[Note: this was my HNO column last week; I provide it here in its entirety instead of requiring you to link to it.]
Top 10 Queer Contributions to Western Civilization which Fundamentalists Should Boycott
Sometimes I get in an ungenerous mood. The fundamentalists are always boycotting something (Ford and Wal-Mart now) because they perceive it as pro-gay. Or they decide to segregate us at the public library. Or the public schools decide we aren’t in need of protection from bullying, harassment, and discrimination (who needs this protection more!?!). Such things put me in an ungenerous mood.
When I’m in such a mood, I want to take back what we queers, out of the kindness of our hearts, have shared with them. So, if the fundies were being consistent, they’d boycott all those queer things that we’ve contributed to civilization.
To remind them of what those things are, I came up with a list. I’m leaving out some obvious ones like Fashion, Broadway, Pop Art, the Roman Empire, and the Italian Renaissance. Here are the Top 10 Queer Contributions to Western Civilization which Fundamentalists Should Boycott:
10) France – Now American conservatives might actually give us back France; the “Freedom fries” crowd isn’t too fond of it anyway. Credit for French independence goes to St. Joan of Arc, a rather queer gender-bender. One can dream of what it would be like to never encounter an ugly American wearing a pink jumpsuit and a fanny pack at Notre Dame!
9) Outdoor Barbecues – From grilling burgers in the backyard to tail-gating before a football game, outdoor barbecuing by men was popularized in the 1950’s by gay food writer and chef James Beard.
8) Twentieth Century Ideals of Masculinity – Rudolph Valentino, Errol Flynn, James Dean, Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, Tyrone Power, Tab Hunter, Richard Chamberlain, Sal Mineo, and of course the image of the perfect man -- CARY GRANT. How many straight women’s ideas of what a man should be were based on someone on that list?
7) The Harlem Renaissance -- The flowering of African-American culture in the early twentieth century was led almost exclusively by gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. The list includes: Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Bessie Smith, Alain Locke, Ma Rainey, Countee Cullen, Angelina Grimke, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Carl Van Vechten (a white man who sponsored many of these artists). Plus, extra points for us! Don’t forget that it was the African-American gay Quaker Bayard Rustin who studied with Gandhi and taught Martin Luther King, Jr. the method of nonviolent resistance.
6) The King James Version of the Bible -- Now, I don’t know anything about the sexuality of the various translators of this 1611 project that would become the most influential work in the history of English literature and the foundational document of modern fundamentalism, but I do know that King James, who authorized and sponsored the translation, was a fag. For example, this from a letter the King wrote to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham,
praying God that I may have a joyful and comfortable meeting with you and that we may make at this Christmas a new marriage ever to be kept hereafter; for, God so love me, as I desire only to live in this world for your sake, and that I had rather live banished in any part of the earth with you than I live a sorrowful widow’s life without you.
5) The Computer – Yep. It was invented by the gay man and philosopher Alan Turing. So, if you are reading this and you don’t support gay equality, then you are logically inconsistent and morally corrupting yourself! Don’t like us? Then you should boycott the computer and any piece of equipment (including your car) that has a computer in it!
4) The Argument for the Existence of God – One of them anyway. The first one, and the most influential – the Ontological Argument conceived by St. Anselm. It appears, from the homoerotic language of his letters to other men, that Anselm was a celibate gay man. To make matters worse for the conservatives, Anselm’s views on salvation and the death of Jesus are the source of contemporary fundamentalism’s views on those topics. So, in order to be consistent, they really need to boycott what they teach about salvation.
3) The Western Literary Tradition – Of course we can’t claim all of it, but . . . we played a mighty role in getting the whole thing going, from the gay themes of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad, to the lesbian love poems of Sappho, to pretty much all the great Roman poets (Horace, Catullus, Martial, Juvenal, Virgil, Ovid, etc.). Of course we popped in now and then to keep the whole shebang going – Christopher Marlowe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Willa Cather, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, Carson McCullers, W. H. Auden, Frederico Garcia Lorca, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, . . . you get the idea. Gosh, I’d like to see what’s left in the non-gay section of the library? John Grisham and Danielle Steele?
2) The United States Constitution – Sure, there were some straight guys who worked on this, but everyone knows that the major force in getting the thing passed, the author of the Federalist papers, was Alexander Hamilton. Now Hamilton was a notorious womanizer, but there is strong evidence that he had homoerotic attachments with John Laurens and the Marquis de Lafayette. And these were while Hamilton was serving as aides-de-camp (military for right hand man) to George Washington during the Revolutionary War! Hamilton organized the post-revolutionary army, was the major figure in creating the American economic and financial system that continues today, and helped set the stage for New York City to become the greatest city in the world. So, we’ll take those back as well. Of course, it seems that the conservatives have already decided to give up the U. S. Constitution anyway.
1) Western Thought, Itself -- Alfred North Whitehead famously wrote, “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Plato’s Symposium is partly an ode to the homoeroticism of Ancient Greece. He and his mentor Socrates existed in a culture that we would today describe as “bisexual.” Since the originators of the Western intellectual tradition were queer, I want it all back.