Thursday, February 28, 2013

To an unknown gay neighbor

A year ago, while looking for a huesera at one of the villages near our ranch, I ran into a bit of graffiti, I suspect left by a teenager, that was brief and moving: "Soy puto y qué"

It's not exactly poetry and translates as, "I'm a fag, so what?" I took a picture of it that has been stored in my computer since then.

Huesera literally means "bone mender" but this woman's practice goes beyond bones to include herbal rubs and teas and other folk remedies, though I don't think ointments for angst about one's sexual orientation are in her medicinal portfolio.

The remedy she tried on me--for a sprained foot--consisted of a shot glass half-filled with alcohol or some liniment, lit with a candle and then applied face-down to the skin near the source of the problem. The vacuum created as the flame went out would suck the bad "airs" out of my foot and cure the problem, the huesera told me.

I'm here, like it or not
Her consultation room consisted of a weathered and not-too-clean mattress lying on the floor, near an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and some other religious paraphernalia. When she isn't attending patients the huesera runs a micro grocery store that clients approach through a window with a concrete ledge. It was on the ledge that I found the plaintive graffiti.

"I'm a fag, so what?" could be an SOS from a lonely and isolated teenager, similar to those left by some gay American teens often before they commit suicide or other desperate acts, like run away from home.

I don't know him and I can't imagine this young man's personal hell. This is a smudge of a village, population eight-hundred of so, including dogs, pigs and goats, dirt-poor, in the rural entrails of Mexico. A more hostile place for a young person to discover he's gay I could not fathom save for some far corner of Afghanistan.

Yet I'd like to conjure up a more sanguine scenario, one you might dismiss as fantasy.

Perhaps this young person has heard of some of the gay-rights bills recently approved in Mexico and particularly in Mexico City where same-sex marriage became legal in 2009 despite the furious protests by the Catholic Church. Or he has seen TV pictures of the capital's annual gay pride parade, among the most raucous and monumental anywhere in the world. Or made some contacts with other young Mexican guys in San Miguel de Allende, a artsy-fartsy town of about one-hundred-thousand inhabitants about ten miles away, with a larger-than-average gay community.

Having put all those pieces together, "I'm a fag, so what?" might have been a message of self-confidence or even defiance. You could even turn it around: "So what if I'm a fag? I'm still a worthwhile person and I'm not going to spend my life under a rock."

It's not an impossible shot because nowadays teenagers, even in Mexico, must be exposed to messages of self-affirmation that were inconceivable for people like Stew and I when we were growing up in the U.S.

Hell, even Jim Nabors announced last month that he'd gotten married to his male partner of thirty-eight years. Gomer Pyle gay? And Vicco, Ky., population 335, electing a gay hairdresser as mayor?

Yes, along with CNN's top news reader Anderson Cooper; talk show princess and Oprah-in-waiting Ellen DeGeneres; politicians, mayors and governors; television and movie stars including some who seem to be making a career of being gay.

The list is so long that sometimes I fear perhaps the world is becoming too gay and this is just a phase that will vanish unexpectedly like a beautiful, rainbow-colored soap bubble.

The latest gay slam was President Obama's second inaugural address, in which he specifically mentioned the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, regarded as the official launching of the modern gay-rights movement, in the same breath as Selma, Seneca Falls and other landmarks in American civil rights.

For gay people of our generation (Stew and I are sixty-six and sixty-five respectively, thanks for asking), the movement toward equality in our lifetimes has been almost incomprehensibly fast, at least in retrospect. During the dark ages of Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell it probably didn't seem quite so.

On Valentine's Day the Illinois State Senate passed gay marriage legislation and the bill next week goes to the lower house where it is given a good chance of passage. The governor says he will sign it. I just received an e-mail from a friend in Chicago telling me that Stew and I might finally get a chance "to come home."

None of this will directly affect the unknown graffiti writer. But I'd like to think the cumulative good news eventually will reach him and make his life easier.

I even hope one day to find a faded rejoinder to his original message, something along the lines of "Yeah, I'm gay and I left for Mexico City to find the love of my life! Hasta la vista, baby!"

###

P.D. Even more stunning than Gomer Pyle's nuptials: 

Tuesday's New York Times reports that about 75 prominent Republicans have signed a so-called "friend of the court" brief in support of gay marriage, a month before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments challenging the constitutionality of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by President Clinton) and also California's Proposition 8, both of which banned gay marriage.

The signers are not Republican pot smokers but a distinguished panel of current and former  governors, members of Congress and former cabinet members. Also, one of the two lawyers presenting the case for gay marriage before the court is Theodore Olson, the former solicitor general during George W. Bush's first term and a well known Republican conservative. 

All this despite the Republican Party's platform which calls for amending the U.S. constitution to define marriage as "the union of one man and one woman" and House Speaker John Boehner's vow to fight any sanction in favor of gay marriage by the high court. 

3 comments:

  1. Cool post. But the gay pride movement has penetrated (if you'll pardon the expression, LOL) even small towns in México Lindo, such as Tejupilco de Hidalgo, which is in the State of Mexico, about 62 KM south of Toluca. This town boasts a population of only 71,000, and held a gay pride parade in September of 2010. You can see a video of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2IcRoD53gc.


    No, it's not a one-horse town. But how many towns of 71,000 in the USA have their own gay pride parade?

    I have no idea of whether this has become an annual event (I only managed to find out about it accidentally, while searching for something else), but it's heartening that even in smallish towns in places such as Mexico now have gay pride celebrations that go off without firebombs or other disturbances. The world is indeed moving forward.

    So I hope your brave graffiti artist sallies forth boldly and makes a life that suits him to a T.

    Y qué! indeed!

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we always make a point to go to Pride in DF. Biggest, best party we know of.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have seen many sunrises and sunsets in my life of 73 years. Nothing last any eternity, even life comes to an end. Before my final sunset comes, I hope to have the courage to say much the same to the world, "Soy joto y que" to the world. A picture of this sign if it could be e-mailed tome would be placed on a wall in my home to give me the courage to move forward before my last sunset. Thanks,
    Mario
    uvalde007@sbcglobal.net

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope the same things for you. Thank you for reading this post and for your very moving comment.

    alfredo

    ReplyDelete