On the Panoply of Gay Code Words in Today’s N.Y./Region Section of the Times

18Dec07

Today we were both amused and disheartened to find a panoply of gay code words used in a N.Y./Region (long our favorite section) piece in The Times on Mr. William J. Dane, a curator and art scholar who has maintained the Newark Library’s collection of prints and rare books for more than six decades. To wit, we learn that Mr. Dane is “dapper and refreshingly irreverent”; that his tie “was adorned with burgundy-and-green bunches of grapes”; that he wears “a rhinestone-slathered watch that would have put Liberace to shame”; that he said, “‘Ahh, Andy,” [while] pausing at a Warhol serigraph of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis”; and that he “has an admitted weakness for handmade artists’ books and mass-produced pop-up books, the more outrageous the better.”

Nowhere, however does the article state that the man is gay. But wait! We also learn that he served in the U.S. army during WWII, so perhaps he’s not…?

Please. Whether dictated by Mr. Dane (as is often the case with members of his downtrodden generation) or The Times — and as much as we enjoyed reading about such a charming old queen — the failure of the piece to explicitly state the obvious left us with a bittersweet aftertaste. Is it just us, or does it seem that such articles about the heterosexually inclined never fail to make explicit this fact, either by way of a reference to a spouse or a girlfriend/boyfriend of the opposite gender? On the other hand, given that The Times still uses “companion” (the term of choice for any unwed couple, gay or straight), perhaps we’re better off with the awkward, uncomfortable silence and oddly dated prose such as that used to describe Mr. Dane.

Still, there’s a part of us — the altruistic part? — that wishes Mr. Dane had owned up to it, if only for the sake of all the young queens we can so easily imagine out there perusing The Times and being left with the impression that gays exist only: 1) in the fashion/style/garden sections; 2) as crime victims; and 3) as monstrous specters used by the current political leadership (and those who would replace them) to rally the unthinking hordes to their cause. But that too would be something of a lie — and here is our most bittersweet admission — because the person we are describing, the young queen we would truly like to save, is in fact us, to the extent that we will always exist unchanged — and marked by fear and ignorance — in the memories of our past.

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