Straights becoming a minority here”… It was a fear reflected in this report from “Two on the Town,” a local series broadcast by KCBS-TV in Los Angeles and hosted by Steve Edwards and Connie Chung.
Forty years later, we can call that fear exactly what it was. Homophobia. It existed in the United States, and most parts of the world quite comfortably under the racist panoply of xenophobia that had been as much of an ingredient of American Pie as all the things over which flags are waved and national holidays are celebrated with red, white and blue bunting, hot dogs and fireworks.
But then, American nationalism is one of those extremes that has always been not only acceptable but also ingrained.
We can look back now on this “Two on the Town” episode and others like it that portrayed the emerging gay West Hollywood of that time as if it were some quaint phenomenon or vacation souvenir that middle America could take home and safely display like a Mexican molcajete on the fireplace mantle or a plaster figure of a small black jockey on the lawn — feeling some kind of moral superiority and control of its destiny.
But in 2021, that Mexican molcajete, that black lawn jockey, and those homosexuals in “Two on the Town” segment, well, they’re no longer souvenirs of a world middle America isn’t part of, are they? They’re the world that middle America is finally being forced to deal with. Slavery? It got away with for over two centuries. The American Jew? It has never known what to do with. Its solution to Asians in America was to displace them to camps for a while. The native Americans they stole the land from. The Mexicans and other Latinos? Well, hasn’t much of the U.S. simply adopted a domestic version of the country’s longstanding dismissive Latin American banana republic foreign policy?
Could it be that today what we’re seeing is all those Americans once relegated to second-class citizenship now rising to demand full inclusion in an overwhelming force unified by numbers, by law, and by moral right.
And West Hollywood and the LGBTQ+ nation it repesents?
To the extent that the LGBTQ+ movement celebrates a gay culture and nourishes gay pride, it is a positive, important, undoubtedly permanent phenomenon. To the extent that LGBTQ+ nationalism represents a retreat from U.S. society, it may be only a temporary phase. The hope is that the LGBTQ+ movement, aspiring to deal with middle America on more nearly equal terms, actually seeks the good things in life; and it thus makes them indeed faithful dreamers of the American dream — but scandalously hampered in turning that dream into reality for themselves.
Inevitably, the way American society, particularly in the middle of the country, reacts in the future to LGBTQ+ and other minorities and their demands for equality will define for decades what kind of country America really is. How America deals with the LGBTQ+ movement, and therefore with itself, will show it to be either the nation seen by its detractors — selfish and oppressive — or else the country seen by its defenders — painfully troubled but still holding to its original moral purpose and promise. It may be the LGBTQ+ role not only to struggle for its rightful share of its heritage, but also to recall that old middle America to its own sense of conscience and destiny.