Before 40

The age of 40 is a touchstone, albeit an awkward one. 30 is still seen as the dividing line between supposed youth and supposed adulthood. (A look over at Hikaruland might prove that debatable), and 50 means you’ve lived half a century. 40, I reckon means that you should’ve cast off those last vestiges of youth and become a full-fledged adult.

  

Now why is my 36 year old self pondering 40?

Well, much as how people talk about “Bucket Lists,” I’ve been coming up with a “40 List” of experiences I’d like to have before I hit middle adulthood.

  1. Spend a month in Uruguay or Chile learning Spanish. 
  2. Interview Ben Cousins and tell him in person that his story saved my life.
  3. Visit Mississippi, in particular the area where my father grew up and also visit Jackson (the state capital) to acknowledge my great great cousin Blanche Kelso Bruce (1st Black US Senator to serve an entire term).   (Jessie Mae Hemphill, a blues performer from the area of Mississippi my father’s family is from.)
  4. Find out more about the Irish & Choctaw sides of my family.
  5. See another openly gay NRL player play and succeed professionally.
  6. Visit Australia outside of the East Coast.
  7. See one of my plays performed.
  8. Visit Quai d’Orsay (the home of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
  9. Get married. (The child aspect, is, as per family tradition, going to happen after 40.)
  10. Finally become an Australian citizen (though not until after #6)
  11. Become an advocate for a healthy body image amongst gay men.

So that’s 11 experiences within 4 years. Hopefully it’s doable.

Life is not a movie…no matter how much we want it to be

I can count on one finger how many times I have ever read the New Yorker. I’m not ashamed to admit that to me at least, because the attending baggage of being a New Yorker reader is much larger than the content.

Rally for Marriage Equality

Rally for Marriage Equality (Photo credit: vpickering)

For whatever reason today, one of my news aggregators popped up with this opinion piece from The New Yorker.

The article talks about the relative tranquility and unremarkable atmosphere in the recent US Supreme Court hearings about the Defense of Marriage Act & California’s Proposition 8.

Life is not a Hollywood film, and yet, we, particularly in the media and in the public try to organise real world events in that matter.

It’s understandable, because one of our greatest teachers growing up is the entertainment industry.

Take a look at your average long-feature news report, much like a bit from a reality show, it will have music that will steer you emotionally one way or another. (This is nothing radical, Dateline NBC did a feature about this, and even poked fun at itself. For further reference, read this report from UCLA & Carelton University)

Still, that’s the great thing about the US judicial system: it asks people to take away the emotionality and make a judgement on the facts.

This is why the rather subdued environment in the Supreme Court is remarkable. The facts are that DOMA is unconstitutional.

It’s also why I wonder what will happen to the activist machinery that has been set up around the marriage equality debate.

It’s time to think beyond marriage, beyond the happy endings.

And after marriage…?

Let me just get the following statement done and dusted:

I believe that the right to marry and the benefits that come with it should not be prohibited on the basis of sexual orientation.

The US Supreme Court is currently hearing two cases that could potentially legalise same-sex marriage in the United States. One of which would look at the legality of California’s Proposition 8, which overturned the California’s same sex marriage legislation. The other one, which is the big one on a national level, is looking at the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents federal benefits being sent to same sex partners, as well states that the federal government will not recognise same sex marriages and says that US states are not federally required to recognise a same-sex marriage performed in another.

What concerns me most about the tone of the same sex marriage debate is how little of it (particularly in gay media) is concerned with life after marriage equality.

Why aren’t we talking about gay divorce? Because it’s not legal?

Why don’t we talk about the ins and outs and hard, and yes boring work of relationships and the fact that not all of them will end well.

Actors Mike White & Justin Long appeared in this particular ad when Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California. It’s “realness” was breath-taking:

I think that was a brilliant ad, because that is what the reality of married coupled life is. It’s not fabulous, it just is.

I would like to hear more stories about how boring and mundane married life is in addition to how fulfilling it can be. (Indeed, research has shown that there are health benefits in being married.)

Without a doubt, I see myself being married as opposed to just being de facto*, and I don’t look down upon those who opt not to do either. If you’re not a relationship person, then don’t get in one, and vice versa.

But in reading and observing the gay media and gay-oriented social media conversation, the marriage equality conversation, I believe, obscures another debate that the gay community in particular seems a bit scared to have, which is where does gay culture go afterwards?

There are some who feel that we, as gay men, will lose our “specialness” by being forced into the same monogamous relationships as heterosexuals, and that “gay culture” will end.

Personally, I think gay culture will shed any residual Peter Pan complexes as a result, and that is a good thing. (It’s equally ludicrous to think of the heterosexual community as this being monolithic bastion of monogamy.)

But part of that growing up process means thinking about relationships that don’t go smooth and things that aren’t romantic:

It means addressing issues like the suicide rate amongst the LGBT-identified, providing safe spaces for LGBT-identified homeless, HIV/AIDS education, bringing LGBT identified seniors into the greater LGBT conversation, getting rid of social homophobia in media and in day-to-day life.

Same sex marriage may go some ways towards working to resolve this issues, BUT the absence of same sex marriage DOES NOT PROHIBIT US from working on them now.

Rather than reading yet another post or article about  how “everyone should have the right to marry, because it’s the right thing…” I’d rather read about how steps are being done to get rid of homophobic language in film.

I’d rather be doing my bit, not by agitating for marriage, but by helping create a better life for all, and marriage equality might be the remaining legal barrier, but there’s a lot of societal work to do, and we are all up to the task.

We owe it to ourselves and more importantly, to those who will come after us.

*In Australia, there is legislation providing for “de facto” partnerships, which confers many of the rights, benefits, and responsiblities of marriage in any long-term relationship, regardless of sexual orientation. The closest thing the US has to it–and legal recognition differs wildly by juristiction–is common-law marriage.  Where it differs from civil unions is that there is no need to publicly make a declaration of your relationship.

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A Quiet Momentous Day

It’s been a bit of a momentous day, though in many ways not.

In case you don’t know: President Obama has declared his support for same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage has been used time and time again (most notably in California, and most recently in North Carolina) as an issue to inflame divisions between historically persecuted minorities.

The National Organization for Marriage has even admitted thus on paper as we found out recently.

Some say this might cause Obama to lose the election, I don’t think so.

Not because I’m an Obama supporter, and not because I think he won’t win. (I believe he will.)

But because same sex marriage will cease to be a wedge issue.

Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts while the state had (and still does to this day) legal same sex marriage.

What I truly believe this election is about is one thing: the economy.

And in respect to same-sex marriage and the economy we are already too far along the right path to consider rolling back to the dismal past.

The Dorian Gray Decade Needs To Die

Kim Kardashian, taken at the unveiling of her ...

Image via Wikipedia

It might seem a bit odd with this year nearly being over, and the first decade of the 21st Century already past, but I’m calling  the period of 2000-2010, the Dorian Gray Decade. Somehow, the zeitgeist was all about wanting to be good-looking and desired regardless of the cost. Interestingly, it was only during this time that Dorian Gray syndrome was identified.

The past decade saw the birth of the super celebrity without merit (Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton), the attending networks that cater to them (Bravo/Arena, MTV, both of which are the Dorian Gray networks themselves for those who know their history) , and the rise of such social problems as young girls intentionally getting pregnant so as to be featured on Teen Mom, and perhaps the most obvious example, the recent UK riots.

It would be easy for me to take the Socialist view that this is all due to lack of government oversight in media, but that is neither here nor there. See, at some point, we just stopped caring and wanted to consume. It’s hard to say when exactly this kicked in, probably because I’m talking about this in 2011 and not 2021. On one hand, you could say it began with the plethora of terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and its sympathisers, which pretty much traded on young and horny disaffected and disenfranchised youth telling them that by trading their mortality they could have a morally right sex comedy existence in the hereafter.  That led to the Iraq & Afghanistan wars (the latter still going on) wherein the West did pretty much the same (although swap the sex comedy for perpetual veneration by those too terrified to actually serve themselves).

Then Saddam Hussein was located and the American public realised that we pretty much had been duped into signing away our freedoms and locked into a cult of personality so that an errant son could prove himself worthy to his distant father. Oddly enough not all that dissimilar to North Korea. Meanwhile, because said son and his party demolished so much of the home-grown industry, all we were left with was finance and entertainment. Boy, did we export those two. We literally made a killing telling the world that debt was a valuable commodity. (We have only just begun to pay the price for that hubris.)

On the entertainment side,  we had bored rich girls making money off of sex tapes and using to launch careers as…well…bored rich socialites with influence. Granted the influence came solely because they were marketed as so. Once upon time, you could see that as turning lemons into lemonade, but there was one key thing missing: humility. Why did neither the male nor female parties express any sort of anger at having their private moments being made public? Why did the media go along with the PR and not press them on what their new “celebrity” would be built upon, namely their total unknowing exploitation? Those who willing get involved with porn, are rarely so naive not to realise that they are there for sheer physicality and that it is a short shelf life. This lot, conversely wants to have the notoriety without truly accepting the consequences. Despite or regardless of any self-examination, the American entertainment industry exported this new celebrity archetype worldwide, and since no other nation has been able to match the sheer dominance of the American entertainment industry, it was lapped up and taken as valid from Helsinki to Hong Kong, from Madrid to Melbourne.

There is another aspect of this Dorian Gray decade that hits very close to home for me: the gay community. We have made great progress over the past decade: Same-sex marriage has been passed in 6 US states and districts, not to mention the amount of countries allowing Same-sex marriage or civil unions is up to 26. Yet, where we have massively failed is in HIV/AIDS. I am truly lucky to make it out of the last decade still HIV-, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m in a sero-discordant relationship (which I’ve only been in for the past 4). It has to do with the fact that we have seen companies glorify and profit off of unprotected sex. Granted there are brief, almost discreet disclaimers all over, which are pretty much rendered irrelevant when bombarded with images of muscular, seemingly “virile” and “healthy” men living a life of constant sexual gratification with no consequence. These images play on the minds of young men, who aren’t getting the best sexual education (whether it’s due to homophobia or general prudishness), and you wonder why the sero-conversion rates are going up.  (And if this makes you remember the disenfranchised youth who became Islamist terrorists…)

Why are we afraid to admit there are consequences to our actions? We cannot continue to glamourise what hurts us. We cannot continue to redefine what is beyond the pale, nor should we accept a media that will do so for us for the sake of a slick marketing campaign. Why do we continue to talk and yet never. do. a. damn. thing?