At the end of the summer of 2012, a story of mine was included in EM Lynley’s Olympic-themed anthology Going for Gold. The collection of eight stories about gay Olympians (and their boyfriends, natch) was something of a Reader Favorite, and has seen renewed interest during the ramp-up to the Games of the Twenty-Second Winter Olympiad in Sochi, which arguably has a higher profile in the Queer community than Games past, due to the visibility and virulence of recent anti-gay laws passed in their host country. Hell, I’m paying attention, and Michael Phelps doesn’t even ice skate. Specifically, Russia has outlawed “gay propaganda,” which includes not only art and literature but any kind of public or private speech that seeks to legitimize gay people or equalize their families with any that hew to the more traditional model, in order to Protect the Children from being exposed to these notions.
And frankly, I kind of dig being a part of a project that links Gay and Olympics quite so explicitly at this moment in time. The International Olympic Committee is not exactly famous for its explicit support of LGBTQ equality. Yes, we’ve had the Laff-A-Lympics, and the Pig Olympics, and 2014 has already crowned the winner of the Selfie Olympics, but if you travel to Cleveland this summer, you will be invited to enjoy the ninth quadrennial Gay Games, so called because weeks before the First-Ever in 1982, the IOC (and the USOC) sued to block the use of the word “Olympics” in conjunction with this particular sporting event. More recently, a member of the IOC from Italy called the United States’ inclusion of three gay athletes in its official delegation to Sochi “absurd.” From where I’m sitting, it takes a certain amount of guts to roll up in a country that has recently chosen not only to pass, but in some cases to harshly enforce, laws against being visibly gay — you know, lest it harm The Children to behold you — and then go on and be gay on what will, for two weeks, be the most visible stage in the world, but I don’t speak it — maybe that’s what “absurd” means in Italian.
I should perhaps also be clear: I do not equate sitting in my living room and writing gay erotic fiction as much for fun as for profit with putting on a parka and defying a political bully on the international stage while the cameras roll. I think Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and Caitlin Cahow must be exceptionally brave and principled individuals to take such a stand in the name of furthering the rights and recognition of the LGBTQ people of the world. Billie Jean King says on CNN.com, “I want the LGBT community living in Russia to know they are not alone, and I hope others realize this is not only a gay rights issue, but a global concern for human rights and equality.” And it is certainly a lot easier to create and promulgate Gay Propaganda in this country, where it is not only legal but, in certain circles, quite popular, than it would be in a country like Russia now, where queer activists are being arrested and highly visible crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ people — especially youth — by known assailants go unpunished.
But I see that as a reason to create “propaganda.” As anyone who was one can tell you, there are lesbian and gay children. What anti-gay crusaders and other defenders of the status quo miss while passing destructive and discriminatory laws to Protect The Children is the fact that they are jackhammering into the minds and hearts of innocent young queer kids the unambiguous message that they suck. That they are worth less than their “normal” counterparts, that they have nothing to look forward to but a lonely life of misery and woe, and that because He made them this way instead of that way, no less a figure than God Himself hates them and wishes them ill. I was raised in a heavily gay neighborhood in a liberal city and had fears around coming out to a non-religious family — can you imagine what it must be like to be 14 and gay in a place like Russia right now? To contemplate coming out when you see people beaten on the street and arrested just for voicing the opinion that Queers are People Too? (Which isn’t even to mention places like Uganda, where your neighbor can go to jail for knowing that you’re gay.) Nobody’s trying to convert anybody here — “gay propaganda” isn’t campaign literature, for Heaven’s sake. The Gays of Tomorrow are already gay, and it’s about letting them know that they are not alone, and that they are worthy; it’s about maybe helping them find hope sparkling in the junk pile of other peoples’ ignorance and fear that purports to “protect” them. It is neither my hope nor my objective to convert anyone to any kind of “lifestyle” (although Michael Phelps, if you’re reading this and believe such a transformation possible, by all means call me! I fly for free…), but you’d better believe it is my Mission in Life to spread the Gay Agenda as far and as wide as possible. At least the Gay Agenda as I see it, which has very little (not nothing) to do with illicit and scandalous sex, and everything to do with respect, dignity, and the right of Queer people everywhere to follow their hearts where they lead and live their truth. I don’t write gay fiction — sorry, I mean “generate gay propaganda” — to convince anyone that I’m OK or that I’m “just like you!” Even if in many ways both of those things are true. Rather, I write to add my voice to the chorus of everyday people that strive to sing “It’s OK To Be You” loud enough that people who doubt that may eventually hear it and understand; I tell my stories in the hopes that it may signal to someone who is unsure that it is safe and good to tell hers; I speak in order that those who would silence us — with laws, with attacks, with dismissive words like “absurd” — will know that they cannot.
People attempt to legislate sexuality and sex-positive “propaganda” because they fear its power. Its power to liberate; to inspire; to illuminate the pathway to your own awesomeness. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to running my own life, I’ll take Power over Fear any day.
Beautifully said! Though I have no stake in the Olympics (not to mention no interest) in general, I am interested this year. I applaud those athletes and others who will participate and attend despite the powers in place that would stop them. I won’t really watch the Olympics but I will watch the news relating to it with great interest and hope.
Me, too — I’m on the edge of my seat already and they don’t even start for a week…
It will be historic.