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December 1st, 2018

Eulogy For The Dead

What I’m starting to see in various online forums following the news of George HW Bush’s death, is that disconnect I and my gay and lesbian neighbors lived in throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s…that world where we understood clearly what was happening to us, because it Was happening to us, and because we had a fairly well developed GLBT news media, but beyond which almost nobody else, except those who passionately hated us, knew or cared. AIDS was the gay disease and we were the love that dare not speak its name, the dirty secret family newspapers tactfully omitted from their pages, except when we rioted or danced half naked during Pride marches. Back then homosexuals didn’t love, they just had sex, and were best left unspoken of in polite company. In a lot of places that’s still true today. What’s changed is now we have a degree of social visibility we didn’t then.

It was a different time. Between FidoNet and the Internet. Between USENET and Facebook. Between the personal computer and the smartphone. When this man was president we no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore, but you might have had trouble seeing us unfiltered through the media, speaking to you in our own voices. Keep this in mind if the anger you might be seeing now among us surprises and maybe even shocks you.

So the eulogies are coming now, expressions of sympathy, and yes, compared to the soulless lump of conniving trash that occupies the white house now he was a good man. But that is an abysmally low bar to set for anyone, let alone a president of the United States. Let us not speak ill of the dead because one day we shall die too. Yes. And so many did during his administration, and what little was done about that barely involved more than pointing a finger at Teh Gay Lifestyle, when it wasn’t vigorously enforcing the fact in both law and custom, at the hospital and the gravesite, that our relationships didn’t exist.

There’s a blog post I wish I could dig up now, about someone (I think…I’m recalling this from memory) visiting a friend in a hospital and hearing singing coming from behind the curtains separating the beds. It turns out to be the spouse of a gay man who’d just died of AIDS related complications. The patient’s family refused to let him be with his beloved during his last minutes, so there the man was, singing their favorite song to an empty bed, and the nurses didn’t have the heart to ask him to leave. What tells me that this memory is probably from a time after the Bush I years, is that little detail about the nurses. In the time of Reagan and Bush they’d have most likely kept the man out of the hospital entirely and felt not a whit of remorse. What on earth does a homosexual want with this dying man? Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

That was the world your gay and lesbian neighbors lived in during the Reagan years and into the first Bush presidency. He did exactly zero to lead the nation out of its fear and loathing of The Other and to a better place where our lives mattered too, and our grief was our neighbor’s, and also our hopes and dreams of love and peace and joy. I appreciate there was another side to this man, and that is more than I can say of Donald Trump. I appreciate that he had his base, which was also Reagan’s, and that perhaps he might have wished to do more, but found it politically difficult. I appreciate that he was a man of his time, and we should all be careful to judge, lest our own ignorances come back to haunt us in our old age. But if you find your LGBT neighbors keeping a cold silence while the rest of the nation mourns, if you see the icy stares as he is praised by the likes of Mike Pence and various other religious right figures, or one of us suddenly begins venting the bottled up decades of anger they’ve kept inside for so very long, and it surprises or even shocks you, remember…you weren’t there to see it with our eyes.

 

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