Reporting on the “Normalcy” of Gay Lives

Everyone has read the profile of an actor or artist where they describe the person’s current career than talk about the person’s life. There’s usually talk of a husband or wife, how the happy heterosexual couple met, and how they lived (un)happily ever after.

That approach, however, is less common when describing the lives of LGBT people. That’s why the profile of actor Denis O’Hare in the NYT was so refreshing, talking about the actor’s life and relationships even if they don’t follow a specific script.

There were other big dates: 1992, when he came to New York in John Logan’s play “Hauptmann”; 1994, when he met Derek Anson Jones, with whom he lived and bought the apartment in Brooklyn; Jan. 17, 2000, when Mr. Jones, who became a successful director, died of AIDS. Mr. Jones had told Mr. O’Hare he was H.I.V. positive two weeks after they met. “I thought about it and decided you don’t get to pick who you love,” said Mr. O’Hare, who remains healthy.

About five months after Mr. Jones’s death, Mr. O’Hare met Mr. Redwood. They met, Mr. O’Hare told Sanford Marcus on the blog Queer Sighted, in a chat room on AOL, from which he was booted after he sent Mr. Redwood an X-rated photograph of himself.

How X-rated was it?, a reporter from the mainstream media asked.

“You send the picture with the information you need,” Mr. O’Hare said, adding that he sent the photo a month after they began chatting. “We’re gay men. How else do you meet? It’s: ‘What do you got? Cool, I can work with that.’ ”

He talked about the evening Mr. Redwood came over.

“He shows up in a black Town Car, in black ribbed sweater and architect glasses. I thinking, I’m not ready for someone this stylish. I just wanted to have a little fun, and he looked so daunting. Then he sees the buzzer, my name is on it and Derek Jones. He goes, ‘Oh, the cat’s away, the mouse will play.’ He wouldn’t let it go. He said, ‘Where’s Derek tonight?’ I said, ‘He’s dead.’ Without a pause Hugo says, ‘That’s a buzz killer,’ and I thought, this is going to be just fine.”

It’s the kind of relationship history that many gay men of a certain age will recognize, yet one that is rarely described in the mainstream press. The details of how the two men met–after exchanging x-rated photos on an AOL chatline–may not fit the “fantasy” script of two gay men meeting at a gallery, or introduced by friends, or taking the same yoga class. Yet, it is a detail that rings true, even if it may not be politically correct.

Telling the stories of LGBT people’s lives means all the details, warts and all. The first step, of course, is finding those lives “normal” enough to recount.

One Response

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment, though it seems to me that Mr. O’Hare’s forthrightness had more to do with how the picture was painted than did any effort by the Times’ writer to portray the full measure of the man.

    But it certainly is refreshing to know that there’s some truth being told.

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