Archive for February, 2008
Back in the early 1990’s, the thought of a Clinton in the White House gave me the warm fuzzies. Bill Clinton was the first candidate for president to so openly embrace gay people and invite us to be a part of the process. I took him at his word. So after he was elected I bought a ticket to the Triangle Ball—the first-ever gay inaugural ball—and headed down to Washington to join the celebration.
I remember standing on the mall, listening to President Clinton’s inaugural speech and thinking we’d really turned a corner. But then I began to feel achy. This was long before I had chronic back trouble, so I just chalked it up to standing in the damp and the cold for several hours.
That night, as I was swept across the ballroom floor by a handsome champion swing dancer, I began to feel faint and feverish. It wasn’t love. It was the flu. I dragged myself back to NYC with a 103-degree fever and spent the next week in bed. I should have taken this as an omen of bad things to come.
I like to think I never look at anything from a purely gay perspective, but Bill Clinton gave us Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. And in this regard at least, Clinton was clearly not good for the gays (to echo a phrase my grandfather used when weighing which candidates or policies were “good for the Jews”).
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has never affected me personally, but I’ve talked to gay people whose lives have been devastated by their expulsion from the military. And, when it comes to the Defense of Marriage Act, I take it very personally. Each time I fill out an immigration form and get to the line about how many family members I’m traveling with I’m reminded that Bill Clinton signed anti-gay legislation in the middle of the night that codifies discrimination against a relationship I hold dear. When I travel out of the country I’m almost always in the company of my partner, but because the federal government does not recognize our fourteen-year marriage, the only correct and legal answer on the immigration form is zero.
Maybe that’s why I’m not sorry to see the Hillary Clinton campaign in trouble. Sure I would have voted for Hillary if she got the nomination (and will, if she’s able to turn things around). But I don’t have any confidence that a Hillary Clinton administration would undo the damage done by the last Clinton in the White House. In fact, given how closely associated these two hot button issues are with Bill Clinton’s administration, it’s hard to imagine that a Hillary Clinton administration would want to revisit either battle if she were elected president.
The two boys, probably no more than ten or eleven, stood at the edge of the dance floor giggling to each other and pointing at the two guys in ties who were smiling like idiots, grooving to a medley of ‘70s disco. We had no choice. Once the DJ started playing that old bar mitzvah standard, “YMCA” by the Village People, our feet took over and we were propelled out of our seats.
The anti-gay rights movement has long railed about the dangers of letting us out of the closet. We would destroy the American family. We would undermine the moral fiber of our great nation. And perhaps worst of all, we would corrupt young minds, leading children down that slippery slope into temptation and sin. (You know, try it once and you’re hooked for life!)
Maybe that would explain why I’ve been reluctant in the past to dance with my partner at bar mitzvahs (you already know from a previous posting that we have no problem with dancing at weddings). But bar mitzvahs are another story because of the kids. How would the kids respond? How would the parents respond to the kids being “exposed” to such un-closeted behavior? And how would they feel about having to answer the inevitable questions, if not from the thirteen year olds, then from the younger children.
But this was the Upper West Side. The bar mitzvah boy’s mother had already made a splash by climbing on top one of the giant speakers and dancing her way through The Weather Girls. Judging from the cheers and laughter, I’m guessing that for a lot of us the go-go mother was a bar mitzvah first. How big a deal could we be in comparison to that!
The giggling ten-year-old boys soon turned to one of their dad’s and asked him about us (the very obvious pointing gave them away). We don’t know what the father said, but a few seconds later we spotted the two boys on the dance floor, with each other, and having a great time.
I don’t think this is the slippery slope that any of us imagined, but it’s one I really like. Barney and I take pride in knowing that we’ve helped set an example, one that smoothed the way for a couple of kids who just wanted to have fun.