Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer

How to Survive a Plague: Telling Stories

Filed By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer | June 21, 2012 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: ACT UP, Andrew Sullivan, HIV/AIDS, Pride, Stonewall

Now that a little over half of Americans don't react like a bunch of insane Medieval idiots to the concept that there might actually be people in the world with a homosexual orientation, there are a lot of stories to tell. We're not just telling the stories to ourselves any more.

bigstock-Welcome-To-The-Magical-World-O-5034688.jpgLast year, during a recital at a musical theater program, a straight friend asked why so many of the guys chose to sing songs with gay themes, or more generally why there were so many songs now in musical theater with gay themes, and the answer to me was so self-evident that I was a little appalled to be asked. But I guess if you didn't grow up gay you wouldn't see how starkly different things are now compared to even 5 or 10 years ago.

It's so much more satisfying now to tell a story with a gay character or subject because the gayness isn't automatically the whole story any more. A general audience might sit and listen and be relaxed (and informed!) enough to see and hear a story about a specific person in a specific situation, doing and feeling unique and interesting and human things, instead of most of the audience just immediately having the reaction, "Oh my god! He's gay!" and not taking in anything else.

This weekend, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots (if you're not gay and over 40, maybe you need a little history lesson), I want to remind everyone that Stonewall was important but it was the 80s when things really started to change.

(Okay, yes, that's debatable and maybe even not so important, it's not a contest after all, but those years certainly marked a watershed in Americans' ability to ignore an uncomfortable truth hoping it'll go away. People were dying and screaming about it and wouldn't stop.)

Once again I credit Andrew Sullivan with some of the smartest, most affecting blogging out there. Where I disagree with him is in his apology for ACT UP's disruption of religious services. He's referring to the notorious demonstration at St. Patrick's cathedral when an ACT UP member threw a communion wafer to the ground.

Admittedly it's easier for me, not believing that the cracker actually turns into the flesh of the son of "God," to accept such an act as political protest, but for me the demonstration in St. Patrick's was a galvanizing moment of brilliant disobedience. I think it was brave.

Anyway, I can't wait to see this film. And happy Pride Day -- a little early: this year I'm celebrating our national homosexual holiday by going to North Carolina for a wedding shower for C's brother (who is marrying a woman in September), which is 1) ironic, and 2) nice, because C's family welcomed me so lovingly into their family this spring and now I can in turn help welcome my soon-to-be sister-in-law.

(Storytelling clipart via Bigstock)

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