Beauty & Gay Reality in San Francisco

I write this post in San Francisco where I am visiting the PatriotSisterWest (who lives here) and the PatriotMotherWest (who came out here to see her California kids). (My remaining siblings live in the Midwest and New York.)

Every time I come to San Francisco, I am struck by the charm, the loveliness of this town, built on what is perhaps the most stunning natural setting of any major American city. I love looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge, especially when shrouded in fog. What a magnificent combination of natural and man-made beauty. And looking out on the Bay, during the day where you can see the contours of the hills behind the houses and skyscrapers or at night when myriad lights twinkle in front of the dark outlines of those hills. On Friday, we had lunch at the Cliff House and between bites, we would turn north to see late afternoon shadows darkening the magnificent headlands of Marin County and west to watch the setting sun create spectacular patterns of light on the Pacific Ocean.

And no matter where we ate, the food has been amazing, from the most tender spicy chicken at Paul K my first night here to delicious ginger & garlic chicken with broccoli at Aux Delices. (Franco-Vietnamese food) tonight.

That first night, after our wonderful meal at Paul K's, my sister took my Mom and me to a drag show. I am perhaps the only gay man whose straight sister would take him to a drag show that he would otherwise not have attended.

I did find much of the show amusing, but, as I watched I noted how anti-Bush jokes in particular and anti-Republican jokes in general seemed a staple of gay humor. In that crowd the anti-Bush jokes earned the largest laughs and the loudest applause. It is commonplace for gay entertainers to do -- as those drag queens did -- and make scatological references about the Republican president. Or otherwise make jokes at the expense of President Bush and the GOP.

It's not just our entertainers. A lesbian friend once e-mailed a joke to all those in her address book where the punch line was that the president was stupid.

Now, I'm all in favor of political humor. It is a sign of free society when humorists can readily make fun of our leaders -- and do so in public fora. We should encourage such mockery. It reminds us that our leaders are human. And it is an essential aspect of political speech, a means to criticize politicians while having a chuckle at their expense.

That said, the drag show I saw Thursday night reminded me (yet again) why it's so difficult for gay people to come out as Republicans. Our entertainers take it as a given that we will laugh at anti-Republican jokes, no matter how crude, no matter how mean. Humorists assume that gay (and gay-friendly) audiences all cast Republicans as the villain. That we all see the world the same way they do.

To counter this, gay Republicans should be braver than I had been for much of my time in California; we should be more open about our politics. To be sure, the largely gay crowd's warm reaction even to the meanest of anti-Bush jokes Thursday night reminds us how difficult that task can be. Too many gay people assume the worst about Republicans -- and those who support them. Nonetheless, our entertainers may stop taking it as a given that gay audiences are anti-Republican when gay Republicans start coming out and making clear that gay and lesbian Americans do not all share the same political world view.

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