I was looking forward to being with family but I was dreading the visit for some reason. After being in suburban Los Angeles for 34 hours and 47 minutes I now know why. As a gay person I am invisible again. Coming from progressive Northwest DC where Obama got over 9o% of the vote and where my partner and I are active members of the community, I understandably feel like a fish out of water in conservative Northern Orange County where many mourned and still lament McCain’s loss.
As I surveyed the scene at my nephew’s middle school graduation, I identified Korean, Vietnamese, South Asian, Filipino, Hispanic and some White families (even a Daughter of the Revolution oddly handing out certificates to three Asian girls), but no lesbian or gay families. I did spot a homeroom teacher or two who appeared gay, but I did not see anyone else with whom I could identify. At the Peruvian restaurant where we had dinner, I also spied a table of Asian gentle men but they were muffled by the din and distraction of families and partying teens that swarmed the place. When I was asked by a family friend why I moved to DC, I elicited a polite “oh” and not much else upon answering that my partner had gotten a job in the nation’s capital.
It was like being back in Manila again where it is okay to be gay so long as you remain in the shadows and play the limited roles allowed queer folk such as the drag queen who entertains the masses, the fey designer who dresses matrons, or the butch dyke who takes care of the parentals. As Filipino gay activist Oscar Atadero reflected on the LGBT movement in the Philippines, “… homosexuality in the Philippines (is) being tolerated as part of the social structure, as long as that hidden part knows its place in society; working in salons, prettifying the wives of politicians or campaigning for political bosses at elections.”
I guess I have been out and proud too long and too self-differentiated that the O.C. is simply a wee bit stifling. But I am glad to be with family even if I have to play the “bachelor” uncle for the weekend. And gladder still that my brother is looking East.