When Richie Jackson was a young gay man finding his way at New York University in the early 1980s, the AIDS crisis had started and the gay community was marginalized: Gay bars had tinted windows; gay books and magazines were bagged in brown paper. “We were outlaws, renegades, free but oppressed, silenced, scorned, scolded,” he writes in his new book, “Gay Like Me” (Harper Collins.)
Jackson, who executive-produced Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and was the co-executive producer of the recent “Torch Song Trilogy” on Broadway, is married to Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theaters. Decades later, his son Jackson would grow up in a different city, one in which same-sex marriage would be legalized in 2011. In his teens, Jackson would come out to Richie and Jordan.
“You were never in a closet; you didn’t start your gay life with that prison of secrecy … All you kept saying to me is, ‘It’s no big deal; it’s no big deal.”
But Richie knew that despite this ‘no big deal’ claim, there would still be challenges ahead. So as Jackson was about to head off to college, Richie decided to write for his son the book he wished he had had when he was younger. “Gay Like Me” is a true labor of love, part instruction manual, part compass and shield. It is easy to picture young people across the country finding their way to a copy of the book and being comforted and informed by it.
“Our new mainstream identity, however, is a false salve,” he cautions. “The veneer is better but not good enough, and better doesn’t mean right or just. Your being ‘more legal’ gives a false sense of security: It doesn’t mean you are safe. And the miracle of visibility hasn’t made us whole.”
Still, in spite of all this, “Being gay is a gift,” he writes. “It’s the world revealing itself in all its glorious otherness, saying go it your own way, make it yours.”