I’ve been rereading Irish author Colm Toibin’s book “Love in A Dark Time,” as Motor City and Ferndale’s Pride 2013 events take place one week apart from each other.
For those unfamiliar with Toibin, his novel “The Story of Night” is among the 100 best gay novels listed by Lambda Literary Digest. His books with gay struggle awareness, liberation themes are read in 17 languages. He pubs down in Dublin. (Erin Go Gaelic!)
“Love in A Dark Time” sheds light on famous men and women whose affectional needs “remained hidden or oblique for much of their lives, either by choice or necessity.” Each rainbow personality lived when there was little, if any, light at the end of the tunnel of same-sex love.
For those who came out before Stonewall, 1969, psychiatry, the law, the Church, family and friends offered few kind words, little understanding, and no mending for fallen angels with cellophane wings.
There were no BTLs, no Affirmations LGBT Center, no Rainbow Cruises, no Lansing Pride parades, no holy unions, no same-sex weddings, no Triangle Foundation or Equality Michigan, no Downriver P-FLAG, no Forum Foundation scholarships, no Ferndale gay mayors, no GRINDR, no Transgender hotlines, no Dyke softball teams, no Just4Us bookstore, no MCC-Detroit, no Dignity group, no Detroit Area Gay/Lesbian Council, no MOHR, no Motor City Business Forum. No Drag Queen Bingo!
How times have changed! Just pick up a copy of Donald Webster Cory’s “The Homosexual In America” (1951), and read what it was really like during the Sen. Joseph McCarthy era – himself a frustrated, basket case – whose lengthy communist, gay witch hunt destroyed lives. (Several hundred suspected gays were booted out of the State Department.)
Among insights and quotes in Toibin’s “Love in A Dark Place,” I’ve underlined with lavender marker this insight: “People can tolerate two homosexuals they see leaving together, but if the next day they’re smiling, holding hands and tenderly embracing one another, then they can’t be forgiven. It is not the departure for pleasure that is intolerable, it is the waking up happy.”
If there’s anything the Religious Right hates it’s our waking up happy. Gays can’t be happy. (Likewise Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists may seem to be happy. But they can’t be eternally so. “Sorry, non-Born-againers. Too bad, heathen. Hey, fags. That’s how the biblical fortune cookie crumbles.”)
And, Charles, I ask myself these days: How often did you wake up smiling in your checkered past? Well, frequently enough not to walk the straight and narrow, I gamely answer. Yes, I’ve had many good times, met many fascinating people (and some jerks), traveled, partied, made love, put myself through college, wrote wordy columns, made wacky art, and to my personal, everlasting credit (Log Cabin Republicans, please note) once refused to shake hands with V. P. Richard “tricky Dick” Nixon.
I’ve also learned as a happy camper that closets are two-faced. They keep out good people on both sides of the keyhole. March with Pride 2013 in Ferndale, in Lansing, in Downtown Detroit, in Toronto, Ontario, in San Francisco, in Chicago, in New York City, in Paris, France, in Berlin, Hong Hong, Hamtramck, Zug Island. Need we say more!
Remember, please. Our journey of a thousand miles began with one courageous high-heeled step. God only knows when.