My heroes have always been women. My mother and grandmother, Georgia O’Keeffe, Virginia Woolf, Diane Fosse. I am more interested in reading the biographies of women like this than of, say, George Washington. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, wondering why that is.
The more I have thought on it, the more certain I am of the reason. I have more in common with the struggles and successes of people like O’Keeffe than I do with Picasso. Picasso was not going to be denied an education or have the demands of raising children put on him. He was guaranteed the freedom that comes with being a man. I will extend that a bit further and say, a straight man.
I worked in the theater for over a decade. In that time I had the chance to audition and perform all over the country, including some metropolises like New York City and San Francisco. One thing all of these different locales had in common was how they type cast. Invariably, no matter how good my audition, if there was a sex worker in the script, that’s how I was cast. Even when I auditioned for shows with queer protagonists, I watched my really good auditions go unnoticed, and in every case, either straight men were cast, or the straightest acting men. I am not a flamboyant type, but I am quite obviously gay. There’s just no hiding it.
The other stereotype character I was often asked to play was the villain. The villain has, especially over the last century, been portrayed as effeminate enough that the audience knew that this person was, most likely, queer. It’s still the case. Have you seen “Thor”? Loki is the dark haired, weaker, obviously fey brother who becomes, of course, the villain. When he threatens to fuck Thor’s love interest, the audience is left with the distinct impression this is not out of desire, but general hatred, spite and overall creepiness.
As a writer, I cover a lot of territory. It’s easy when writing op-eds, essays and articles to slide through without being labeled a “gay writer”. Outside of that, finding homes for short stories and a certain amount of poetry is pretty difficult. For the most part, most journals and magazines still shy away from publishing anything queer. Yes, attitudes are evolving, but the evolution is slow. The merit that comes from good writing is overlooked when that good writing is a story about two men.
It is problematic that only straight, white men are allowed to be known as artists, or writers, or musicians. I is the rest of us who will always be pigeon-holed as women artists, gay writers, black musicians, etc. I would like to think that the rapid changes in society since 1969 that this will not always be the case. Then I look at the depiction of queer people in media, and I lose hope. We are either screaming queens, or straight acting; comic relief or assimilated.
I am enjoying a success in writing I’ve never enjoyed before. I am getting more letters of acceptance than rejection, so I will continue to invite myself to the table until, one day, years from now, there are a lot more of us there, not because we were invited, but because we wouldn’t take “No” for an answer.