Thanks for coming out, America: Are pop culture and politics on the same queer path?
Beyond Rickie, there were many characters, movies and figures in popular culture that I knew and loved and were identified as "gay" in some capacity -- like RuPaul, Keith Haring, Pedro Zamora and John Waters. I faintly remember the older girls at my Catholic school wearing George Michael pins on their uniform skirts during his Faith era, when he was still being Liberace'd out to teen girls as pop-candy bait.
I fell for him later, when "Freedom '90" first blew my mind in video form -- because it was a montage of all my favorite supermodels of the time. It was only later, as I pored over the lyrics in the CD insert, that I realized it was Michael's coming-out story. It was also his rebellion against the industry that marketed him as "straight."
While this masking of sexuality and orientation hasn't disappeared entirely from the entertainment money-making machine, it also isn't the personal life sentence automatically hung on all pop-culture players anymore.
Even if being "out" is something that has to be stated less and less, it is important to remember how vital this time is: As politics catches up to popular culture, we should not only celebrate the Tammy Baldwins of the Senate and the Maines, Minnesotas, Marylands and Washingtons embracing equal-marriage rights for all. We should also see the triumphs as a jumping-off point for the rest of the equal-rights work still left to do.
We wouldn't have to identify as gay, straight, trans, queer or ally to get things done -- but showing that we exist as our true selves is a necessary step, as we continue to work to pass the equal-rights legislation that still eludes us. I include all orientations in this idea because, as an ally, I see that GLBTQ human-rights issues are everyone's issues. Our own history as a country tells us that the "separate but equal" notion doesn't work -- legal marriage shouldn't have different definitions for different couples, nor should it be something that is only available to a select few.
And just as a reminder to those who oppose equal rights (especially the marital kind) for all orientations...I may have threatened to marry a gay guy to fuck the system and give the institution of marriage the middle finger, but these guys are going to do me one better: They are just going to marry your girlfriends.