As seems to be the norm lately, this one will pull double-duty. Possibility of being offended, so, proceed with caution.
I’ve known Queen, the band, about as long as I can remember listening to music. I remember Johnny Cash and “A Boy Named Sue” on 8-track in my Mom’s car. I remember Jim Croce and ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Operator” (which is still one of the most melancholy songs I can think of) from my Dad’s records. John Denver too. Now that I think about, WTF, this was the 70s, why couldn’t my parents have been into Floyd or Led Zepplin? Oh well, got to discover them in college so it all worked out in the end.
Back to Queen, I’ve loved them ever since the We Will Rock You/We are the Champions combo came on the radio. Then there was the Flash Gordon and the soundtrack – awesome. Then there was “Gimme the Prize” and “Who Wants to Live Forever” on The Highlander score. In between, I don’t really recall hearing too much Queen on the radio. You’d get videos on MTV, but I was listening to mostly country and oldies (and don’t get me started on “The Oldies Station.” I’m further removed from “Hot for Teacher” than my Dad and Stepmom were from “ABC” and “Just My Imagination” on the “Oldies” station back in the day. Motley Crue, Poison, Twisted Sister, and Quiet Riot all qualify as oldies. Sigh. I digress.).
So, I liked Queen. Wasn’t a crazy fan – but wasn’t nuts about any particular music back then.
And then Freddy Mercury got AIDS. And I started thinking about the other side of Queen, the word.
Now, I grew up in the deep south (20 miles from the Gulf and about 25 from Texas, the heel in the Louisiana boot) in the late 70s and 80s as my formative years. Faggot. Gay. Queer. Fancy boy. Queen. Rump Ranger (thank you Transylvania 6-5000 for that one). And any number of insults I’ve forgotten were common then (and probably now for that matter). To be honest, I never really thought that much about it. My friends and I would say “that’s so gay” or “whatup faggot”. Yeah, I know, sounds awful today. But they were just words. [Insert your own he’s bullshit rationalizing and blah blah blah. Enjoy yourself, I’m just being honest here.]
I remember having some conception that there were men who liked men and “women in comfortable shoes” (one of Robin Williams’ lines in Good Morning, Vietnam — great movie, but his radio ad libs are incredible, flip to 6:20 for the clip or just listen and laugh from the beginning). Beyond that, didn’t really think much of it beyond being baffled that guys would be attracted to guys — just didn’t compute in my head — until HIV and AIDS. Having read a fair amount of ancient history up to that point in my life, I knew that there were gay people back in Greek and Roman times – it wasn’t exactly a new thing.
And even then I didn’t think too much of it because I’ve always viewed AIDS as a behavior-driven disease – an absolutely horrific and terrible disease – but one that could be avoided. Not a gay or straight thing, you have unprotected sex, there might be some unhealthy repercussions. I still think that way. I know I remember being disgusted hearing the “Christian ministers” like Pat Robinson calling AIDS God’s vengeance on homosexuals. That always seemed like no God I wanted any part of.
And, I wasn’t paying a whole hell of a lot of attention. I was playing Dungeons & Dragons, being tremendously shy around girls in particular and people in general, and, I guess, just kindof coasting along.
So what’s the point of all this blather? Just that, for me, when Queen’s Freddie Mercury died, I started paying more attention, not a lot, but more. And I started consciously making decisions about what I thought about gay people. What I quickly realized is that, what the fuck is all the fuss about. Most men like woman and most women like men. Some men like men. Some women like women. [I’m not even getting into the transgender stuff here.]
Not quite sure why that’s so hard to digest. Or accept. People are people. There are some people who go to church and are the slimiest pieces of shit around. Others never go to church and would fit the image of “do under others” better than many Christians. Some gay people are annoying. Some straight people are annoying. They aren’t annoying because they’re gay or straight, they’re annoying because they’re annoying. And, you know what, you aren’t going to go through life liking everyone you met or being liked by everyone who meets you.
But acceptance has been a long time coming, though looks like we’re turning a corner as a culture to making sexual orientation, if not a moot point, at least moving closer to that than at any other time in our country’s (waaaaay too often white-washed) history. And, while I don’t think a church should have to marry a gay couple against their religious objections; neither do I think that matters regarding a civil marriage – which is a piece of paper issued by the state. Church/state separation, I think that’s in the Constitution or something somewhere.
And I loved seeing Queen in concert last summer. Adam Lambert was an extremely worthy successor to Freddie.
And, just an aside, queer as an adjective has been ruined from having been used so often as an insult towards gay people. And really, what’s so queer (strange, peculiar, odd, quirky, bizarre, weird) about being gay? This whole journey through life is a queer experience – gay, straight, or whatever you are.
We’re making slow progress Bryant, but last year, a kid here in CT was beat up because he was listening to Queen. Not everyone has gotten the message yet. Nice piece. You made it through “Q” – I can’t wait to see “X” “Y” and “Z” – damn alphabet.
Not nearly where we should be, but further along than we once were. My fear is that progress will stop on equality. I don’t know enough history to match with current events, but there seem to be strong echoes of labor relations in the late 19th/early 20th centuries with the way corporations increasingly act today. Economic progress and consensus breaks down and people inevitably begin looking for someone to blame. Thanks for reading and, yeah, I feel like I was running on fumes with this one and it’s only Monday!
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