Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"my brother and his husband"

The Smith nuclear family and their spouses went out to dinner … It was a glorious evening, everyone talking, laughing, eating heartily, and enjoying being together. My sister and her husband lived in Japan at the time, my brother and his husband lived in Florida, and Jen and I were out in California, so it was rare that my mom could get all her kids together in one place.
This happy little family reunion is described in filmmaker Kevin Smith’s new memoir disguised as a self-help book, Tough Sh*t: life advice from a fat, lazy slob who did good. I’ve tried to think before about what it means to be gay and find that considered unremarkable, uncontroversial certainly, merely one aspect of the way one is identified in a crowd scene written by a non-gay person. Kevin Smith has a brother and that brother has a husband.

Now and then I read histories about gay people. The people who research and write such histories are faced with a difficult task. If Kevin Smith had written about his family getting together a hundred years ago, or fifty, or if he weren’t the type of writer he is, unashamed and cheerily confrontational, the brother’s husband might have gone unmentioned. That doesn’t mean the brother’s husband wouldn’t have been there, nor does it mean that the siblings would have considered the brother’s husband a stranger or even considered him unmentionable among themselves, but he would have been left out of the description and everyone would have understood that including him in the description would have required a dangerous explanation, putting information out that would implicate loved ones in criminal acts. Thus things that were actually taking place are left out of the written record, or, if written down, carefully guarded and destroyed should the possibility arise that they might be read by unsympathetic eyes. The historical record is an edited one, censored often by the actors themselves. The testimony of a primary source can be the closest we get to the truth, but that doesn’t mean it is the truth. Who kissed who, who fucked who, who lived a long and loving life together, these are stories we don’t get unfiltered.

Yes, he really meant husband.

But what did he mean by that?

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