cleve Jones urge people to be vociferous locally wherever bad legislation percolates. His words were something along the lines of "Knock on your neighbor's door. Tell him I'm your neighbor. I'm gay. This law will hurt me. Please don't vote for it. " The wisdom behind his exhortation is that no one can appeal to your neighbor as can you.
7) I hope you will go to Washington for the March and that you will have a wonderful time and that you will meet other young men who think like you, and some older ones who think like me, and that you will always remember never to take the plight of the moment too seriously. We were born also to have some fun. Lots of it, actually.
8) And for God's sake, please stay healthy.