Don't ask, do sweep
When I was a kid my mother never told me a lot of things about her family or childhood. If I asked, she’d say, “Could we please change the subject?” My grandmother called it “sweeping things under the rug”—literally, since when things got uncomfortable Mom would clean house like a mongoose on diet pills. It was my first exposure to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But boy, has that little policy caught on. Now everyone is avoiding subject after unpleasant subject, especially when it comes to gays, in a manic orgy of sweeping. The White House will tell about not allowing gays to serve in the military but won’t ask about a gay male prostitute in the pressroom. The Senate majority leader says he supports antigay Boy Scout policies but won’t admit there are gay Boy Scouts. Last November voters in 11 states told us in constitutional amendments that we didn’t deserve marriage but didn’t ask if those amendments would affect existing benefits, such as health care for partners of state employees, which polls say most of those voters would support. Partner benefits are now caught in the crossfire of a simple rule that says same-sex couples are not really married and never will be, so there. Alan Keyes will tell you how to conduct your sex life, but don’t ask about his gay child, ’cause he ain’t telling. Ditto Phyllis Schlafly, Randall Terry, the Cheneys, or any other self-righteous blowhard with a potentially embarrassing family member. And why are they supporting antigay policies that negatively affect their own kids? Don’t ask. Pope John Paul II, now appearing Nitely in Eternity, told of the evils of gay marriage but not the evils of horny priests. Until they got caught, the Roman Catholic Church was so busy sweeping those guys under the rug that they ran out of rugs. For centuries priests have been told to honor their vow of celibacy but weren’t asked if they had any issues that might torpedo that vow, such as the normal sexual desire common to most species—except, evidently, aspiring priests. It’s still not cool to ask celebrities if they’re gay, because they won’t tell—even if they attend parties with their same-sex partner or get mugged while cruising a London park at 4 a.m. Michael Jackson, in a carpet-sweeping class by himself, reportedly told his sleepover guests that if someone asks, don’t tell. Many parents do not want their children to see positive images of gays in the media, because they don’t want to have to tell their kids about the facts of life when the kids ask. Gays can sweep it up with the best of them: One 50-year-old friend of mine is as out as anyone but still not to Mom and Dad in Milwaukee, because they haven’t asked, and why bother telling? Look, they’re old.
And don’t bother to tell some gay men that their unsafe behavior might be killing themselves and others, because who asked you, anyway? Some will tell their HIV status before sex; some won’t. Few ask. And don’t ask how we manage to get through all 18 hours of a circuit party while not having the time to do any legwork for our local gay organization. I couldn’t tell you. I travel all the time, and friends think nothing of asking me if my partner and I have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regard to our fidelity. Guess what? I don’t tell. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is everywhere, from the rationale for Iraq to Bill O’Reilly’s phone sexcapades to Condi Rice’s love life. It’s endless. Why is telling the truth, or accepting blame, so difficult? Everyone’s sweeping everything under the rug, like an accountant with a bad toupee who thinks you don’t notice his rug. Maybe someday this madness will end in a worldwide epiphany of honesty. Maybe people will actually start asking and telling. Maybe O.J. will admit he did it, Dubya will admit he’s made a few mistakes, or hell will freeze over. But we better do something, or we’re all going to be swept away.