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Something for all from Armistead


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Armistead wrote this for The Advocate in 1985.

Not only is it one of the most widely quoted articles

in the history of The Advocate, it was also the

reason Terry Anderson invited him to speak at Georgia

State University that same year......

 

I surveyed my most frequent responses and

discovered the following blueprint for a more fulfilling

life. Read it once, and I promise I won´t bring it up

again:

 

 

1. Stop begging for acceptance. Homosexuality is

still anathema to most people in this country-even to

many homosexuals. If you camp out on the doorstep of

society waiting for "the climate" to change,

you´ll be there until Joan Rivers registers Democratic.

Your job is to accept yourself-joyfully and with no

apologies-and get on with the adventure of your

life.

 

2. Don´t run away from straight people. They need

variety in their lives just as much as you do,

and you´ll forfeit the heady experience of feeling

exotic if you limit yourself to the company of your own

kind. Furthermore, you have plenty to teach your

straight friends about tolerance and humor and the

comfortable enjoyment of their own sexuality. (Judging from

"Donahue," many of them have only now begun to

learn about foreplay; we, on the other hand, have

entire resorts built around the practice.) Besides, it´s

time you stopped thinking of heterosexuals as the

enemy. It´s both convenient and comforting to bemoan the

cardboard villainy of Jerry Falwell and friends,

but the real culprits in this melodrama are just as

queer as you are. They sleep with you by night and

conspire to keep you invisible by day. They are studio

chiefs and bank presidents and talk-show hosts, and they

don´t give a damn about your oppression because

they´ve got their piece of the pie, and they got

it by living a lie.

 

3. Refuse to cooperate in the lie. It is not your

responsibility to "be discreet" for the sake of

people who are still ashamed of their own natures. And

don´t tell me about "job security." Nobody´s job will

ever be safe until the general public is permitted to

recognize the full scope of our homosexual

population. Does that include the teachers? You bet it does.

Have you forgotten already how much it hurt to be

fourteen and gay and scared to death of it? Doesn´t it

gall you just a little that your "discreet" lesbian

social-studies teacher went home every day to her

lover and her cats and her Ann Bannon novels

without once giving you even a clue that there was hope

for your own future? What earthly good is your

discretion, when teenagers are still being murdered for the

crime of effeminacy? I know, I know--you have a right

to keep your private life private. Well, you do

that, my friend--but don´t expect the world not to notice

what you´re really saying about yourself. And about

the rest of us. Lighten up, Lucille. There´s help on

the way.

 

4. Stir up some shit now and then. Last spring I

wrote a commentary for the Los Angeles Times on the

subject of television´s shoddy treatment of

homosexuality. The piece originally contained a sentence to the

effect that "it´s high time the public found out there

are just as many homosexuals who resemble Richard

Chamberlain as there are who resemble Richard

Simmons." The editor cut it. When I asked him

why, he said: "Because it´s libelous, that´s why." To

which I replied: "In the first place, I´m not saying that

Richard Chamberlain is gay; I´m simply saying

there are plenty of gay men who resemble him. In the

second place, even if I were saying that Richard

Chamberlain is gay, it wouldn´t be a libelous remark, because

I´m gay myself and I don´t say those things with

malice. I don´t accuse anyone of being gay; I state it as a

matter of fact or opinion." When the new city of

West Hollywood assembled its council last month, the

Associated Press identified the three openly gay

members as "admitted homosexuals." Admitted, get

it? Fifteen years after the Stonewall Rebellion, the

wire service wants to make it perfectly clear that

homosexuality is still a dirty little secret that

requires full confession before it can be

mentioned at all. If you don´t raise some hell, that isn´t

going to change.

 

5. Don´t sell your soul to the gay commercial

culture. Well, go ahead, if you insist, but you´d better

be prepared to accept the butt plug as the

cornerstone of Western civilization. I am dumbfounded by the

number of bright and beautiful men out there who

submerge themselves completely in the quagmire of gay

ghetto life, then wonder why their lives seem loveless

and predictable. What the hell did they expect? If

you have no more imagination than to swap one

schlock-heavy "lifestyle" for another, you

haven´t learned a goddamn thing from the gay experience.

I´m not talking about sex here; I´m talking about

old-fashioned bad taste. No, Virginia, we don´t

all have good taste. We are just as susceptible to

the pitfalls of tackiness as everyone else in the

world. Your pissing and moaning about the shallowness of

other faggots falls on unsympathetic ears when

you´re wearing a T-shirt that says THIS FACE SEATS FIVE.

Not long ago I sat transfixed before my TV screen

while an earnest young man told a gay cable announcer

about his dream of becoming Mr. Leather something-or-other.

He was seeking the title, he said, "in order to

serve the community and help humanity." He wore tit rings

and a codpiece and a rather fetching little

cross-your-heart harness, but he sounded for all the world like a

Junior Miss contestant from Modesto. If our

fledgling culture fails us, it will be because we forgot

how to question it, forgot how to laugh at it in the

very same way we laugh at Tupperware and Velveeta and

the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

 

6. Stop insulting the people who love you by

assuming they don´t know you´re gay. When I began my book

tour, a publicist in New York implored me to leave his

name out of it, because "my family doesn´t know about

my...uh, lifestyle." Maybe not, but they must be

the dumbest bunch this side of Westchester County; I

could tell he was gay over the telephone. When my own

father learned of my homosexuality (he read about it in

Newsweek), he told me he´d suspected as much

since I´d been a teenager. I could´ve made life a lot

easier for both of us if I´d had the guts to say what was on

my mind.

 

7. Learn to feel mortal. If AIDS hasn´t reminded

you that your days are numbered-and always have

been-then stop for a moment and remind yourself. Your days

are numbered, Babycakes. Are you living them for

yourself and the people you love, or are you living them

for the people you fear? I can´t help thinking of a

neighbor of mine, a dutiful government employee

who kept up appearances for years and years, kept

them up until the day he died, in fact-of a heart attack,

in the back row of an all-male fuck-film house.

Appearances don´t count for squat when they stick

you in the ground (all right, or scatter you to the

winds), so why should you waste a single moment

of your life seeming to be something you don´t want

to be? Lord, that´s so simple. If you hate your job,

quit it. If your friends are tedious, go out and find

new ones. You are queer, you lucky fool, and that

makes you one of life´s buccaneers, free from the

clutter of two thousand years of Judeo-Christian

sermonizing. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start

hoisting our sails. You haven´t a moment to lose.

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Guest dandday

Sean, when I saw your name on this I almost passed, but being a fan of Armistead myself, I was curious. After re-reading (I have read it many times over the years since written) I had to send you an apology from yesterday. Sometimes we all get too busy with whats going on in our own lives, are in a bad mood (my case yesterday as I had had a rather unplesant encounter with an escort the night before, BTW, ONE WHO HAD 2 EXCELENT REVIEWS ON THIS SITE, but in another state) and I did not take the time to respond to the real issue. I'm too long winded and I must get off this thing and do the work on my desk, but you were right, say it out front, not behind the back. I was wrong, I admit it.

Have a dandday.

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