8 The Star/Nov. 11, 1983
Pop Culture and Gay Rights
By Dan Siminoski
For a long time, I have believed that the
expression of views on "public" issues in
media like film .and music offers a special
way for political activists to build support
for their causes. If "culture" can be called
"political," it is most powerfully so in
First, it can bring attention to existing
problems in a way usually ignored in
mainstream political discource, and thus
involve us emotionally in the search for
solutions. Second, because of the artist'B
freedom of expression, he or she is not
limited to the practical political agenda,
solutions or views of the future. An artist
defines problems more freely and has
greater latitude to define alternate policies, institutions, lifestyles and moral
codes. Last, and most urgent, the artistic
address to an audience is more direct than
a political one, it aims to the heart and
emotions, rather than the head and reason.
The result is that though the politician
may be more "correct" in analysis, the
artist strikes a deeper cord, creating pain
or fear or self-identification, urging us not
only to see the problem, but to live it for
Hopefully, this submersion into the
realm of the artist allows us to emerge
more sensitive to the problem, more open
to its discussion, and more likely to participate in its solution. Were Karl Marx to
comment, he would surely agree that "consciousness raising" is a necessary part of
any revolutionary program. I contend
that it plays an important role in gay
rights at the moment.
If we agree for a moment that culture
can speak politically, and its expression
can be used to promote a political movement, we are still left with a towering question. What is "gay culture?" The answer
seems to elude all of us. Whether or not
there is a unique gay aesthetic, the creation of a truly unique people or whether it
is only the product of a ghetto-ized sub-
community, are issues too large to tackle
in this column.
Happily, though, another standard
offers itself for this discussion, one not
based on who the artist is, but how effectively that person portrays gay life. This
standard is the language adopted by the
See Classified & Personals Form in
Alliance for Gay Artists in the Entertainment Industry, which recently presented
its third annual media awards.
They are given to actors, writers and
production staffs in film, TV and theatre
for "the realistic portrayal of gay and lesbian characters and issues in the entertainment media." As did the earliest
Oscars and Tonys, these awards celebrated honesty and accomplishment without nervous nominees or declarations of
best anythings. Instead, they celebrated
the works that allowed audiences to experience three-dimensional gay and lesbian
people, that invited non-gays to experience our richness and difficulties and
that gave us the chance to see ourselves
onstage as we are in our private lives.
Among the most emotionally received
theatrical tributes were the late Jane
Chamber's play. Last Year at Bluefish
Cove, and the ensemble of actresses who
played it, Pat Carroll's solo performance
in Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Vincent Price's powerful version of Oscar Wilde in the one-man
Diversions and Delights, and Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine, all productions of the
Los Angeles Theatre.
For what I consider the best film yet
made about the pains and rewards of coming out, John Sayles' Liana won, and
received special recognition for, the performances of Linda Griffiths and Jane Har-
aren. In television, award went to
Dynasty for the honest and routine way in
which the gay character Steven Carring-
ton was portrayed, and to PBS for its production of The Fifth of July, with Richard
Thomas and Jeff Daniels as the stable gay
couple—and probably the most "normal"
people in the play.
The awards evening was produced, written and directed by members of the
Alliance and was easily more entertaining
and crisply presented than the more familiar awards shows. I felt proud to be part of
The Alliance numbers about 250
members, its main percentage made up of
gay professionals. In addition to the
awards, year-round activities include
monitoring productions that focus on gay
life and working to eliminate stereotypes.
There are riskB to open members of the
Alliance, as chairperson Chris Uszler
reminded the audience, the same risks
faced by every person who chooses to
reject the closet.
Speaking for himself and the Alliance,
Uszler affirmed that he would not be
intimidated: "I am not discouraged...no,
far from it, for I see a new generation of
gays and lesbians emerging in our history People who are willing to take
risks, refusing to pay the emotional price
ofthe closet, individuals who say T can be
myself, openly and freely, and I will work
in this town again!"
Whatever their background, sentiment
or sexuality, most artists speak to their
audience in metaphors rather than political tracts. If they are forced to create stereotyped charaters, most audiences will
believe them and extend them to the real
world. How short a time it is since any gay
character found in the media was ridiculous and disturbed! But if gay characters
were once one-dimensional and false, that
is less true each year.
The characters honored by the AGA
were complex, honest and wholly within
their dramatic context. Some were
extraordinary gay icons, like Stein and
Wilde, but most were ordinary people, like
you and me. Their sexuality was merely
an aspect of their makeup, not a constant
source of struggle and conflict. When
.Americans can begin to see us in the
media in all our richness and variety, we
begin to close in on our political goals.
Dr. Siminoski is a political scientist and
has been active in the gay rights movement for about a decade. He may be written at 1221 Redondo Blvd., Los Angeles,
CA 90019. G1983 Stonewall Features Syn- •
Boy Scout Fights to
By Dion B. Sanders
Via GPA Wire Serivce
BERKELEY, Calif.—Attorneys for the
Boy Scouts of America said in October
that they will appeal a court decision
ordering an openly gay Eagle Scout to be
reinstated as an adult scout leader.
The California State Court of Appeals in
Los Angeles upheld on Oct. 6 a lower court
ruling that the BSA's 1981 ouster of
Timothy Curran, 21, whose homosexuality was revealed in a newspaper article
that year, was "arbritrary and capricious."
BSA attorney Malcom Wheeler said
from Los Angeles that the BSA maintains
a policy of not permitting "girls, gays and
Wheeler said that "one of the ideas of
Scouting is to get kids out in the woods—
removed from everyday problems, one of
those problems being sexual relations,"
Curran disputed the assertion, saying
that he found it "highly offensive. They
obviously think that because I'm gay, I'm
going to molest kids, and that's a garbage
stereotype of gays in general and a personal insult to me."
Curran went on to assert the fact that
most cases of child molestation involved
girls being molested by heterosexual men.
David Park, BSA national director, said
previous attempts "by several boys who
refuse to acknowledge the existence of a
Supreme Being, as well as several
females," were unsuccessful.
In fact, one of the ten "Laws of Scouting" states that "a Scout is reverent ...
A spokesman for the American Civil
Liberties Union said, however, that that
particular policy is unconstitutional, on
the grounds that it violates an atheistic
Scout's First Amendment rights.
"The First Amendment, while it gives us
the right to worship as we please, also
gives people the right not to worship at all,
if they so choose," the spokesman said.
California Superior Court Judge Robert
Weil ruled last July that the BSA must
prove "a rational connection between
homosexual conduct and any significant
danger of harm to the association" before
the BSA can expel anyone who is gay.
Curran asserted that "it will be difficult
for the Scouts to prove I'm immoral. They
made me an Eagle Scout; they gave me the
Order of the Arrow (one of Scouting's
highest awards). They've gone to great
lengths to prove how moral I am," Curran
continued, "and now, they're trying to
kick me out simply because I'm gay.
There's no way I'll let them do that to me
without a fight."
Park responded, "We just don't think
parents want homosexuals in the (Scout)
While national BSA leaders are opposed
to Curran's reinstatement, local officials
have openly welcomed Curran back.
David Potter, scoutmaster of Troop 37 in
Berkeley, said that "If you wanted to
select a person who has been the ideal
Scout, that person would be Tim Curran."
In an editorial, the Oakland Tribune,
the newspaper that made public Curran's
gayness in 1981, said that when questioned about Curran being gay, nearly all of
the memberB of Troop 37 said, "So what?
We don't care." The editorial continued,
"And why should anybody care?"
The editorial concluded that the true
measure of a Scout's worthiness is what he
does in his capacity as a Scout, not what
he does in his private life.