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Your Mileage May Vary
Money. Lots of it. And the closet. A Samsonite nightmare. I've known, and I'll bet you know, hundreds of nouveau rich gays and lesbians, the folk who have inspired this week's column. I've even known a few from old, old money, but that's another subset. Almost without exception these folk with enough monetary insulation to shield themselves from the slings and arrows that beset the rest of us are the people who have dug themselves in way back behind the shoe boxes and dust bunnies. You can't even see the whites of their eyes. They have the wherewithal to help "their own people", to break down one more stone in the wall of stereotypes, but they chose to hide. Not too well, of course. They always have an entourage of hundreds of other closeted friends. A veritable sea of Stoli Zinamon washing over Calvin, Ralph and Coco. And they really do recruit in that they seem to always be on the lookout for an addition to a subset on their party A-list, to add one more of the ever-abundant younger Gumppies (Gay upwardly mobile professional Pucci-wearers...) who want in with this group of seemingly successful gays and lesbians. The ones who've made it. So the older nouveau rich (is that an oxymoron?) are not so hidden that they can't find yet another field to harvest for a new lover or two. Or ten.

And they *think* nobody knows they're gay. They're at least 40 years old and never married (or married a short time and divorced) and have lived with an ever-parading regiment of same gender partners, and they think nobody has noticed. The men "date" lesbians, and each has a stable of the other to take to family outings and company picnics and the symphony. Covers. And nobody knows. Uh huh. The men flame in designer clothes and Beemers, and the women stump in designer clothes and Mercedes, but nobody knows they're gay. Uh huh. It's always been interesting to me that the root of the word 'prestige' is the same root as for the word 'prestidigitation'. It's all magic, all illusion, all smoke and mirrors. There's no substance to prestige. By definition.

Nouveau rich, of course, did not come from money. These gays and lesbians have made it on their own. They're smart, driven, crafty, workaholic, often alcoholic (nobody knows that either....). Sometimes they get ahead on their own, through wile and hard work; sometimes they climb on the bodies of the fallen, but one way or another they get ahead. Now this in itself is not odd. That's how the entire class of nouveau rich comes to exist, gay or straight. It's also not odd that yet another group of people who find success forget their roots. Not roots of ethnic heritage, although that's there, too. But roots deeper than that: they want to hide the essence of who they are.

When it's more important that your friends have on a shirt with the label over the heart than it is to know what's in the heart itself, I'd think it's time for a vocabulary lesson. Can you say "ethics"? I think somebody would make a fortune with a t-shirt that said, "Let's skip the designer logos. You can just assume from this t-shirt that I'm an important, sexy, rich bitch."

It's sort of an oxymoron for gays and lesbians to become elitists. We are, by any social hierarchal definition, on the *bottom* of the heap. No amount of money will save you when they fire up the ovens. Money can't buy courage, and it can't buy honor. And if we don't all stand together, don't kid yourself about the fact that the ovens are *always* just one brick short of completion. There will always be yet another, larger, richer, more powerful group out there with their match to the pilot light. There is no elite when the shit hits the fan. Silence and denial have always, always been the enemy, always been the jailer. Lies, secrets and silence all feed on one another, and the easiest person in the world to lie about, the easiest one to hate, is the one nobody can see.


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