Metro Weekly

Commentary: Out With the Old

The transition from 2022 to 2023 has a sickly sourness of retro aftertaste.

Conventional wisdom holds that Halloween is “gay Christmas.” Meh. That disposition escapes me. Like Drag Race or a shooting range, I understand that it’s wonderful for throngs of enthusiasts. But not for me.

Rather, my favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve. The jubilance. The thoughtful reflection on a year lived, hope for the year to come. Champagne. Granted, different cultures mark the years differently, but even in Shanghai or Tel Aviv, for example, you’d have had no trouble finding a Dec. 31 New Year’s Eve bash. It’s a collective birthday for those of us who happen to be alive at this particular point in humanity’s journey. I love it!

On the other hand, the transition from 2022 to 2023 has a sickly sourness of retro aftertaste.

As we transition into 2023, I find myself avoiding children much as I might have in the last century, when I first heard of “grooming.” I’ve noticed that when I cross paths with a family of tourists, perhaps on the sidewalk in front of a Smithsonian or in a Metro station, I try to keep more distance from the children. Current politics have triggered a survival reflex. I don’t need some crazy Karen hissing “Groomer!”

Blame Florida. That’s where I came out in the late 1980s. A couple weeks after graduation, I turned 18. My boyfriend of the time was 16. It’s an occurrence that wasn’t uncommon with the straight kids. I, on the other hand, was certain that any Florida judge would’ve been happy to throw my newly adult queer ass in jail. My female prom date’s father was, after all, a Florida judge, so I knew I wasn’t overreacting. And I did not hesitate to shut down the relationship with Mark.

So, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R-duh) press secretary Christina Pushaw tweeted in 2022, regarding the Sunshine State’s make-Pooty-proud “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children,” I was Mr. Peabody’s boy, Sherman, stepping into the Wayback Machine.

I didn’t realize those wounds were not completely healed. Rather, visions of Max Headroom, Van Halen and Pepsi Clear bubbled up. Here we are again? Seriously?

The best defense back in the late 20th Century was the hypocrisy. Who, for example, was ghostwriting all those holier-than-thou jerks’ books? In the cases of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, it was closeted Mel White. Thank God he finally came out, penning his own Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America in 1994. His cultural legacy still touches us, with his blazingly talented gay son, Mike White, writing and directing HBO’s The White Lotus.

Pushaw, and anyone else trying to hold onto “groomer” nonsense today, has nerve. What they’re really identifying is liberators. We didn’t make your kids queer, but we will affirm them if you won’t.

The straight community, if only in numbers, have absolutely won whatever sort of “grooming” competition there may be. Queer predators? It’s possible, sure. But do you have any idea what those straight folks fetishize? Their porn series, “Daughter Swap,” is up to at least 10 installments. The “Barely Legal” series seems to be nearing 200. For the right-wing Christian nationalist who counters, “That’s not me!” welcome to being ridiculously generalized.

That “Don’t Say Gay” Florida law itself is also a hallmark of the obnoxiously retro. For so many years, right-wing cultural crusaders have stirred lavender scares to drive agitated Evangelicals and others to the polls. Don’t let gays teach! Don’t let them marry! Don’t allow them anti-discrimination protections! And here we are again. Don’t let trans girls participate in sports! Don’t let trans boys use the boys’ bathroom!

This sort of hateful legislation is desperate overkill, but can’t be dismissed. It hurts people. Today, it’s particularly hurting trans youth. Visit the legislation trackers offered by the Human Rights Campaign or the Equality Federation or the ACLU or the National Center for Transgender Equality or Freedom for All Americans. Take your pick! Plenty to choose from! And, sadly, brimming with content.

These “culture war” machinations were a political sham back then, and they remain a blathery, hypocritical, cynical sham today.

As the axiom advises, however, no bad situation was made better by a bad attitude. So I am not bitter about the resurgent regressives. They’re gross, of course, but they did not dictate the past, don’t dictate the present, and won’t dictate the future. Instead they can be a gift that should prompt any decent, though docile, folks out of complacency.

In that spirit, I hold hope for the future. So much so that I have wishes for the new year!

First, I wish Gen Z to continue blazing its trail, to continue to lean strongly into politics. Please don’t get burned out.

Second, I wish for more from the unequaled Janet Mock in 2023 (and beyond). I couldn’t bring myself to watch her Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, but I couldn’t stop watching Pose. More Mock, please!

Finally, my greatest hope for 2023 is that mighty Ukraine will bury the aforementioned Pooty — arguably the world’s most powerful bigot — for good.

Whatever 2023 has in store, do your best to savor and celebrate it. It’s the only 2023 you’ll ever get.

Will O’Bryan is a former Metro Weekly managing editor, and lives in D.C. with his husband. Find him online at

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