It must be a great time to be gay because all around me, there are good gay things going on in the mainstream. I've never had first-hand knowledge of the gay community in general and never spent much time thinking about gays or their social/political issues. Yet lately I've been surrounded by a plethora of what is now positive stories of the LGBT community. I guess it all started last year with the installation of the Brokeback Mountain shirts in the Autry gallery. I quickly learned just how iconic those shirts are to the LGBT community. They're the "red ruby slippers of our time" said the owner of the shirts. We had a nice group of gay cowboys attend the installation opening. I didn't know what to expect when I heard they were attending. When I first saw them, they were lined up wearing their matching blue rodeo cowboy shirts and proceeded to march in to the event. It was a statement. They made such an impression. It was pretty cool. Following that came the creation of the Out West series, which I thought was a very clever title. I learned a little about gays in the West. The fact that they felt obligated to leave their rural towns for city life where their lifestyle was better accepted. The macho rural life was no place for them despite having deep roots in those communities. Then came Ozomatli, the multi-everything band that I love. Their new album, Fire Away, showcases the song "Gay Vatos in Love". I first heard it performed live at SXSW in Austin this past March. I didn't understand the lyrics completely but thought wow, these guys are seriously singing about gay vatos in love. Then a few days ago, they posted an interview with the band talking about this song and the video. I didn't know about Angie Zapata, the girl mentioned in the song. I found this NY Times article about her tragic death. Next thing you know, articles about Ozo's song are popping up like this article in the Advocate. It's great to read the positive blog comments. Even for Out West, blog comments all over the internet have been nothing short of inspiring and emotional in a good way. What is to me one of many events I have to promote for the museum has turned out to be something so special that people will not forget them for a long time to come. Being the first western museum to tell the stories of the LGBT community, the Autry has opened the door to a wider acceptance and, more importantly, dialogue. This is key particularly for someone like me who has no particular need or drive to give much thought to the LGBT community. The Autry series includes us straights in the conversation where we are not forced to choose sides, pin people against each other, or villanize a whole segment of the population. Because of the way it is presented, it's not a political rally, an election ballot initiative, or religious discussion about right and wrong. It's scholarly. It's history. It's reality--- what really happened in history. Tonight, as I type this, there are people gathered at the Autry going on special tours of the galleries, bringing to life the LGBT "Hidden Histories" behind some of the objects on display. I can't be there tonight but I have heard a few of the stories that are being told tonight. Read a few in this LA Times story or listen to KPCC's Air Talk interview with the creator of the Out West series and one of the historians. Truly fascinating that perhaps homosexuality was more tolerated in the 1800s than just a few years ago. All the positive media attention given to the Autry and Ozomatli, and even with the outing of Ricky Martin (no real surprise there. My mom was right about this one. She thinks everyone in Hollywood is gay.) has me wondering if this isn't in fact a good time to be gay, especially gay in the West. Lord knows it's a horrible time to be gay in Uganda or Mexican in Arizona. Yes, hate and ignorance will continue to thrive in tiny clusters but for society at large, I hope that we continue this progressive movement, past mere tolerance, past acceptance, and hopefully towards integration starting with legalizing gay marriage (again)---integration of the LGBT community, and diverse peoples in general, into the mainstream.
Ozomatli's Gay Vatos in Love
GAY VATOS IN LOVE LYRICS
Gaby and Mando walking through the park
Looking for love in protection of the dark
Club Cobra, a temple in the night,
The more I hear of Morrissey, the more I feel alright
(Chorus) Gay Vatos in Love
Javi and Kique with their girlfriends in the car
Fronting on Crenshaw knowing who they are
Juan Gabriel says, “amor es amor”
But Angie Zapata is lying on the dance floor
(Chorus) Gay Vatos in Love
If the world can’t understand
Stand by your man!