So, I was reading Allen Ginsberg for my American Lit class, and I noticed something. Something that has pissed me off to no end. And what, I hear you mumbling, has me gnashing my teeth and breathing fire now?
Answer: a footnote.
A teensy little footnote that read “Peter Orlovsky (1933 – 2010), Beat poet and Ginsberg’s lover for four decades.”
Cue fiery rage.
Why? Because something like that is not a footnote. Something as significant as a romantic partner that sticks around for forty fucking years deserves mention in the mini-biography on Ginsberg. I mean, Kerouac’s “several marriages” were mentioned in the same book, not even fifty pages previous. But, you know, I guess your personal life and romantic entanglements are only worth a proper mention if you’re straight. If you’re queer, then you just don’t belong. Sucks to be you.
And I can hear the criticisms and justifications rolling in now—I should sit down, shut up, and “be grateful that a queer man made it into the literary canon”. But you know what? It doesn’t mean a damn thing if his status as a gay man is reduced to nothing more than a footnote. “But if he’s a literary figure, than surely his writing matters more than his sexual orientation?” Uh hunh. And if sexual orientation was so meaningless, then why do I have to read about straight marriages and affairs and the Great White Men of the literary canon who just could not, for the life of them, keep their dick in their pants? Oh, right. Because when it comes to art, love and sex and desire are frequent subject matter, because they are part of human experience. Which, you know, makes them important.
Peter Orlovsky is not a footnote. He was a gay man, a poet, and somebody loved him. That man was Allen Ginsberg, another poet. Just because Ginsberg got so famous he couldn’t be swept under a rug doesn’t mean that Peter deserves to be.
Is that what I have to look forward to, should I ever gain some measure of notoriety? That my personal life will be swept under the rug because my significant other is a “Milady” instead of “Milord”? That I will be judged because of who I love instead of the quality of work I am capable of? I want to believe that such won’t be the case; that society has moved forward. But the fact that this textbook was printed in 2013 doesn’t fill me with hope. Institutionalized homophobia is—quite obviously—alive and kicking and ugly all over.
So, to all those people who would prefer that we queers stop quacking so loudly: Fuck you.
I am not a footnote, and I will not be reduced to one.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.