Some thoughts on the progress we have (or haven’t) made as queer folk, at least here in North America, measured by the Romanovsky & Phillips music catalog. With something like 50 songs on the still-available R&P titles, and dozens more on Ron’s solo albums, there are really only a few songs that are totally dated; see Part 1 for songs supporting the fights for Marriage Equality and decriminalizing gay sex, and references to ‘last gen’ communications technology.
With those political gains, and a generally growing acceptance of LGBTQ folk in ‘western’ societies, there has been certain segments of our communities that have chosen assimilation. And even young queers don’t necessarily feel compelled to fit into stereotypes from previous generations. They may well identify with these lyrics:
“It’s so hard to be a homo, it’s hard to play the game
When you don’t own a poster of Marilyn what’s-her-name.“
What Kind of Self-Respecting Faggot Am I?” [from Trouble In Paradise, 1983]
This blog post from 2012 also discusses changing icons; Judy Garland in that case.
Of course there’ve always been gay folk who don’t fit a stereotype. I don’t have a great fashion sense, don’t use ‘product’ in my hair and can’t distinguish a Britney song from one by (oh, who else is popular in dance/pop music these days?). I’ve never been terribly athletic, outside of sexual activity and don’t have any desire to have kids. I do luv listening to ballads being sung by the divas of my youth, I’m not afraid to cry- a blend of stereotypes I guess.
Lyrics, poetry and fiction all address the human condition by focusing on specific examples; no one story/song can be a perfect fit for everyone. But well-done ones do present aspects of life that many of us recognize; in our selves or others. Whether or not the style, language or setting distracts from the connexion depends on the skill of the story teller.
How we self-identify and how society labels us (and how we react to that) changes over time. R&P were early adopters of the philosophy of reclaiming words that have been used against us. In addition to the use of Faggot in the above-quoted song, they like to use Queer in an affirming way. At the same time, they had no use for people who would not come out for selfish reasons:
“They say that she signed a contract
To keep her lesbian lips sealed tight.
When she feels that she’s established
Will she come out for all to see?“
Queers In The Closet [from Be Political, Not Polite, 1991]
It appears they had a softer stance on closeted folk not in a position to safely and powerfully come out and not actively engaged in denying queer folk full equality:
“Maybe some day I’ll find a way (Some day soon I’ll find a way)
To comfort them (to calm their fears)
And let them know that things will change
If they can make it through these years.“
“One Of The Enemy” [from Be Political, Not Polite, 1991]
This song is about a closeted school teacher, and touches on the struggle to be authentic in a world that often condemns us for it. As a side note, these lyrics would find their full message a generation later in the It Gets Better Campaign against young queers committing suicide.
Oh, and the real possibility of suicide was addressed in their music:
“But there was a time when it seemed like the answer
Was a bottle of pills, or a razor blade.“
“One Way Out” [from Let’s Flaunt It!, 1995]
And, less directly, in an earlier song:
“But if it’s killing anyone, I think it’s killing me
‘Cause it tears me up inside to hide my true identity.“
Straightening Up The House [from Emotional Rollercoaster, 1988]
Well, this page has filled up rather quickly; perhaps not a surprise to those who know me well. I will take a break and possibly add some more thoughts, analysis and reflection.
All lyrics quoted above are © Ron Romanovsky or © Romanovsky & Phillips, Published by Bodacious Music (ASCAP), Distributed by Fresh Fruit Records, and used by permission.
Official R&P Website and Music Store;
Official R&P Merchandise Shop;
Official R&P Facebook page;
1 Out Of 10 Therapists: The Poetry of Romanovsky & Phillips Lyrics;
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