By Armistead Maupin
The Following originally appeared in The New York Times on June 27, 1981
SAN FRANCISCO— June is a hectic month for brides and homosexuals. Take my own schedule, for instance. So far this month, I have read from my books at the Gay American Arts Festival in New York City and at the Walt Whitman Bookshop in San Francisco, attended the New York premiere of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, addressed a rally at the San Jose Gay Pride Celebration, and rooted for the contestants in a gay tricycle race benefitting the S.P.C.A. and a gay dog show sponsored by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an ”order of gay male nuns dedicated to the expiation of guilt,” as it describes itself.
As you may have guessed, I’m a San Franciscan. I’m, therefore, wistfully aware that simple logistics prohibit me from taking part in the two-day gay block party in New Orleans or the gay Mississippi River boat cruise in Minneapolis or even the Fireman’s Ball sponsored by Black and White Men Together, in Houston. I suppose I could pass up Denver’s fabled gay beer bust, if it didn’t mean missing the music of the 100-member Gay and Lesbian Community Center Kazoo Band. As it is, there is scarcely enough time for me to complete my gay square-dance course and board the gay wagon train that’s ready to roll in the California desert.
A friend of mine, Vito Russo, who wrote ”The Celluloid Closet” – it’s about homosexuality in the movies -also suffers from gay overload in June. His schedule included a mad dash to The Coast for the San Francisco International Gay Film Festival where he screened, among other things, ”rare footage” of Bette Midler performing at the Continental Baths.
”Are you a mess?” I asked Vito at lunch recently. ”I sure as hell am.” He smiled stoicly and replied: ”It’s just June.” ”But it’s getting worse,” I said. He shrugged. ”Judy should’ve picked another month to die.” He meant Judy Garland, long an object of adoration among gays, for reasons that have never been fully explained. Miss Garland’s funeral was a dozen years ago this month. The following night (June 28, 1969), under the first full moon of summer, a small band of New Yorkers who had finally had enough stood their ground and fought back against policemen attempting to bust a gay bar in Greenwich Village. That event, commonly called The Stonewall Rebellion (after the establishment under siege), is regarded as the Lexington and Concord of the modern gay rights movement.
Ever since then, June has been an exhausting time for members of our tribe. Ken Maley, a San Francisco media consultant who has spent the last two years leading international journalists through ”The Gay Capital of the World,” says that this is the month when many homosexuals find themselves ”gayed out” for good. ”A lot of people can’t take it,” he says. ”I myself am thinking of spending July with my straight brother in Kansas.”
I know exactly what he means. There are times when I wonder how I can muster the stamina to attend one more Cops vs. Homos softball game, one more Dentists for Human Rights awards brunch, one more potluck supper and Bingo night to benefit gay Cuban refugees. Would it have pleased Oscar Wilde, I ask myself, to know that someday The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name would qualify him for membership in a health club, a bowling league, and a savings and loan association?
I don’t know. I do know what my own life was like before these oddly Rotarian-sounding institutions became a part of it. I remember all too well how the word ”queer” sounded when I was 14 years old and living in North Carolina. I know, too, that there are still children being brutalized by the obscene fundamentalist notion that their sexuality is an abomination to the God that created them, and that there are still nervous liberals who will tell you earnestly that they don’t care ”what you do in bed” but wonder ”why you make such a big deal of it.”
I make such a big deal of it, I suppose, because I wearied of other people making a big deal of it behind my back. The cards are on the table now, and the world seems a nicer place because of it. If nothing else, June is a time when I remind myself that I am queer in almost every sense of the word, and that I wouldn’t have it any other way.