The future is now

Despite all the tiresome Y2K fuss, the first tune I want to play after the ball drops (assuming there's electricity) is topical: "Disco 2000" by Pulp. The sentiments Jarvis Cocker expresses in the chorus—"Let's all meet up in the year 2000/Won't it be strange when we're all fully grown?"—recall a day in second grade when my teacher asked us to draw pictures of life in 2000. My masterpiece featured flying cars and an entire populace wearing majestic capes. I remember realizing that come 2000, I'd be 32 years old—a grown-up—which meant surely I'd be married.

I came out of the closet in 1983. I scoffed as my father greeted my announcement by expressing concern that this would preclude any chance I had for a military career. AIDS was still just the subject of hushed whispers in big cities, and the civil rights of gays and lesbians seemed increasingly assured every day. Surely Uncle Sam would eventually recognize how silly it was to ban qualified folks from serving their country simply because of who blew their skirt up. By 2000 it wouldn't even be a big deal for same-sex couples to tie the knot.

I confess that the notion of being one half of a groom-groom wedding makes me cringe. Two men exchanging vows in matching tuxedoes, side by side like penguins—it just looks silly. But why should making an ass of yourself till death do you part, in exchange for exacting toasters and blenders from all your loved ones, be the exclusive domain of straight couples?

With just a few days remaining in this century, on December 20 the Vermont Supreme Court handed down their decision that gay and lesbian partners were entitled to all the same benefits and privileges legally afforded heterosexual couples. Whether that actually means we're entitled to get hitched in the Green Mountain State won't come up for debate till the legislature reconvenes on January 4. Complete equality is within reach, but it hasn't been constitutionally guaranteed yet.

The Friday before the Supreme Court's decision, I interviewed Scottish singer Jimmy Somerville (ex-Bronski Beat/the Communards), a tireless voice of gay activism in the wasteland of pop. When I asked if he felt our tribe had become less politicized since he first burst onto the scene in 1984, he reminded me how important the fight for such rights remains. "There's a false sense of security," inspired by big businesses aggressively courting queer consumers, he opined. "You don't have freedom until you're recognized within society. Until there are laws that protect you in the workplace and in the streets, then there is no security."

Somerville's new CD, Manage the Damage (on Instinct/Gut Records), is dedicated to Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming student murdered in a hate crime earlier this year: "[That] episode showed that there is still so much homophobia and evil and violence out there. What happened to that young man should never happen to anyone, but it's happening all the time, because of sexuality or skin color. America can send probes to Mars, yet we can't come to terms with each other as life forms on this planet. We're so advanced as a race in so many ways, but sadly, the majority of us are still living in the 15th century."

Want proof? Open last week's issue of Sports Illustrated and read the interview with Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, who in the course of disparaging New Yorkers remarked, "Imagine having to take the 7 train to [Shea Stadium] looking like you're [in] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who go out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing."

No, what's depressing is that idiots like Rocker get airtime, while Hollywood—which I understand employs a handful of dykes and fags—still gets squeamish over the notion of two men kissing on screen. If you'd told me 15 years ago that Jimmy Somerville would still be one of the most prominent homos in music today, I'd have rolled my eyes. Raised on David Bowie and Lou Reed, I believed rock was a stronghold of rebellious outrage and forward thinking. Yet even here, queer visibility moves at a glacial pace, and superstars like George Michael and Judas Priest's Rob Halford postpone coming out until they're desperate for a news peg.

Let's pick up the pace, people. I don't mind that I'm starting 2000 without a flying car or that the neighborhood kids jeer at my cape. But I anticipate finding a fella who likes good music, beer, and celebrating Christmas as much as I do sometime in this next century, and if he wants to make a honorable man out of me, we're entitled to that right—pronto!

 
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