30 Days 7/06 Recap: The Gay-est Place On Earth
Before I begin this recap, I should probably acknowledge we all have our own personal beliefs regarding homosexuality. For the record, I believe the world would be a much more humane place if people were a little more open-minded, and a lot more tolerant of others. Tonight’s episode ponders the subject, is homosexuality a sin against God, as some religions believe, and does the foundation of freedom in this country, guarantee gays the same rights heterosexuals enjoy? Let’s explore the subject, shall we?
Ryan, 24, having recently graduated college with a degree in finance, enjoys such hobbies as hunting and playing sports. We learn he has also spent some time in the Army Reserves, and I suppose he could be described as an all-American boy. That is, if your typical all-American boy stows rifles and guns in his bedroom and refers to them as “his babies.” Speaking of babies, is he still living at home to work on the family farm? Does he use his finance degree for the farm, or is this just a temporary situation until he finds something else? I don’t know anything about farming, and would love more information, but it is not provided. I do know, however, it’s got to be tough bringing a girl home, knowing Mom and Dad are a few doors down the hall.
Paula, Ryan’s mother, tells us she hopes this experience doesn’t change her son. It’s unclear whether she’s worried he might ‘turn gay,’ or if she’s hoping he remains close-minded, but I’m putting my money on the latter. Because yes, indeed, we need as many close-minded Americans as we can get.
As Ryan’s family and friends chow down on a meal of hot dogs (of course, we wouldn’t expect anything else, would we?), they debate whether someone is “born gay,” or whether someone “chooses to be gay.” Ah, the eternal, complex questions of life…born/choose, miracle whip/mayonnaise, paper/plastic…these questions will haunt man for all eternity. Dad warns Ryan not to return home “wearing no pink shirts,” and someone off-camera reminds Dad, he used to wear pink shirts, which elicits a laugh from those in the room, while Dad sheepishly keeps his mouth shut. I wonder if the gay men Ryan will be living amongst will have a better command of the English language than Dad? Ryan wonders if the gay men will be able to throw a football around, or if they’ll want to go to a museum and drink wine. Because as we all know, most gays love to go to museums and drink wine…
Ed is a free-lance marketing consultant, who has a fabulous row home in a predominantly gay area of San Francisco, called the Castro District. As Ed gives Ryan a tour of his home, Ryan stops dead in his tracks, shocked by a nude painting hanging in Ed’s bathroom. Ed responds that the bathroom is the perfect place for a man to be naked. *hee*
Standing in his orderly, black and white kitchen, Ed breaks open a bottle of champagne, and informs Ryan, they drink a lot in San Francisco. Let the games begin!
Apparently Ryan has the United States Military to thank for the booming gay population in San Francisco. After World War II, thousands of gay servicemen were released in the area, and since then, gay men and women have made it home. In the 60’s and 70’s, gays organized, became more political, eventually buying property, and running for public office...in essence, creating their own little subculture. On a nearby street corner, Ryan declares he is standing in the “gay-est place on earth.” As opposed to the “happiest place on earth,” I guess.
At dinner, surrounded by 12 of Ed’s gay friends, Ryan announces that marriage between homosexuals is wrong. He believes the bible intends marriage to be a union between a man and woman…he obviously doesn’t approve of their lifestyle. He’s probably wishing Tom Cruise were there to help him out by suggesting what these men need are vitamins and a good exercise program. One of the men says some people think they choose to live this life, and he points out that they are persecuted and yelled at, so why would someone choose that? They ask him how many times he’s had a beer can thrown at him while walking down the street. He answers never, and their point is made as to what a difficult life it is to be gay. The conversation makes Ryan extremely uncomfortable, and in Michigan you can almost hear the sigh of relief from his mom. Don’t worry, Mom, he hasn’t gone over to the dark side…yet. This is still the first day, however.
Ed decides it’s time to take Ryan to Gay Church, which turns out to be the local gym. We’re told gays are so concerned with their looks/physiques (isn’t that stereotyping?), they go to the gym religiously, hence the name. Well! There goes Tom Cruises’ theory. *hee* While working out, Ryan is approached by a friendly man who invites him to a real gay church, and Ed teases, “look at you making friends.” Good one, Ed.
Ed confides in Ryan (and us) that by the age of six he realized he was gay. In college, at the age of 18, he visited a gay beach, looked around, and knew it was the place for him. The epiphany a moment like that must have on someone strikes me powerfully. At times like this, I realize I have taken much for granted in my heterosexual life.
Apparently there aren’t any gay farms in the Castro District, so Ryan seeks employment at A.G. Ferrari Foods, a deli that sells wines, meat (deli meat, ahem) and cheese. He has a lot to learn about such things, but his boss is willing to work with him. My question is, will Ryan be willing to work with him? After the interview, Ed text messages Ryan, “how was the job search? If you get a job at a place that sells lube, see what kind of discount you can get me, ha, ha.” I’m liking Ed. He’d be a great asset here on Fort.
David, his manager, has his work cut out for him, however. After a quick course on Wine 101, Ryan is asked to describe a particular wine. He says it tastes like Listerine®. *chuckle* I’m relieved that David doesn’t faint and hit the floor. The lesson is not a total loss, though, because Ryan describes David as “fruity.” I was hoping he’d also add full-bodied, stimulating, piquant, vibrant, juicy, and delightfully fragrant, but no.
Because he has many questions, Ryan meets with the Reverend Penny Nixon, who is affiliated with the church, Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, part of a fellowship of gay churches. He borrows a book entitled, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. When he tells her he believes homosexuality is wrong, she asks if he’s looked at women lustfully. He says he has, and she wants to know if he ripped his eye out, and cast it away, because that is what Jesus said to do. One of the most important points she makes is this: she feels God cares more about our resources, than what we do with our genitalia. (Toward the end of his 30 days, Ryan returns and she questions whether Ryan could kill someone in a war when the bible says “do not kill.” He says he could kill if he needed to defend himself or a fellow soldier, and she wonders how he justifies to himself breaking one “rule” and not another. It’s obvious they are both at an impasse.)
Ed takes Ryan out for a night of drinking and dancing at a bar called Daddy’s, and I’m thinking Ryan is probably wishing he had ripped his eyes out. The bar is teeming with half naked men, in various compromising positions, which he finds “disgusting.” Ryan, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned “Big Mike’s Food and Beverages,” gets into a heated discussion with a few other men. It’s obvious he isn’t one of ‘them,’ and everyone is uncomfortable. Ed does what he can to tone things down, and I’m left to wonder if the core problem is intolerance of homosexuality, or simply too much alcohol consumption.
Missing his heterosexual lifestyle, on day 12, Ed takes Ryan to a park that is used by a local softball league. Sure enough, there is a gay team, and the coach invites them to play. Ryan is surprised to see a gay man with a deep voice and a good arm and hands….for swinging a bat and catching balls (hey, what were you thinking). I enjoy watching a few of Ryan’s stereotypes shatter, but I must confess, some of my enjoyment might also be in picturing Mom getting a little uneasy back on the farm.
The complete opposite of tolerance is Pastor Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas. He is also a civil rights attorney, and often demonstrates on the streets against homosexuals with his 13 children, and 53 grandchildren. (Apparently demonstrating isn’t the only thing he does in his spare time.) We see videos of his family holding signs that read, “fags die, God laughs,” “God hates fags,” “aids cures fags,” and “no tears for queers.” It’s frightening to see impressionable children participating in such hateful demonstrations. I don‘t think Ed would be welcomed into this family (not that he’d ever want to be).
All American Family Time
On Mother’s Day, Ed takes Ryan to meet his mother, sister and two brothers. He is the only gay member of the family, and Ryan describes them as “cowboys.” He must be thrilled to discover they have ‘babies’ too, when the guns and rifles are brought out. The day is spent shooting targets around the beautiful ranch property, and I’m relieved to see they have they avoided shooting the dogs and cows. It’s obvious Ed is very much loved, however, and he’s fortunate to be surrounded by family members who are proud of who is he as a person, and who aren’t diminished in any way by his sexuality. It’s a refreshing sight, and his mother states, “he doesn’t ask me about my sex life, and I don’t ask him about his.” Ah, the sweet acceptance of a mother’s love.
Ryan spends the day with some gay WWII veterans, and although he tells them he respects them, he says he would be uncomfortable showering next to a gay military man. The visit doesn’t appear to have changed his opinion much, but later Ryan tells Ed, because they’ve become friends, it wouldn’t bother him to serve alongside him. What’s this? Are some of Ryan’s firm beliefs beginning to soften a little? Although Mom might be squirming while spreading peanut butter on her white bread back home, I like seeing Ryan question some of his tenets.
All-American Icky Friend
On day 24, Ryan’s best friend, Jake, comes for a visit and Ryan decides he needs to see Daddy’s. Ed questions why Ryan wants to return to the bar where he had some run-in’s the last time he was there, but to no avail. After a lot of drinking, Ryan and Jake proceed to dance provocatively, eventually taking their shirts off. Did you hear that, too? I think Mom was last seen running off into the distance screaming and flailing her arms. Later, Ryan regrets his actions. I’m relieved to see Jake leave…I’ve decided in the few minutes I saw him on my tv, I don’t like him.
Ed suggests Ryan visit a group called PFLAG, a national support group of parents, friends and family members of gay men and women. While there, he meets a wonderfully warm man, Sam, who has the worn, yet friendly face of a man who has experienced much in life. He is the father of a gay woman, and he tells the story of his daughter revealing her homosexuality to him during her freshman year in college. He asked her how she knew she was gay, and she replied, “Dad, how do you know you’re heterosexual?” He says at that moment he “got it.” With that one sentence, he says he knew she was still the wonderful woman he and his wife had nurtured and loved for 19 years, and that she had not changed. He lovingly continues, “we were scared because it never occurred to us that we would have a child at risk for discrimination just because she is who she is. And we know that all we’ve heard about being gay isn’t real about our child. And my truth is that my daughter deserves to be treated with all the same respect and dignity, and receive all the same privileges, rights and obligations as her two straight brothers.” It occurs to me this one conversation with Sam, on Ryan’s 28th day, has made a huge impact on him. It also occurs to me, it’s extremely difficult to type with tears running down my cheeks. Sam is a soft-spoken, yet powerful man, and his daughter must be bursting with pride, gay pride.
All-American Wine And Cheese Party
For his 30th day, Ryan hosts an outdoor party, complete with tablecloths, flowers and a beautiful display of wines, and various cheeses. David, Ryan’s boss, is so impressed he lays the kiss-kiss on his cheeks, and Ryan good-naturedly protests, but accepts. The wide range of people Ryan has met over the past month arrive, including my personal favorite, Sam. Everyone seems to have a great time, and at the end of the day, Ryan reads from a prepared speech. He tells everyone he arrived with preconceived notions what it was to be gay. He says he is leaving with a positive image of homosexuals, and that he realizes they are not all that much different. He thanks everyone for participating, and offers a toast. He feels he’s returning home a much better person, although he says Michigan will be boring in comparison. Hey, Ryan, I’m sure if you look hard enough, you’ll find a Daddy’s there that will be more than happy to pour you a glass of wine and maybe even possibly offer you some cheese.
All-American Welcome Home
Ryan and his family are sitting around his laptop as he’s showing them pictures of his odyssey. Dad wants to know what “those men” do for “real jobs.” Ryan has come a long way and answers, “everything everybody else does in the city.” It seems the 30-day experiment was a success, so I’ve got a great idea…let’s see what Ed can do with Dad. Nah, on second thought, I like Ed too much, and that would be cruel. However, I do think Sam would be the perfect superhero for that mission. What do you think, Sam? Are you up to it? If you're up to it, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org