My Mother’s Day
Today would have been my mother’s 78th birthday, alas she passed away six weeks ago. So this email, which I sent to a woman I met through the comment threads at www.spectator.org, and which is about intelligent & vibrant women with smart & strong willed gay sons, is dedicated to my mom.
And so I wrote, to this woman I met, who inquired if I was at war with her:
“No I’m not at war with you, or with anyone really. Not even with the most stridently anti-gay person I might encounter. I don’t think I would write to folks I’m at war with. Though I might be on a tear to educate straight folks and elucidate the situation for gay folks in this nation, and around the world. Like anyone, I can be irate, or a puppy dog (a rotweiler puppy, perhaps, but still… ) Today I’ll be puppy dog for sure, for today is Elucidation Day! A little known holiday, but you’ll enjoy, I think, as I tell the tale:
Like all of us, especially those of us (me at least) in our 50s — though even late 20-somethings — I am complex. The whole gay thing, though, well, it’s big. For it touches on so many parts of the human condition and so many areas of life and politics and religion, in fact, in everything really. And there are so many opinions about the issue. So many wrong opinions, actually, and some that just blow my mind away in the utter lack of knowledge and thought. And knowledge and thought ought to be the hallmarks of anyone who comments in the public press. I’m sure you’ve seen comments that are so brain dead about gay folks that even you must cringe. Or such as the comments of Clint McCance or even Carl Paladino. I mean really, for a candidate for public office to say “God did not create us like that” — what could he mean? It is true that God certainly did not create straight folks to be gay. No doubt about that. But He sure did create gay folks to be gay. No doubt about that. Was that Paladino’s message? And what does he intend to do with all the folks “not created like that”? McCance was a lot more vicious. But too there are a few Catholic bishops saying publicly that anyone who votes for a candidate who is for gay anything are going to Hell. Now really, is that the way a man of the cloth, a pastor, should be speaking? That’s the teachings of Christ? or the Church? Sad.
I’m also, as near as I can figure, the only openly gay person to wade into a whole slew of TEA party, Republican and Conservative political websites and comment. I often comment on non-gay things. I comment, but not always, on gay stories. And I can fairly say that I can put a gay twist to almost any story. Or show the gay point of view, or the way gay folks might deal with a certain thing. Or how we might perceive a movie or a video. Here’s a good example, I think, though hardly a clinching argument for anything, just an observation.
You perhaps know the movie “Tremors” It’s with Kevin Bacon and some other B-actor whose name I never remember. It’s sort of a cult classic and is on TV a lot. If you haven’t seen it, find it. But the two main characters are Kevin, who is “Valentine” or “Val” in the movie, and his jeans are very tight. His shirts are flowery, and bouffant in the sleeves or flouncy, if you will. And he’s got a certain effeminate air, not much, but sort of in many a Country music star’s way right now. Not to mention the scarf around his neck, and the astoundingly close shave he maintains out in the rubble of the desert. And he’s living with the B-Actor, a big butch manly man, with a beard. The two are inseparable throughout the flick. And there’s plenty of touchy-feely with quick jabs going on between the two, in a locker room towel thwacking way. Now, there’s not too many other characters in the movie, but everyone’s house is shown, over and over, for where they live is part of the movie for the entire supporting cast. But Val and his buddy’s house is shown but once. At the very beginning of the movie. For a 10 second snippet. Blink, it’s gone! They live in a tiny little summertime travel trailer of the sort you’d pull behind a pick-up. The sort with but one double mattress at most. Now to me, for two such men to wind up living in a town of 12 people in such a tiny trailer, well … a romantic love story if you ask me. And quite nice the way it’s done. Hidden right out there in the open.
Because for the straight people the makers of that film put a lady in the mix, a scientist, and the two guys “fight” over her, in between sleeping in their trailer together I suppose, for the film covers a week or so of time. And poor Val, he doesn’t want to leave his buddy’s side, even says so. And the Buddy playfully pushes Val, only at the very very end of the movie, to go talk to the woman. And the “straight” couple walk off into the sunset as the credits roll. With Val looking over his shoulder just a few more times and giving a “ew” sort of smile to his buddy. Perhaps he should have said “I’ll be back.” Hmm.
One movie, two views.
But I’m not sure America is ready for Hollywood to just keep going with the first 90 minutes of the movie and have the two guys live happily ever after. I am, certainly. But … well … right?
Which leads me, clearly, to marriage. I’ve long contended that gay folks should abandon the word, and I’ve proposed “twainage” long long ago. I argued in the early 1980s that if gay folks said we want our unions, which are different in a fundamental way, to be called that, then we’d have achieved that bit of legalism long ago. But I was told no, by gay and straight alike. In fact, though, I was arguing for the word and the concept long before “gay marriage” even became an issue. He’s my twain, we were twained yesterday. Here’s our twainage license. We’re getting twained in the morning. It works within English so well, no? And right there on a parallel with “marriage” I do believe. While “partner” “lover” and the horrid “civil union” –not so much. And really, who would go off to get “civil unioned” on a fine June morning? But, ah, twaining away the day would be a moment of bliss for all the guests and the happy couple too, you think?
My reasoning for “twainage” is thus: twain = two, literally. And conveniently from the “masculine” form “twegan” of Old Saxon, while “two” is the old feminine form of, well, two, back when Saxon had genders to contend with. English, of course, is no longer, shall we say, gender confused. Still, it’s an old word, long out of use (except, ironically, cutely even, “never the twain shall meet.” for so many folks don’t want us meeting for anything, eh? giggle-smile, yah.) and no one could complain we’re stealing it from anybody — like some folks still say about “gay” — and like for instance, you only use “homosexual.” That’s odd to me. Here’s why:
That is a word invented in 1898 by a German scientist named Kraft-Ebbing, and is of still further foreign origin by its Greek portion. On the other hand, “gay” is actually two words. One, from Old Saxon, means “happy.” That’s the word straight folks abandoned. Surely no one thinks 5% of the population stole a word, do they? Yes, they do, I’ve seen it repeatedly so said. Odd, for they miss this:
And the other, originally “gai” is from Old Provance, and meant, oddly perhaps, well, our modern “gay.” Now, Old Provance was the language of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was queen of England for nearly 50 years in the mid to late 1100s. (and a queen of France until she divorced Louis VII to marry Henry II of England — there’s a movie about it, and also Duchess of Aquitaine, which was far bigger than Louis’s France, because that Duchy did not follow the Salic law and women could inherit.) Quite a woman she was, lived to 82. And she is almost certainly the lady who brought the word into English with such a usage, especially since she really didn’t speak English, much. The spelling changed shortly thereafter. I think that’s when the problem started. That she knew the word there could be no doubt, for she had to go to Sicily, where her son, King Richard II, the Lionhearted, was camped out with his Italian boyfriend, waiting for favorable winds to carry his fleet to Jerusalem in the Crusades.
She went there, and told him, “Richard, you must get married, and have some children, and yes, you can keep your boyfriend on the side.” And he said, “but Momma, I’m gay, and I’m the King!” “Too bad, Richy, get married.” And this episode is well recorded in the lives of both, and in the very written records of the times and by their own hands in letters.
Still stranger, on the “gay” front, is Elizabeth I & James I. She, the Virgin Queen, and he of course, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. He was born as James VI of Scotland, but in the Act of Union of 1603 he became James I of England too. For Mary was Elizabeth’s cousin. And might have had a stronger claim to the throne than Betty, for Betty was declared a bastard by her dad, Henry VIII when he chopped off Anne B’s head, she being Betty’s mom, of course. Mary had been married off to Francis of France, but he died of an aneurism when he was 22 or 23, so Mary came home to Scotland. Betty wasn’t giving up the throne, no way. And she figured that if Mary got married, and stayed in Scotland, then things would work out. So Betty said, as is recorded “send Lord Darnley, that fairy and gay man, to my cousin Mary, so that nothing will come of it.” And Darnley, an openly gay man right there in Elizabethan England, did as he was commanded, and he went and married. And they did have a kid — James. And James got both thrones, by God’s Grace it’s said. Though after his dad was gay bashed to death, and Mary had her head chopped off for still wanting to be the Queen of England too.
And shortly thereafter it was quipped “We have had King Elizabeth, and now we shall have Queen James.” For James was gay as a goose. And smart. Real smart. Spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and a few modern ones too, and he had a prodigious memory (even remembered the quip and had those heads chopped off, too) and there was a great religious schism at the time, there in England, what with Henry’s Divorces and head chopping. There were too many independent Bible printers too, at least James thought so. So he got together a committee, and they wrote the King James Bible, of great fame. And every night, after a day of translating ancient Hebrew and 13th Century copies of 4th Century Greek texts, into thee, thy, thou and thine, he went home to his boyfriend, and once a month he visited his wife, whether he needed to or not. She was a bit miffed at the inattention, but she did have a kid, so did her part. Too bad Charlie I got his head chopped off too. Oh well, life is rough sometimes.
But anyway, and so, I can fairly say, today, as a friend, and confidant, that you can quit the “homosexual” word, and enjoy the fine old English word “gay.” For if it was good enough for James the Bible Writer, and Richard the Lionhearted, and Jimmy’s Aunt Betty and Richy’s mom Eleanor, it’s good enough for Americans. Don’t you think?
And that’s your elucidation for the day.
cheers and merry”
(And that’s just one reason my mother designated me the family historian, I do have a way with history, no? Dekuju moc, maminko. Oh yah, I speak Czech, too, which helps with our history for sure.)
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