Thursday, May 27, 2010

Secret Language

A week ago, I was on my Thursday run, listening to Lea Michele from "Glee" on my iPod, sing "Don't Rain on My Parade," when the following question came to me:  What is it about show tunes, and songs sung by specific recording artists--like Bette Midler, Cher, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and many others--that so resonant with gay men?  I mean, I understand that many people, regardless of their sexual orientation, love show tunes and appreciate music from these stars, but it's almost like they speak to gay men in a way that they don't to anyone else, at least not on the same level.  And I came up with this.

Some songs hold an intimate, secret, and exclusive message for gay men, almost as though the artists who write and record them received a message from somewhere--a message to convey specifically to gay men.  And what is that message?  It's an urgent, intense, enduring, and eternally optimistic message that everything will be all right.  That someone knows what we're going through as gay men--how tough it is to be gay in our culture, particularly how we're judged for being immoral, how many of us are estranged from our families, how we almost invariably suffer debilitating self-loathing, all because of our sexual orientation--and wants us to know everything will be fine.  We're okay just the way we are. We don't have to change for anyone.  We'll get through.  We'll make it.  And not only will we make it, we'll also thrive and overcome and rise.  

Why else would these songs mean so much to us?  Why else would we take to the artists who record them, and feel as though we understand them in a way that no one else does, that they speak to us?  Take pride when you revel listening to Streisand's "People," or Garland's "(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow," or Cher's "Believe," or Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," or Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings," or any number of other anthems by other artists that celebrate the special resiliency of gay men.  The world shares the gifts and talents of these extraordinary people, but we know, in our hearts and in our souls, in a way that no one else does, the special reason why they are here on this earth.

How many times do we have to hear the message before we believe it? Everything really will be all right, after all.

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