Meade Memorial

Eastern Standard Time:
Collaborating With the Enemy

This column appeared in January, 1992, in The Washington Blade.

By Lawrence Biemiller

G. Hiroshima inaugurated the new year by refusing -- twice -- the advances of a Ph.D. candidate whom G. Hiroshima had described only a week earlier as entertaining, attractive, and extremely nice. "Too young, Lar," G. Hiroshima said when I phoned him New Year's Day from my friend the novelist's kitchen.

"Too young for what?"

"For us to have anything in common."

"Like you had anything in common with what's-his-name? Other than the amount of time you both liked to spend in bed?"

"But he's a student. He lives in a dorm."

"Yesterday you called it an apartment, Gregory, if I recall."

"We're at different stages in our lives. Everyone I know has a mortgage, a job, a -- "

"You got me there. That's the first question I ask when I meet someone: 'Do you have a mortgage?' Tells me so much about how we'll get along."

"He's too cute for me, Lar."

"Apparently he doesn't think so. For heaven's sake, Gregory, give the guy a chance. He just wants a date. He didn't ask to marry you."

After a few more minutes I said goodbye, exasperated. Theodore looked up from the sofa, where he'd been engrossed in MTV -- normally he's only allowed to watch Lassie reruns and selected cartoons. "What was that all about?" he asked.

"Uncle Gregor is being -- well, it's a long story." Theodore is seven and a half, and weighs 52 pounds, and is turning out to be a great kid. But let's face facts: What I know about seven-and-a-half-year-olds you could write on one side of an Eggo mini-waffle.

"You can tell me," Theodore said. "I'll understand."

"Yeah, well, I'm sure you would," I said. "But not right now." Much as I wanted to do the right thing, I had no idea how to explain either homosexuality or G. Hiroshima's fear of dating to someone who had assured me the day before that girls had cooties.

But all afternoon Theodore's curiosity nagged at me. It had probably been 10 or 12 years since the last time I had ducked a question about being Gay. I didn't like to think I had let a teachable moment pass for want of a clever approach to the lesson. What would the queer activists say, after all? Was this just more evidence that I was myself one of the hated "collaborators"?


I've been thinking a lot lately about these alleged "collaborators," and also about their accusers -- people a recent column in The Advocate referred to as "queer archangels." As I understand it, the accusers maintain that it is not enough to be out to everyone you meet, to support the Gay causes you want to support, to live your life in a way you think sets a good example; if you aren't also protesting and shouting and getting arrested, you're collaborating with the enemy. Or the devil -- you have your choice of the Hitler metaphor or the Satan metaphor.

But that seems to be about the only choice you have. You spend your whole adolescence, maybe your twenties too, rebelling against straight society and its tireless effort to make you conform to its standards, and then what? Gay people come along who start saying you have to conform to their standards.

What follows is the obligatory statement about respecting the goals of committed direct-action organizers and participants, except that I mean it. I think ACT UP was among the best things to come out of the 1980's, and I think both the potential and the need for other direct-action organizations are great. But not everyone was born to join or protest or shout or get arrested, and I'm not sure why the archangels who are making all these accusations have no room in their cosmology for anyone else.

Frankly, I am no more comfortable being judged, or hated, by Gay people who call themselves archangels than by straight people who call themselves protectors of the American family. I'll be the first to admit that my personal achievements in the name of Gay rights or queer freedom or whatever you want to call it have been unexceptional. Still, I'm proud of some of the stories I've gotten into the newspaper I write for, and I'm comfortable with the way I live my life.

I'm even pleased that last week I could explain to a friend who's just coming out of the closet why it would be wrong to say "straight-acting and straight-appearing" in the personals ad he was placing. But it's a good bet that I'm never going to go sing Christmas carols with sexually-explicit lyrics outside the homes of D.C. Council members. It seems to me that these new archangels, instead of calling people like me collaborators, would do better to think up and publicize a range of responses to homophobia that excluded fewer homosexuals.

Or is that just what you'd expect a collaborator to suggest?

"Your son," I said to the novelist the afternoon of New Year's day, "asked me to explain the lecture I was giving Gregory on the phone this morning. 'You can tell me,' he said. 'I'll understand.' "

"And?" the novelist said.

"And I didn't. I wasn't even sure whether he knew about sex yet."

"He does," she said. "Actually I told him all about Uncle Lawrence and Uncle Gregor a while ago."

"You're kidding."

"And I told him that when he got older he'd probably hear kids at school saying bad things about men who like men and women who like women. He said, all on his own, 'Well, that's pretty stupid.' "

Copyright © 1992 by Lawrence Biemiller. Published January, 1992, in The Washington Blade.