I put quotation marks around the subject heading in hopes that it would alert all to the fact that I am drawing attention to it as a cliche that I would like to address and ask questions about it, and make a few comments about.
First off, I realize that this may have been covered in Esprix’s ongoing threads “Ask The Gay Guy,” but I beg everyone’s indulgence, and hope that if so, it will be pointed out to me. So, I thought of posting it there, and then it occurred to me that I was being presumptuous–my questions, and thoughts, are directed at anyone who can enlighten me, agree or disagree with me, be they gay, straight, or bi.
Finally, my point: Oftentimes when the issue comes up as to whether an historical person may or may not have been gay, someone will always step in and say “What does it matter?” I can see where they are coming from, but I always think to myself–“It does matter.” It mattered to them in a first-hand manner, and it matters to us who are looking at their lives, perhaps trying to gain an understanding of them and the world in which they lived.
Example: I’m not sure if it was here or elsewhere that I read of the fact that the 15th President of the United States–James Buchannan–may have been gay (probably was gay). Now this in no way makes me think one whit less of Mr. Buchannon, or one whit more, for that matter. But as a (very very) amateur historian, I find it fascinating. I’m not talking about silly infantile titillation, I talking FASCINATING. I therefore find that I want to read more of this, perhaps to understand what it may have been like for a gay man in the mid-1800s, a gay politician (Andrew Jackson, hero of 1812 that he was, made some really derogatory comments re Buchannan and his “roommate”). I find that it fills me with questions to ponder–did his being gay in any way dictate any of his Presidential policies and decisions? Would his being gay have been more readily accepted anywhere in the world of that time more readily than in America. I could list more, but I think you’ll understand the point I’m making: It matters.
Along the same lines–the world of celebrities. In today’s (fairly) tolerant world, being gay in Hollywood is not as “shocking” as it once was. As a life-long movie fan, I found the book “Open Secret” by David Ehrenstein to be one of the more interesting I have ever read. It details the terrible world of secrecy that gay celebrities had to endure in the period roughly encompassing 1930-1980 or so. I highly recommend it.
I guess I’m asking for opinions here. Does my wanting to say that the “What does it matter?” question is a silly one, does my wanting to at least gain an outsider’s view as best I can of a lifestyle that I have no personal first-hand knowledge of and its history and impact on the world make me a “snoop,” a “titillator,” a “fill-in-the-blank”?
This post is made with the utmost sincerity, and I hope it will be treated with same, even if you disagree with me when I say that my answer to the aforementioned cliche is…“Because it’s interesting, fascinating, and maybe I can learn something.”