I have a plaque from the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society proclaiming me Man of the Year. For a man who was fucking his brains out, it was quite an honor. I admonished guests at the ceremony to write queer myths because unlike the Greeks with their panoply of Gods and Goddesses and Jews with half the Bible, I grew up with no hero stories, at best embarrassed reverences to Oscar Wilde’s craziness.
I will not be remembered, and if I were, I would be remembered as a man who never sought the limelight and never manned a barricade. I am proud of raising 3.2 million dollars for the first gay and lesbian center in a public institution, but a hotel ballroom of smiling faces was more than adequate recognition.
Telling others to write gay myths was typical gay optimism—hoping someone else would create the perfect world. Now at seventy, I recognize we write our myths every day. Tom Waddell, who created the gay Olympics, is part of that firmament, as are Audre Lourde and Annie Liebowitz. The thousands of men, like my partner Michael A. Schoch, who died of AIDS are heroes, and stories like The Normal Heart are etching their stories into history. Scholars every day are resurrecting heroes like Alan Turing who broke the German’s code in WW11.
Our writing about our friends and colleagues and portraying them in sculpture paint and photographs makes them heroes. If I were given another award I would urge our artists to make sure the myths we are creating are preserved. Until recently few children grew up with out-gay parents so most kids still won’t hear of gay and lesbian heroes on visits to Grandma’s house or in sermons, so we have an obligation to make sure the heroes we create end up in libraries, museums and park plaques. Sadly, quilt panels don’t last. Unlike other cultures our myths aren’t likely to end up in pyramid burial chambers or on Renaissance cathedral ceilings, but we can congratulate ourselves for being myth makers and commit to making our myths secure.