Lawn Man

6.28.2009

By Josh Kilmer-Purcell

The moon landing. The Manson murders. Woodstock. Chappaquiddick. Hurricane Camille. Abbey Road. Days of Rage. The My Lai massacre.

As if turning 40 this year wasn't bad enough, I had the misfortune of being born during a very busy year: 1969. Which means that all this year I'm being constantly reminded -- nay, harassed -- by 40th anniversary retrospectives of everything from Sirhan Sirhan's conviction to the premiere of Sesame Street.

Of course, the most relevant 40th anniversary to my own is Stonewall's. On the evening of June 28, 1969, my seven-months'-pregnant mother was splayed out on her front porch in a caftan with a Pall Mall in one hand and a G&T in the other, completely unaware that drag queens were throwing parking meters and bricks at police in New York City.

But this June, as homos all over the country pause to reflect on the current state of our 40-year-old gay-rights journey, I'm coming to grips with my own. And there's quite a bit of overlap. Here's what we share:

The constant urge to yell 'Get off my lawn.' Now that my days are counting down and not up, I don't have a lot of patience for people hanging around on my turf. We gays have given kudos to people for simply 'tolerating' us for too long. We enthusiastically vote for pols who 'bravely' endorse civil unions and pay lip service to equal rights. Meh. If you wanna hang out with me, I wanna see some action. Cancel your straight weddings. Write a letter to your senator on my behalf. Don't come crying to me about your insensitive husbands when I can't even have one. Just get the hell off my lawn.

Unrelenting contrarianism. Squinting backward over my youth I realize how eagerly and militantly I fell into step with the gay slogan of the moment. I clung to any crumb of scientific evidence that proved 'I was born this way.' Now I can admit that I have zero conviction that either my genes or my parents had anything to do with the fact that I share my life with another guy. Don't pity me or praise me. Just give me my equal rights and get the hell off my lawn.

Excess fat around the middle. While I haven't started rummaging through my mother's caftan collection yet, I have, for the public good, given away my low-rise jeans. Like my waist, most mainstream, middle-of-the-road LGBT organizations have gotten a little big for their britches in recent years, with fewer and fewer successes to show for it. Twittering twinks and grassroots Facebook frenzies are doing a better job getting both results and press. Draw up some new plans, or quit asking me for donations and get the hell off my lawn.

Failing vision. I recently had to raise the default font size on my computer just to type a sentence I could read. If only it were that easy for the gay movement. Where are we going? We need loftier goals than simply getting married. We should be ethically challenging every pillar of relationship conventions, from monogamy to bisexuality to polygamy to asexuality to androgyny to senior sexuality. If I'd listened to everyone who told me what was 'right' and 'wrong' when I was growing up, I'd be unhappily married to a woman and living in a Midwestern ranch house, too afraid to yell at kids to get the hell off my lawn.

Impatience. I don't have a lotta time left to sit around and ponder eventualities. If I had a dime for every middle-aged man who sends me letters looking for advice on how, when, and whether they should come out, I could bail out AIG all by myself. C'mon. Really? When I was a kid the only gay people I knew were on Phil Donahue. Still, I made my way to a gay bar without a map or three decades of agonizing rationalizations. These days, teenagers are coming out all by themselves in the middle of Oklahoma. Which makes me ecstatic. (Just so long as they stay the hell off my lawn.)

Feelings of invincibility. I've learned that the secret to getting things done is simply doing it rather than seducing it. With everything this world has accomplished since 1969, I firmly expect full global gay equal rights to be in place by the time my head meets a coffin pillow. After all, our movement didn't begin with a small step for mankind, it started with the deafening clatter of high heels.

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