Having the last laugh. (letter from the editor in chief).
One of my first thoughts after hearing the Lawrence ruling in late June was, I'd love to take a postsodomy tour of my former homes. My partner, Christopher, and I could visit all the states in which I once broke sodomy laws and make legal love to mark the occasion. We could start in Michigan, where I grew up and first sneaked glances at other boys (sodomy law overturned: 1990). Then we'd fly to Alabama, where I went to college and came out, and move on to Louisiana, where I worked at a newspaper and lived in sin with my first husband. After sodomy side trips to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia--somehow I missed making it in Mississippi--we'd wind up at Disney World in Florida, a favorite vacation spot in our 16-plus years together. Finally we could go on the Peter Pan ride and share a kiss that wasn't a near-misdemeanor.
Oh, sure, we'd miss the secret thrill of breaking the law in our hotel room. But the fun of being among the first visitors to exercise our equal rights in places we'd previously been criminal lovers would make up for it.
I thought I'd left the land of sodomy in 1985 when I moved to New York (sodomy law overturned: 1980), but the specter followed me. Less than a year after my arrival--precisely 17 years before Lawrence--I found myself sitting in the middle of Sixth Avenue, shouting, "Hey hey! Ho ho! Sodomy laws have got to go!" with hundreds of other pissed-off queers. It was a spontaneous protest against the Supreme Court's Bowers v. Hardwick decision, in which Chief Justice Warren Burger explained that states could outlaw private homosexual acts that didn't harm anyone because, well, the Bible told him so.
What I remember most about that protest--other than some of the cute guys in summer clothes demonstrating the first steps in the practice of sodomy--is that our collective anger was melded with a collective sense of mischief. We were having fun. When the crowd took up the cheer "Close Fifth Avenue!" (a block away) the police simply whispered into their walkie-talkies and stoically escorted us, diverting traffic as necessary. We giggled with the illusion of power.
One reason gay and lesbian people have been able to endure hundreds of years of inequality in this country is because we have always known how to have fun amid the fracas. I'd bet there was even a lot of laughter in June 1969 when the patrons of the Stonewall bar decided to hurl bricks back at the police who were trying to arrest them. And all those go-go boys, drag queens, leather daddies, and dykes on bikes in 34 years of pride parades? I don't think they were interested in alienating straights as much as they were in demonstrating our unstoppable ability to enjoy ourselves.
In the ongoing sex wars--and trust me, they are far from over--our sense of humor has always been our secret weapon, one that the other side has always lacked. What straight politicians have ever cracked more jokes than Harvey Milk or Barney Frank? The very day of the Lawrence decision, the staff of The Advocate went to lunch at a touristy restaurant in the middle of Hollywood wearing makeshift stickers that read THUMBS UP FOR SODOMY! NOW LEGAL IN 50 STATES! (The stickers were created by a straight member of our staff, but she does have a queer sense of irony.) To paraphrase Hedwig, I must laugh, or else I cry.
Will Christopher and I ever go on our postsodomy tour? Probably not, but it makes me smile to think about it. It's in that spirit of freaky fun that we offer The Advocate's first postsodomy Sex Issue. Yes, equal rights are a serious matter, and we are a newsmagazine, so there's a good dose of sobering reporting here. But we've also cranked up our sense of playfulness and good humor.
Our Sex Issue may not be quite as much fun as sodomy with the one you love, but we hope a good time will be had by all.
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|Author:||Steele, Bruce C.|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Date:||Aug 19, 2003|
|Previous Article:||Acting out. (last word).|
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