|by Bill Sievert|
|The Big Gay Issues This Election Are Not So Gay
What issues are of the greatest concern to gay people this election year? Search the topic online, and it looks like we're only interested in GLBT-specific causes such as marriage, benefit entitlements and the right to serve openly in the military. While few of us would disagree that those matters are important factors in determining how we will cast our votes, I can find no evidence that any organization, candidate or pollster has bothered to research whether they are in fact the priorities pressing hardest on our community's collective consciousness.
From anecdotal evidence (and a little unscientific surveying), I would suggest that a significant and fast-growing number of gay men and lesbians are more troubled about how to survive financially in a deep recessionsome would label it a depressionthan about whether our weddings will be endorsed by an agency of the state.
Through most of the past several decades, marketers have targeted gay people as an amalgam of fun-lovers and free-spenders, a community unburdened for the most part by the costs of raising children, a group with plenty of income to dispose of casually. Certainly we all know someone who continues to wear that label well. However, as the American economy stumbles and the gay population ages (along with the rest of our society), our community's free-spiritedness is succumbing to practicalitiesand pressing necessities.
Just how dramatically and quickly our concerns have changed of late was driven home to me during the most recent monthly get-together of the major GLBT social and networking group in my area of Central Florida. In the past, our conversations typically have focused on vacation trips, career advancements or retirements, car purchases, restaurant discoveries, and who's the hot newcomer standing over in the corner.
This time, during three hours of talking with at least 50 gay people, male and female ranging in age from their mid-20s to mid-70s, I found the tone to be much more somber. Even several of the younger participants were worried: Two men in their 30s reported that their newly opened restaurant is foundering despite demographic research that had indicated it should thrive in its location. Several other entrepreneurs were at wit's end. A lesbian couple who own a historic inn acknowledged that their business has failed. They were one of two couples who said they were about to walk away from their homes, abandoning large unpaid mortgages.
A younger male couple who recently closed on the purchase of their first home just days before one of them was laid off from his job said they would have to leave the areaand flee their mortgageif they can't come up with a reasonable source of income before October.
An award-winning chef turned real-estate agent, unable to find work or produce reasonable income in either field, said that his current efforts to sell time-shares have not gone well and that he is applying for jobs at big-box retail shops. Several other people raised their hands in agreement. One man said he quit his job this month because the cost of his 60-mile round-trip commute was eating up too much of his paycheck.
Spouses in their early 60s, both former professionals, have taken low-paying jobs at a supermarketone displaying produce, the other bagging groceriesin order to qualify for the company's medical insurance. Several persons mentioned that they could no longer afford or had lost health-care coverage entirely. Others of us decried that the fact that we have had to resort to a $5,000 deductible in order to keep our monthly payments below $1,000 (at least until our next semi-annual increases).
The list of disturbing stories went on and onand our usual laugh-filled conversations were reduced to moments of appreciative smiles whenever I said, "At least we're all in this same leaky boat together."
Only the youngest participant in the group's social night seemed unfazed by the more serious discussions. Single and in his mid-20s, he complained that, between taking classes and working, he no longer has time for much of a social life. He left the event early, scurrying out the door in pursuit of another handsome man.
So, what issues are most compelling to these GLBT folks this presidential election season? The most frequently mentioned are the need to rebuild the dismal economy and to address the related concerns of spiraling inflation, unaffordable health care, high energy prices and development of alternative sources of energy. As for specifically gay-related matters, priorities cited include stopping Florida's (as well as California's and Arizona's) anti-gay marriage amendments, promoting federal domestic-partnership legislation, creating systems for affordable and gay-friendly senior care, and improving in-school services for GLBTQ youth.
I suspect that if a polling organization conducted a national survey of our community, the resulting picture would be very similar.
On a lighter note:
In several columns this year, I've talked about the history of gay-themed pop hits by artists ranging from The Kinks to Scissor Sisters. As for emerging artists, a fast-rising young duo by the name of Dangerous Muse is definitely worthy of our attention. This twosome is led by attractive vocalist-writer Mike Furey who got a lot of people talking when he thrust his microphone down band partner Tom Napack's throat during their appearance on Logo TV's recent NewNextNow Awards. Their sexy stage demeanor is helping to draw attention, but these guysformer music students at Fordham University who have described themselves and their songs as "ambisexual"are creating excellent post-New Wave-glam-live dance music, with memorable stories that many gay men can easily relate to. From their first chart hit "The Rejection," a conversation in which a male turns away a woman's advances on the dance floor, to their pulsating new release "Secrets" (off their upcoming album), Dangerous Muse is just plain hot...
A subject of hot debate for gay women is the relative worthiness of newcomer Kate Perry's No. 1 hit "I Kissed a Girl" compared to Jill Sobule's success of the same name from 1995. Perry's perky pop song is not a remake of Sobule's composition, though both have strong hooks andon the surfacesimilar messages. In her hit from her annoying titled debut album UR So Gay, Perry acknowledges that having kissed a girl she "liked it." Sobule kissed her girl "for the first time, and I may do it again."
Fans of Sobule, who has become an icon in the world of feminist music, clearly prefer the earlier. But Sobule, who is about to release a new album funded by $80,000 in contributions that she raised online from supporters, has kindly described Perry's tune as a "catchy party song." She told EW.com: "I don't feel precious about the title, but I've gotten tons of e-mails from annoyed fans. Some think [Perry's song is] more of a 'Girls Gone Wild' thing than anything shocking or empowering to true gay feelings."
"Maybe," Sobule said, "I'll write a third 'I Kissed a Girl' for fun. It will be about how I kissed her, left the dull boyfriend, got gay-married in California, and really no one gave a shit."
Bill Sievert can be reached at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 10 July 25, 2008