Thursday, February 14, 2013

Toto, I Don't Think We're In 1950 Anymore!

Public Domain via Wikimedia/Doug Caldwell, photographer

Gay car clubs are not new, but they are certainly not widely known among the mainstream collector circles. While I was perusing the forums of the AACA today*, I came across a public post and rebuttal comments by forum user that reminded me how little the hobby has modernized in some circles. (Update: A later post by the same user that contained more shocking hate speech was rightfully and quickly removed by the moderators. It was actually this second post that triggered my response.) This is perhaps an artifact of the advanced age of most car hobbyists but it is no excuse in my opinion for such ignorant statements and surely does nothing but drive young members away from the hobby rather than bring them closer.

"Gay" does not have the stigma it did when these older generations went to school. Today's teens go to class with other gay and bisexual kids, hang out socially with them and generally do not count them as any different than themselves or other friends. This is something that has driven a division between many families in conservative areas but the simple truth is that homophobia is dying out at a rate directly proportion to the mortality rate of older Americans. In short, "time heals all wounds" and as an older generation that held beliefs that are typically speaking more racist, homophobic, and religion-based than their younger, modern-thinking counterparts, those negatives in our culture are beginning to dissolve.

Have you ever seen a teenager cringe and side-step away from his Grandfather who just made some inappropriate joke about gays or minorities at a car show? I have and it was an uncomfortable moment for everyone but the grandfather. Let's all work harder to make sure that the Greatest Generation is not more remembered for being "the greatest bigots" than for their vast their contributions to society. I find it ironic when Vietnam-era veterans are among the most vocal when it comes to gay hate speech, as if they forgot that the reason they fought was to protect the rights we are gifted as Americans by the Constitution they swore to defend. You don't get to pick what parts of your oath of allegiance you get to maintain, if you have honor that is. Not surprisingly I do not hear as much in this regard from Gulf War-era vets as they served in Humvees, aircraft, bunkhouses and trenches with their gay comrades and do not suffer from the suspension of reality that gays are somehow less human than they are. They have real-world experience with these real-world gay men and women. We should all listen to the advice of our elders so that we do not repeat the mistakes of earlier generations, but we must also realize that their words and ideas are formed in an era that was far removed from today's world where superstition is debunked with science and facts are ready at the touch of a few keystrokes.

Much like the radical statements of political observers who continue to divide the country on any number of topics, the schism between generations has never been greater due to the instant information afforded by social media. One off-handed remark can explode into a torrent of postings on multiple blogs, Facebook pages turning up in support or opposition, and even serve as a rallying cry for content-starved local media; case in point, the Gresham, Oregon bakery that refused to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple's ceremony and has since resulted in national media storm and an offer by Ace of Cakes television show star, Duff Goldman, who offered to provide the cake for free. 

The "Equality Symbol" from the Human Rights Campaign.

While we are living in different times, so why is the old car hobby still stuck largely in the culture and ideas of the long gone past? Simply put, disposable income. Older collectors are more likely to have the money and time to put into their cars. What has before now gone unnoticed is the gradual rise of a new breed of collector, the gay adult male with no dependents and vast amounts of disposable income. Pair him with his partner, in this example another high-earning white male with no dependents, and you have a recipe for perhaps the largest growing segment of collector car ownership in generations. I personally know many gays and lesbians who are active in the hobby as single car owners, collectors, racing drivers, and every day enthusiasts. I know first hand of a handful of high-profile individuals that are gay and who's names are known to virtually everyone in the car hobby, even if their personal life is kept private and unknown to the masses.

The hobby needs to change and that will only happen if those of us who support equality in every aspect of our personal lives support the rights of gay and lesbians too. We need to stop standing silently by when we hear hateful comments, we need to "come out" of our own closet of comfort to show public support of equal rights for everyone. Do not let simple-minded individuals with outdated beliefs of what is "right and wrong" skew your enjoyment of the car hobby. Speak up and tell them you welcome every person who comes to a show or event in the spirit of good will, shared interests and a good time for all. What somebody does in the privacy of the bedroom is of no relevance on the show field, at the track or anywhere in your brain for that matter. Didn't your mother teach you to respect other people? Does not every major religion preach to love the sinner? Does not the Constitution guarantee equal rights for all? Does not common decency exclude hatred because of who somebody chooses to love? Do not laws back this up in many states with hate crime legislation?

There is no room for hate when you choose to fill your head and heart with love.

Gay Car Clubs in the US:
Note that for most or all of these clubs being gay or owning a car are not required for membership. A passion for cars is all that is required to join.

The oldest car club dedicated to gay membership is the Freewheelers Car Club out of San Francisco, CA. The Freewheelers were founded in 1978 and have over 200 members with 1,000 collector cars.

The largest gay themed car club is the Lambda Car Club International with over 2,200 active members who host a variety of shows and gatherings around the East Coast each season. They also host an annual Grand Invitational each fall and maintain a gallery of over 1,400 member cars.

Great Autos of Yesteryear is a Los Angeles based gay and lesbian car club with approximately 1,200 members.

Gay Imperial Owners is a small group dedicated specifically to the ownership and preservation of vintage Chrysler Imperials.

A comprehensive list of gay car clubs throughout the world is also provided on the Lambda Car Club site.

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* While the offending post on the AACA forums inspired me to write this piece, I wish to make it clear that I have found the overwhelming majority of AACA members and forum users to be cordial, polite and non-judgmental. This could have happened on ANY forum, and it does, every single day. Stand up for equality.

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1 comment :

  1. I've always seen cars as a common ground. Almost everybody in the civilized world has a car story. I have learned this from producing a local cable program for the last seventeen years.


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