Armistead Maupin’s Design for Living

Although this article is posted on Armistead’s main website, I felt it was worthy of a repost.  This article is from the Advocate 1985.

1. Stop begging for acceptance. Homosexuality is still an 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.

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 a 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.

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 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?

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 fledging 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 for 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 your sails. You haven’t a moment to lose.

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