Skip to main content

Evolving Door


My late, maternal grandmother, Gummy, whom I loved very deeply and still miss to this day, was a bit of a conservative. On the one hand, that isn't so odd, since she grew up and lived most of her life in rural Illinois, during a time (she was born in 1928) that was already more traditionalist than the world we live in today. She also believed in life after death, reincarnation and alien visitations, so conversations with her ran the gamut, and that's one of the things I liked about her.
 
I mention Gummy because film aficionado and TCM host Robert Osborne passed away yesterday, aged 84. That may seem like a non sequitur, but the one made me think of the other because the two came from the same generation, and it has come to (public) light that Osborne was gay, and I remember how my grandmother treated the subject of homosexuality on occasion.

Gummy was telling me about a male hairdresser who lived in her town back when she was growing up. "He was so flamboyant," she said with an impish grin. "There would be so many women in his shop, and he'd regale them with stories while doing their hair. They loved it. They loved him." Gummy then got very serious. "But nothing ever happened between them," she said, "because he was gay." Her voice became stern. "Now, everyone knew he was homosexual. All you had to do was look at him. But he never talked about it. He kept it quiet." Gummy would nod her head approvingly after telling the story, a tone of respect in her voice for this man who dared not speak publicly about who he might have loved.
 
I was never out to Gummy while she was alive, and when she talked the way she did about the male hairdresser from her small, rural hometown, it always made my heart sink. There were so many stereotypes and generalizations in what she said, not to mention being okay with a man stifling who he was in order not to make the townsfolk feel icky. Then again, if there's something we as a society are often guilty of, it is judging previous generations by our own standards. Sometimes, the judgment is warranted. But I think it glosses over the nuances and influence that comes from being from a different generation.
 
When the LA Times' obituary for Robert Osborne identified and quoted from David Staller, his "partner of 20 years," I doubt that the relationship just now being confirmed was accidental. For years I'd suspected that Osborne was gay, and yet the fact that he wasn't publicly out of the closet wasn't too surprising. He was, after all, from the same generation as my grandmother. The same generation where husbands and wives would feel the freedom to have the public know they were a couple, yet appreciate it when a gay or lesbian couple would quietly not do the same.
 
Society has an influence on us. There is no obfuscation of that fact. And though society may change, the mark left upon us when we're young is often deep and damning. That is why it is difficult for older people to integrate themselves into a more modern age. Of course there are always the exceptions to the rule. That is how society often progresses. For every closeted hairdresser in rural America, there was an out Quentin Crisp in England. But there's a price to be paid for being out in an unforgiving society. Ask Oscar Wilde, John Gielgud, Matthew Shepard or Alan Turing.
 
So no, it doesn't surprise me that a man who was 84-years-old and hosted a channel with many conservative viewers kept his private life private. But I am glad that it has come to light now. Of course there will be some who will cry out, 'Why does it matter?' and to them I would respond that it matters because of all the closeted lives who came before, who were, in the Land of the Free, denied the freedom of being open about who they were, lest they suffered the consequences.

 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

3/4

Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....


1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night


It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

Unbound

"Step out from the mask you stand behind Fearful lost and blind Time to take the time The pressure’s on you Hide away, hide away No tomorrow, just today"
- Brilliant, Ultravox
Today was National Coming Out Day, so of course it gives some pause for reflection on my own coming out story. It was in April 1993, my junior year of high school (go Chargers!). In the six years of writing this blog, I have alluded to how I came out, but never really delved into the intricacies of how it came about. What better day to do so than today?
My first (small) indications of homosexuality manifested in grade school. While in first grade, I thought a fifth grader looked cute. In fifth grade, I would stare, longingly, at a boy in class, until he caught me looking at him. There were some infatuations with boys in middle school, and a first sexual experience during freshman year of high school. Everything up to that point had been, for the most part, based in the physical realm. I liked the way certain…