Riding the Big Gay Bus.
Wyoming, which is one of the most beautiful places on each, has become a catchword for all things hateful, almost replacing Colorado. But Jersey--so close to Philly, so close to New York--is home to the Boss; he wrote "Streets of Philadelphia," for God's sake! Surely Jersey is ready for the millennium that doth approach.
You know what? Once you go outside the gay ghetto, every place is Wyoming. Only not as pretty. Outside the gay ghetto, only the bravest of us have identified ourselves to our co-workers as gay, much less to our families. There are no gay bars per se but rather bars that, on certain hours of certain nights, seem to attract a certain clientele who seem to know each other. They also attract the kind of guys who are looking for easy marks: other guys who might have a hard time distinguishing a partner from a predator.
The predators aren't going away. Some time ago the governor of New Jersey, a Republican woman, made boardwalk resort stores remove T-shirts that read, SILLY FAGGOT. DIX FOR CHIX. The shirts are back--not just that one but the whole line. Young gay guys, mostly closeted, who logically view themselves as removed from the gay community, see AIDS as their parents' disease and practice barebacking almost as a form of rebellion. They've grown up hearing that sex can kill, but nobody they know is dying. Yet.
By now you probably think you've stumbled upon a column by Larry Kramer, so let's all take a breath. Things are not entirely dire. There is the Internet, which, in addition to making sex between actual people almost obsolete, allows people who live outside the ghetto and inside a closet to make safe contact with one another. Almost everyone I encountered during my treks to and from the ghettos over the past few years has met most of their closest gay friends online. If we can harness the power of the Net for good--and we can, Batman, we can!--our invisible nonghetto communities can become unified.
I was sharing this earth-shattering idea with one of my new Jersey friends, who was telling me he was perfectly happy to just keep hanging out in the Truck Farmers chat room, when we were nearly rear-ended (well, we were!) by the Uncle Ben's Rice Bowl Bus. The UBRBB is a gigantic custom coach that's been sent around the country to introduce customers to the newest product from the kindly old uncle. Rather than send out tons of free samples that get lost in everyone else's blizzard of publicity, Uncle Ben's kin have sent out the bus, parking it at malls and inviting people aboard for a sample of the product and a whole lot of friendly talk from uniformed crew members. This is Uncle Ben's world--and welcome to it.
Outfest, the Los Angeles gay and lesbian film festival, sent out its own bus earlier this year to promote satellite film festivals in other California cities. Why couldn't we have a Big Gay Bus that cruises around the country with specially trained straight-friendly spokespeople who know how to handle the most often-asked questions?
Of course, we wouldn't just show up in malls. Not at first. We'd have to scope out the area and find sympathetic organizations willing to help promote the visit. In that way we'd save money on the armor plating and gun turrets.
What I'm talking about is a roving gay ghetto, a mobile culture center that could literally bring new meaning to the word outreach. I can't wait to take a ride. The first time we pull up at a service station to get gas, I'll treat the attendant to my big gay version of Big Gay Al's production number in South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut: "Super! Thanks for asking!"
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|Title Annotation:||venturing outside of the gay ghetto|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Sep 14, 1999|
|Previous Article:||Al Gore's gay vision.|
|Next Article:||Back on track.|