Up on the podium is a short, wide dyke
in a cowboy hat. Next to her is a shirtless gay guy in leather pants,
suspenders and cap. They take turns at the mike, exhorting the crowd.
Down in the audience a slight balding man in a pink tutu periodically
does demi-plies as he applauds the speakers. Back a few rows two
white-haired women, one in a wheelchair, are so moved they are
Millions of gay people have now
witnessed scenes like this. They’ve been happening for at least 40
years now. It’s an ongoing story with the makings of history even
as we live it, even as gay historians document it.
When my first few books were published,
readers thanked me for depicting our history. I’d explain at
readings that I wasn’t writing history, that I was writing reality
as it is experienced by many gays who aren’t on the ramparts. The
stomping diesel dykes who wear high heels to work and effeminate male
hairdressers who are still married to women, for example, are not
anachronisms. They are alive and well and always would be with us in
some form or other.
History happens in daily life. The
first time a teacher came out to her school principal, she made
history. Teachers continue coming out today. History is an
accumulation of these acts.
When I meet young readers I can see
that nothing but the present is real to them. The way they see it, a
book I wrote twenty-five years ago depicts history, while to me it’s
my reality. My fictional characters dress with a style that could
seem a bit stale to kids with piercings and tattoos, but is true to
the dykes I see.
The irony is that I have always been
bored silly by history. I would never purposely write an historical
romance. At the library today I was perusing a two-volume edition of
Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance. In his introduction, he called
those towering novels historical romances even though all the events
happened in his lifetime. Maybe I have been writing history all
I really hated world civ in college.
This weird teacher would climb on the long table at the front of the
auditorium and pace, gesticulating wildly with his mic. It was hard
to concentrate on Roman Emperors and Visigoths while waiting for him
to fall off. In section classes he’d have us, college students,
color in maps. He provided the crayons. I learned best from teachers
who were passionate about their subjects. Guys like him bled passion
out of history.
What if the schools had taught gay
history, would I have liked the subject then? Well, they couldn’t.
It wasn’t documented back then. We had no pictures of gay heroes,
no Gayttysberg Address to memorize, no significant dates about which
to write reports. Gay history was left to the novelists: Gale
Wilhelm, Radclyffe Hall, Gore Vidal, Mary Renault.
Today, because our history has become
visible, it has also started to look more like our present. The
tattooed baby gays are keyboarding us: churning out stories of the
here and now that reflect this new world. They’re doing love
scenes between characters who can legally marry and mysteries
featuring party boys unabashedly mobbing the streets.
The tableau of the gay guy and the gay
woman at the podium is a sign of both early and later post Stonewall
years; they couldn’t get more current, yet they’re making
history. The lesbian pushing her lover’s wheelchair and the gay boy
dancing for joy in a pink tutu are living history. Their acts become
bedrock we stand on. Every book a gay person writes about a gay life,
every time we come out to a boss – or every time we hide while the
bigots win elections – we may think we’re just living our lives,
but we’re actually determining our history.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 12 books. Her latest, Beggar
of Love, was called “Lee
Lynch's richest and most candid portrayals of lesbian life” by
Katherine V. Forrest. You can reach Lynch at
Copyright 2010 Lee Lynch