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You Feel Normal? Or Like An Outlaw? Just Askin'


sculpture by Lauren Halsey

Jean Genet's classic Thief's Journal, set in 1930s Europe, was published the year after I was born. Reading it as a young man, I could have hardly have conceived of the Genet character-- nor the author-- marching in a Pride Parade. You can hardly picture him being out in the sunlight! I was already a high school junior when City of Night by John Rechy was published and, again, you would probably not imagine Rechy's "youngman" ever marching in a Pride Parade, a concept itself that hadn't been born yet-- even if the 1959 L.A. Cooper Donuts Riot had. I don't think I read Rechy until Jim Morrison sang about City of Night over a decade later. Listen:



Jean's and Rechy's self portrayals were outlaws. There were other gay lifestyles and cultures. Years later, one of my friends and mentors was murdered by a former policeman, conservative Democratic politician Dan White. He got off on the "Twinkie Defense," claiming he had too much sugar in his blood to be responsible for the two cold-blooded murders he committed. The "other gay lifestyles and cultures" led a candlelight march from Castro Street down Market to City Hall to cry or pray or something. I came with some punk rockers from the Mabuhay and we turned over and burned the first and second police cars in front of City Hall and smashed windows and chased the police off the streets while police cars went up in flames all over the area and City Hall was wrecked. Sorry we spoiled the candlelight vigil (not).


More came later, but I'll save it for my autobiography.


My attraction to a gay lifestyle was to an outlaw culture-- not as my legendary friend Danny Fields once put it, to a ribbon clerk culture. Genet and Rechy and pretty much all the LGBTQ artists of the day were focused on outlaw culture, from Kenneth Anger, John Waters, Robert Maplethorpe, Little Richard, James Baldwin, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Hubert Selby Jr. to John Lennon, Lou Reed, Janis Ian, Jayne County, the Davies brothers (Kinks), Pete Townsend, David Bowie, Marc Bolan and various Rolling Stones. When the San Francisco police lashed out after the Candlelight vigil, they didn't raid the Mabuhay; they raided the Elephant Walk on Castro Street, a bourgeois fern bar for effeminate gay men who sipped expensive cocktails with paper umbrellas in them. The police wrecked the place and beat up the patrons, none of whom, I'm almost sure, were involved in any outlaw behavior outside the confines of their bedrooms in the lives.



The Mabuhay was run by Dirk Dirksen a gay man, criminal and predator, a friend of mine, and there were always plenty of gays there, but it was never remotely a gay bar; it was a punk rock club, a place-- at least at first-- for society's proud rejects. Earlier, I had found a gay bar I felt comfortable in, a c&w bar called the Rainbow Cattle Company in the Mission, down the street from my house. Anthems there included outlaw country music by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, never glitzy Nashville pop-country. When they opened at offshoot on Polk Street they hired me as a dj, to play country music that would chase away the drag queens. The drag queens loved the country music and I catered to them, with plenty of Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton.


A few days ago there was a discussion on the radio about how tragic it is that "Pride" is getting mainstreamed and commercialized. I wanted to yell at the radio that Pride is mainstream and commercial and that it has been since conception. Anything, everything that mimics the straight lifestyle makes me want to hurl. Don't get me wrong; I support-- fully and without hesitation-- equal rights for the LGBTQ community, including everything and anything anyone wants to do to mimic the straight lifestyle and its definitions of normalcy. Yay, gay marriage; Yay, gay churches; yay, gays donating blood; yay, gay soldiers, police and other tools of societal oppression. Anything you want that makes you feel less oppressed and like one of the boys! Or girls. Not yah, though, to gays in the KKK or GOP though; that's a step too far for me. Nazi gays always made me sad, like Nazi Jews. Yecchhh.


Anyway... I'm sure you'll be happy to see the new Gallup poll released this morning. More Americans than ever are hunky-dory-- or something approaching that-- with same-sex marriage. Look; isn't that trend line amazing!


When I was growing up there was no same sex marriage-- at least not by name. And in 1996-- feels like yesterday to me-- only 27% of Americans were ok with gay marriage. Today it's 70%. And even if they keep electing viciously homophobic legislators, 55% of Republicans now back-- or at least recognize as righteously valid-- same sex marriage. Republicans! 73% of independent voters do too (as well as 83% of Democrats). Did you know that 14% of gay voters cast their ballots for Trump last year? Talk about outlaws!


By the time of the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015, support for gay marriage had reached 60%. Since then, the issue has been less prominent in U.S. politics, and public support for same-sex marriage has continued to increase.
Gallup has recorded other shifts in Americans' ideas on marriage over time, historically, including expanded support for interracial marriage, which had 87% approval as of Gallup's 2013 update.
Republicans, who have consistently been the party group least in favor of same-sex marriage, show majority support in 2021 for the first time (55%). The latest increase in support among all Americans is driven largely by changes in Republicans' views.