Armistead Maupin on gay elders, Internet dating and more

By RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK, Minneapolis Star Tribune

A talk with writer Armistead Maupin, whose “Tales of the City” became a PBS series and whose sequel, “Michael Tolliver Lives,” is out in paperback.

Claude Peck: Sure, San Francisco has a perfectly good elected mayor in gay-marriage maverick Gavin Newsom, but who could debate the assertion that the city’s unofficial mayor is novelist Armistead Maupin?

Rick Nelson: Not me. I soaked up his SF-adoring “Tales of the City” series like a Bounty paper towel since first encountering it in the early 1980s. I was thrilled that he returned to “Tales,” after an 18-year hiatus, with “Michael Tolliver Lives.”

CP: I recall that you liked Maupin’s newest book. Let’s phone him!

RN: Armistead, do you think the California Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling will survive a November voter referendum?

Armistead Maupin: After a summer of watching happy couples flocking to the state to get married, I think people are going to find it more and more unreasonable to take that privilege away.

CP: Do you see it as a potentially divisive presidential-campaign issue?

Maupin: The sad truth is that gay rights have always been the disposable card in the poker game of American politics. They’ll speak out for us just so far, and when push comes to shove, suddenly we’re supposed to keep our mouths shut and not bring up the issue. Both (presumed Republican presidential nominee John) McCain and (presumed Democratic presidential nominee Barack) Obama are going to have to address it one way or another, and time is on our side in this battle. All polls indicate that the younger generations of Americans have no issue with this whatsoever.

CP: In “Michael Tolliver” you write about love between an older and a younger man. Do these two generations properly understand and appreciate each other?

Maupin: I don’t like to complain about the younger generation because I see a lot of love in the younger generation, and, frankly, a lot of that is there because we paved the way for them. Whether they are appreciative of that or not is less important than whether or not they are doing something with their lives as out gay people.

RN: What has been the reaction to the middle-aging of your title character?

Maupin: Some people of my generation say they don’t want to see an old version of Michael Tolliver, I presume because they have never figured out what the old version of themselves is. I think we have something to offer as elders, and that fact can fit very nicely with your sex life, if you’re with the right person.

CP: You met your husband (Christopher Turner) online. How has the Internet changed dating and relationships?

Maupin: I think the Internet has demystified sexuality for pretty much everybody. We’re all pretty much doing the same thing no matter who we’re doing it with, making ourselves ridiculous in the same way and finding joy and passion in the same way. That’s why I think that distinctions about who loves whom are about to come to an end, and I’m happy to have been part of that process.

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