Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 279: Ernest And Bertram

This is Pride Week in Toronto, kicking off what will be a ton of similar festivities for the LGBT community across the country.

But while Gay marriage has been an accepted practice in Canada for over a decade, it’s still a divisive topic in other parts of the world. And in some places, just being Gay can still get you executed, or have the authorities turn a blind eye while somebody offended by your sexuality brutalizes or ends your life.

I came into show business through the theatre, exposed to many men and women who didn’t share my sexual preference. And although I sometimes got annoyed at being hit on (or getting turned down by a hot actress who liked women as much as I did) –- I never really thought their lifestyle was that big an issue.

In addition to fellow thespians, I had agents and lawyers who were Gay. I worked for Gay directors and Gay producers. More than once, I played Gay and Bi-Sexual characters onstage.

But while I didn’t feel threatened or disgusted, it was clear others did. I spent a lot of time in New York in the early 70’s, where the battle lines were clearly drawn and the collision of the cultures was often frightening.

One night, during Fleet Week, when Manhattan was awash in American sailors in their crisp, white uniforms, my girlfriend and I found ourselves at a stop light with a particularly spirited young man in tights and a tutu and a wand with a star on the end, offering to sprinkle passers-by with “fairy dust”.

As we smiled, two huge sailors stopped to wait for the light to change as well. One of them glared at the young man and growled to his friend, “They should round up all these fucken queers and drop ‘em on an island”.

Without missing a beat, the young man waved his wand in their direction. “They have!” he squealed, “You’re on it!”.

Not long after, I wrote my first produced screenplay. The character of the male second lead was openly Gay, played by an openly Gay actor without any of the clich├ęs or affectations typical of onscreen Gay characters of the time.

A lot of people thought that was ground-breaking. The director and I just thought it was realistic.

The parades in Toronto and elsewhere this Summer might make you think that people in the LGBT community have finally won all their battles and arrived. But they haven’t.

This week alone, we saw some progress for them in the US Supreme Court. But not as much as had been expected.

Meanwhile, actor Alec Baldwin went on a homophobic Twitter rant for which few in the media seem to feel he should be condemned.

And in Washington, Congressmen asking why IRS employees who regularly included Gay slurs in their official communications still had government jobs were rebuffed by the powers that be.

On top of that, the New Yorker cover atop this post is considered “scandalous” by many and the video which follows was vigorously attacked by “Sesame Street” producers, the Children’s Television Workshop, in 2002 and has remained banned all over the place.

As long as people can’t openly be with who they love, the world just isn’t a better place.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

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