We were avoiding a discussion of religion when a friend told me that she was culturally Jewish. She said that as a secular Jew she identified with a community not by belief, but by a relation of history and shared experiences.
By this notion, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a secular gay. In my late middle ages, and married to the same husband for thirty years, I don’t spend most of my day doing gay things. But I celebrate the community of gays and lesbians and transgenders and intersex and what-have-you with whom I belong and who have become my family in the thirty-five years since I first came out.
Gore Vidal once said that if we are the gays, then they must be the grims.
What joins us is a sense of belonging, a sensibility from the perspective of my fellows who are not in the mainstream. In 1982, my lesbian friends set up ironing board on Christopher Street and helped raise money for the first National AIDS switchboard not because they were getting sick but because we shared this crisis.
In saying that I am culturally gay, I’m not saying we gays have a single uniform culture, but rather we are a diaspora, a scattering of boa feathers and leather. We have our own dialect of inflection and irony. Just ask a straight man to say the word “fabulous” and you will hear the difference.
And if there is a gay sensibility then it is this: tragedy happens so you might as well enjoy life.
Years ago, my son’s kindergarten teacher said, “Now I know the difference between children of straight parents and children of gays: your son is the only 5 year old who knows all the words to “I Will Survive.”
They might not want me to admit it on national public radio, but a number of my straight friends are culturally gay. Yes, within them there beats a heart of disco. Like me, they quote lines from All about Eve and whistle show tunes as they jog.
And they are welcome to the club.