Interview: Gay in America by Scott Pasfield

Gay rights, gay marriage, and Rick Perry’s war.

Rick Perry’s recent campaign ad, which makes an inexplicable connection between gay rights and religion, has tapped into the soul of the internet with over 660,000 “dislikes” on his YouTube video and a scant 21,000 “likes.” With Perry blaming Obama for a “war on religion” and promising to “fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage,” campaign followers can’t help but take note. Are there really so many sex-crazed gay men enabled by liberal pagans anxious to destroy life as we know it? Just who, exactly, is Rick Perry trying to unite? Certainly not every American.

We caught up with author and photographer Scott Pasfield, whose photographic survey of gay men in America, Gay in America, documents the lives of 140 gay men from all walks of life. According to the Gay in America site, the book is “joyful and somber, reflective and celebratory, each narrative and image is an enlightening look into the variety of gay life in the United States.”

Here’s what Pasfield had to say about the recent happenings with the Republican politico.

Perry’s ad criticizes Obama for reversing the ban on gays in the military. Do you think this ad helps him in any way with voters or just made him look ridiculous?

He certainly thinks that it will help him with voters. The sad fact is that he’ll probably get some to come out and vote for him based on this ideology. If his people did the research, they would see that the numbers just don’t add up, that overwhelmingly, by two to one in most polls, Americans support gays serving in the military. But a lot of closeted gays preferred the system the way it was; the military and church are two places that allow for men to exist, and flourish actually, outside of a normal heterosexual relationship.

As far as I’m concerned, him looking ridiculous is a fringe benefit to this all. It actually brings to light the absurdity of comparing gay rights and school prayer.

With gay right’s groups circulating a petition asking that the ad on YouTube get the “dislike” button, do you think this sends a message to Perry that he might need a new game plan with connecting to voters?

You know, I am not sure how this will affect him. He’ll try anything to climb back to the top of the heap. And I’ve found that often, one’s beliefs about gay rights are generally viewed along party lines. The problem however, is that historically those that shout the loudest against gays usually understand sexual attraction to the same sex all too well. After watching Perry’s new ad, it doesn’t seem that far fetched that he himself could be gay, as many people have noted.  I mean, he is wearing the “Brokeback” jacket that is very similar to the one worn by a couple of the guys in the book and used music inspired by a gay composer.

In your book Gay in America, you feature gay men of all ages, financial brackets, lifestyles and (the cover), a gay man in the military. Why do you think a man like Rick Perry sees an openly gay man serving in the military as wrong?

I can only imagine his reasoning. To me, Perry seems to indicate that he believes that having gays serve in the military is an immoral issue as a country. And since he compares it to prayer in schools it becomes clear his beliefs against gays are religion-based. We all know the religion-based arguments against homosexuals, no need to repeat them here. One can turn on the TV and see the hatred being served up daily if you have enough cable channels. The reality is that gays and lesbians are part of society. We are here for a reason. In an overpopulated world gays make perfect sense. It’s like Mother Nature checking herself a little, no?

And we make the world a much more beautiful place, especially considering we don’t usually have a family to take care of. We contribute a tremendous amount and just want to live with the freedoms that everyone has, and that should include defending the country.

Religion is a hot topic between Republicans and Democrats. Do you think it has any place in a presidential campaign? Should we be praying in schools?

Religion is a hot topic for so many Americans. And so many people in the world. It is the basis for so much love and hatred at the same time. It’s sad, really. I absolutely do not think it has a place in a presidential campaign. Our country was founded and exists today because church and state are separate. It certainly should continue that way. In my opinion, we should not be praying in public schools – let people pray at home. Let them be the religion their parents want them to be and hopefully become educated enough to question that religion at some point in their lives and come to terms with their own beliefs.

What about your book. How can it help people understand gay culture better?

The book serves up American gay men from all walks of life, with amazing stories, written in the first person. They are incredibly honest and revealing of what it means to be gay in this country today, especially outside of the urban areas most people think all gays want to live. Stereotypes are certainly put to the test and laid to rest at the same time. I learned an incredible amount from all these men and in turn learned a lot about myself, which anyone can do, straight or gay.

Times have certainly changed since the Bush years, but big business has only gotten stronger and would love another like-minded president that would favor the rich. I fear that they will stop at nothing to make that happen.

I just read this comment online about Perry’s ad:

“In a political system which is so corrupted by corporate cash, that a presidential candidate needs $1,000,000,000 to stand a realistic chance of getting elected, I hardly think Rick Perry’s absurdly offensive advert really matters. LGBT rights are a polarizing issue in the US. They take the spotlight away from the grim reality that democracy is dying in the U.S. The USA – a government of the people, by the people, for the corporations.”

In my opinion, that hits the nail on the head – that the government has basically been bought by corporations. And diverting attention away from that is key for the system as it exists today. Politicians know that using current decisive social issues is an easy way to swing voters to one side of the fence or the other. Perry is no exception.

From Gay in America by Scott Pasfield, published by Welcome Books. © 2011 Scott Pasfield.


Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.