Talk about an idea whose time has come!
There's no doubt now about the sea change in attitudes toward LGBT people. In the United States, until 2004 things stayed pretty much the same for a long time. Since then, however, support for same-sex marriage, the latest issue LGBT civil rights are measured by, has risen steadily from about one-third approval to acceptance by more than half of all Americans at some point in 2010 or 2011. That number appears to be continuing to grow. Nate Silver, the pollster extraordinaire who did such a good job of predicting the last election, thinks that by the year 2020 only Mississippi will have a majority of its population holding out against same-sex marriage.
So much for quantitative data. Qualitative data are easily dismissed as “anecdotal” most of the time, and therefore far less reliable. But sometimes things happen that make the case far more persuasively than raw numbers can. One of those is the accumulation of good news, such as the rapid increase in the number of states extending rights to LGBT couples, especially the gain in momentum in November 2012 when Minnesota, Maine, Maryland and Washington all joined in. Since then we’ve watched first eight counties of New Mexico and then the State of New Jersey cross the line. And then today Illinois joined in. It’s getting close in Hawaii, from all reports, and we’re watching Nevada closely. Two men have gotten married at West Point. And ENDA has passed the Senate 61 to 30. The Republicans in the House will likely shoot it down, but there is talk such a move will only backfire on the notoriously out of touch and no longer grand old party.
Another good sign are the bright lights seeming to come out of nowhere. The Steve Grand story, for example. I came across his name for the first time only this morning, but that speaks only to how much I’m out of touch with popular culture and what young people are listening to. Steve Grand saved up his nickels and dimes and on July 2 put out a music video of himself falling in love with another guy and experiencing heartbreak, as the object of his affections goes his own straight way. The song is entitled All American Boy. As I write this, the video has had 2,433,216 hits. Part of the appeal is the extension of gay awareness to what many think is country music (it's not) and to the Midwest. Steve protests he never set out to be a country-and-western singer – he’s from the Chicago suburb of Lemont – he simply wrote a song and people can make of it what they will. Apparently America is ready, though, if the two and a half million hits are any indication, to cry in sympathy with a gay heartbreak story.
You can follow the round of interviews. He’s now clearly in demand, not only at gay venues like the Atlanta Gay Pride Parade 2013 this year or a gay charity event at the Bailey House in New York City. Some of these – I’m thinking specifically of the Bailey House event – do not show him off well, and after a while you begin to wonder if he’s not a Johnny-one-song, when all you see is him singing All American Boy in one place after another. But then you come across his follow-up song and it's in some ways even better than All American Boy (at least he gets the guy in the end). It's called Stay (with me), and you begin to think maybe this kid’s got a future. You can see his evolution, from the time he worked as a model under the pseudonym Stave Chatham and as a singer under the pseudonym, Steve Starchild. You can also see his talent. Not so much, in my opinion, in the overly exuberant Lady Gaga song, You and I, with its still-passing lyrics like "lipstick on my face," but definitely in It Will Rain, which he sings solo, and in the duet Faithfully, which he sings with Sari.
It doesn’t hurt, I can’t resist mentioning in passing, that he’s an absolute Greek god in face (if you find his kind of rugged appealing) and in body (if you have a pulse), and he tells his story with humility. Greek god fans should check out his modeling persona here. And for more on the part above the neck, see his web page and his Facebook page.
My point, though, is that interviews at such media outlets as Windy City Live, Good Morning America , and CNN suggest gay love stories are mainstreaming and more and more non-gay people are feeling a sympathetic connection than ever before. And – I’m not sure I’m ready to believe this, but – his priest, a certain Father Kurt Boras, actually described him, if this HuffPost article is to be believed, as “a model Catholic.” Boras takes his cue from Pope Francis, the priest says, and Francis's oft-cited question, “Who am I to judge?” in connection with gay people.
In explaining himself to his congregation, Grand announced, “You know, I'm gay. And I think that's okay and I really believe that God loves us for who we are, gay or straight,” and (according to the HuffPost article) received three standing ovations. And then got a note from a churchgoer who told him that she “no longer felt ashamed to be part of the greater Catholic church.”
I mention this to put some perspective on criticism he has received from gay quarters for his loyalty to the Catholic Church and for chasing, in that All American Boy video, after a straight man. Some parts of the gay community sure know how to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, unfortunately, and miss the entire point of what it means for a cause to go mainstream and take on broader themes, including what to the avant garde is a not-fully-raised consciousness.
In any case, we’ve come a long way in the years since Will and Grace. A thousand years since Making Love. And a million miles, it seems, since The Children's Hour, if anybody remembers back that far.
photo credits: photo of Steve Grand is labeled tomcullis.com and was taken from the website http://joeyparkermovement.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Steve-Grand-11.jpeg