Monday, May 23, 2005

Epiphany 23

May 23, 1982, toward the end of my sophomore year in college, is a day I celebrate as my epiphany, or as I sometimes call it, my "gay birthday". It was not so much a day that I suddenly had all the answers, but it was the day I started asking the right questions. The experience of that day (or night, rather) both disrupted and clarified the path my life would take, and for that experience as well as its consequences, I am truly grateful. (You can read the whole story here, on an old personal web site that's become a bit of a time-capsule of my life as of 1998.)

What is remarkable to me now is to look back over the 23 years since my epiphany and realize with some astonishment at how much the world has changed for gay people. 1982. We were just beginning to recognize the AIDS crisis. Sodomy was illegal in more than half the states. It would be nearly another decade before we'd have our first few tentative gay characters on TV. Remember the shockwaves of seeing two men seen in the same bed on Thirtysomething (1989), Abby and CJ's kiss on LA Law (1991), Roseanne's kiss, or Melrose Place's Matt having an almost-on-screen kiss (1997)? On screen, 1982 was the year of the movie Making Love. Remember that one? Don't worry, nobody else does either. Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, and Richard Gere all turned down the opportunity to play a young married doctor who finds himself having an affair with another man. In 1982, most gay people were legitimately closeted at work, for fear of losing their jobs. It wouldn't be until the early 1990s that a few radicals started to rock the workplace by seeking domestic partner benefits. And I can remember taking part in a 1992 discussion in Out/Look magazine on the topic of gay marriage, pro and con. At the time, those on both sides of that debate saw it as an abstract remote ideal that may or may not become a real option in our lifetimes.

Granted, we certainly have a ways to go, and the "backlash" of state marriage amendments is disheartening. But I can't help but feel great about the time I've lived in when I step back and look at the longer perspective.

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