Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Boys With The Thorns In Their Sides

" outsider."

Those are some of the words Mike Wallace uses to summarize the place of gay people at the end of his 1967 CBS program, "The Homosexuals". This old footage has been making the blog rounds today. I just now watched/listened to it, and boy is it painful. At nearly 44 minutes, it's long, but it's worth playing all the way through.

The hopelessness of same-sex love - both in the sense that it is impossible to find, and in the sense that the world will never accord same-sex love any dignity and respect - is a theme repeated throughout this documentary, and as I was watching, it was impossible not to think of The Smiths' song, "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side".

And specifically, it was impossible not to think of these lyrics, which have always haunted me:
How can they see the love in our eyes
And still they don't believe us
And after all this time
They don't want to believe us
And if they don't believe us now
Will they ever believe us?
And when you want to live
How do you start
Where do you go
Who do you need to know?

For me, those lyrics have always been about the struggle to find one's gay identity, and the struggle to find gay love. Those struggles can feel like odysseys. So to watch that Mike Wallace program, a mainstream news program that's only about 40 years old, so casually and "objectively" play into every awful, defamatory stereotype there is about gay people was sobering, to say the least. But it was also a reminder that, purely by virtue of being born when and where I was, what seemed like odysseys to me - those journeys to find my gay self - were not nearly so epic as the journeys that all the queer boys who came before me had to endure. And for that I cannot help but be grateful, even though there's so far yet to go.