This is a sentence that ought to thrill hearts: “America may be closer to a post-gay state of politics than most realize”. Alex Roarty’s report for Roll Call either begs certain questions or else desecrates them; matters of perspective abide.
The St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic is an annual showcase for Kentucky’s top politicians to give (they hope) a funny, sharp-elbowed speech at the other party’s expense. While they speak, hundreds of loud-mouthed partisans are encouraged to yell and scream as loudly as they can―as if the American political id was caged in a small pavilion two hours from a major airport.
“I want to introduce myself to Sen. McConnell,” he said, looking over to the Senate majority leader seated a few feet away, who minutes earlier had given his own speech. The Republicans, whose voices drowned out the sound of nearby thunder, chanted “Go away Gray!”
The candidate continued: “He earlier called me a ‘nobody.’ Well, let me introduce myself, senator. I am Jim Gray, and I am the guy who is going to beat Rand Paul.”
What went unnoticed this recent Saturday afternoon was that Gray was probably first openly gay person to speak at Fancy Farm. Records aren’t easy to come by for something that began in 1880, but veterans of the event say they can’t recall an openly gay speaker.
This is how Gray’s campaign has gone: He’s making history, and nobody seems to notice. Or, for that matter, care.
It is easy enough to enjoy the quiet satisfaction that comes with such a proposition; the queer victory in the Gay Fray seems total, unquestionable, without any measure of doubt.
At the same time it is easy enough to groan in frustration, because this isn’t merely aesthetics. Matters of life and death? That terrible fight? Accursed pride like rocks upon which how many consciences sacrificed themselves for the sake of being seen pretending outraged and devoted piety? It’s one thing to say “family values”, but these petty fights aimed to disrupt and actually stave off families. The Sixth Circuit, in order to demand an answer from the Supreme Court, effectively recriminalized homosexuality in order to unmarry a dead man. So, yeah, you know what? We really do get to be a little pissed off at every reminder that it was always complete bullshit. You lost. You tried to pitch a fit and got shouted down. And now … I mean, really? That’s it? You’re good? Alright, then. In truth, it’s a better result than an associate―what? how can I call someone who hates me that much a friend?―who has pretty much lost whatever was left of his psychomoral anchor about these things, and, you know, for some reason it isn’t surprising that his context of outrage focuses on women. No, really; I mean, sure, to the one, it’s a great line, but to the other, it also happens to be true. It is at once as simple and complicated as it sounds; we see it happening on a larger scale in the society, but apparently the Guardians of Female Potty Virtue aren’t finding much for public support, so, you know what, as soon as the courts finish taking those stupid laws apart, why wouldn’t these pervert prudes just move on like nothing just happened and start looking for other reasons to storm women’s restrooms and demand to inspect their genitals. And, you know, we get it, any excuse to get a peek, any excuse to exercise your ownership. And as I understand it from my sisters, the line that goes here that ye pervert prudes should go fuck themselves, and it’s also true that many of the rest of us would concur insofar as that actually might have measurable and demonstrable helpful effect. Meanwhile, yeah, we get it. You just spent the last quarter century fucking with people’s lives for the sake of your own cruel satisfaction, and now you want the rest of us to just move on like it didn’t happen. It’s not a matter of forgiving; this judgment is ‘twixt you and God. But neither is it ours to forget. Meanwhile, yeah, okay, fine. You want to slink away like you never were, that only reminded that you just got your asses handed to you by a bunch of queers. Did I say something about quiet satisfaction? Well, yeah, every once in a while we might also find a reason to actually say something. Like this. You want us to pretend? Okay. We’ll pretend. Just for you. But we won’t forget. So that whole time we’re all pretending, yeah, you get to know that we know, too. We saw that. We heard that. And now we’re grinning and playing along and pretending because you are incapable of functioning properly in society if we don’t. And if acknowledging your sickness, explaining that this is as reasonable an accommodation of your disability as you’re going to get, well, yes, just remember that. We do get to be pissed about your need to minimize the magnitude of your human impropriety, but as long as we feel obliged to play along you get to remember that we are accommodating your disability.
And, hey, you know, if you really want to step up and declare your own conscience a disability, that’s perfectly fine with us; it is easy enough to enjoy the quiet satisfaction that comes with such a proposition.
It really is a curious contrast. Mr. Gray’s advisor, Geoff Reed, explained, “I’m constantly surprised by what a non-issue this has become”. Roarty continues:
Gray’s campaign is undoubtedly a sign of how far gay and lesbian candidates have come. It even suggests that in the year 2016, they may not have all that much further to go.
Voters have certainly moved past their bias and prejudice before. Catholics, for instance, once faced imposing barriers to office that, about the time John F. Kennedy won election in 1960, simply ceased to exist.
The LGBT community isn’t there yet. Even among Gray’s allies, beliefs that have been pushed to the boundaries of mainstream society―like whether being gay is a choice―persist.
But his candidacy suggests that only a year after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, this country might be closer to a kind of post-gay politics than many realize.
And while there is a real question of just how important it is for homosexuals to be out of the closet―Mr. Gray advised voters eleven years ago―recounting that history only highlights the proposition that we approach or have possibly attained the post-gay threshold.
Thus, sure, say what we need to say about the idea that, really? that’s it? that’s all there was? all this for that? really? but neither should we let the prospect of such utter futility about the human experiences of so many of our American neighbors detract from the proposition that the sum effect of this tucktail cowardice is a normalization threshold.
We’re in that phase of the plot arc where pretty much everything the buffoonish villains do only makes the point.
Let’s see how much it does or doesn’t matter if Sen. Paul actually ends up getting his own loathsome ass handed to him. How much blue can the Bluegrass do when the Bluegrass can do blue?
There’s another joke hidden in plain sight. Seems worth mentioning. Nothing to do with the queerness, either.
Image note: Top ― How about, “Don’t ask”? Detail of frame from FLCL episode 4, “Full Swing”. Left ― U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray (D) speaks the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, on Saturday, 6 August 2016. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Roarty, Alex. “Kentucky Has a Gay Senate Candidate―Does Anybody Care?” Roll Call. 15 Auguest 2016.