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Trading in our sparkle and our freak

A commentary

Timothy Kincaid

December 29th, 2010

Conservative columnist and National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg has an article in which he notes that the gay community has become increasingly bourgeois. We’ve traded in our outsider status – our anti-establishment, turn over the tables, radical revolutionary rhetoric – for an agenda that is conventional and middle-class. (NRO)

Two decades ago, the gay left wanted to smash the bourgeois prisons of monogamy, capitalistic enterprise and patriotic values and bask in the warm sun of bohemian “free love.” And avant-garde values. In this, they were simply picking up the torch from the straight left of the 1960s and 1970s, who had sought to throw off the sexual hang-ups of their parents’ generation along with their gray flannel suits.

The gay experiment with open bohemianism was arguably shorter. Of course, AIDS played an obvious and tragic role in focusing attention on the downside of promiscuity. But even so, the sweeping embrace of bourgeois lifestyles by the gay community has been stunning.

Nowhere is this more evident — and perhaps exaggerated — than in popular culture. Watch ABC’s Modern Family. The sitcom is supposed to be “subversive” in part because it features a gay couple with an adopted daughter from Asia. And you can see why both liberal proponents and conservative opponents of gay marriage see it that way. But imagine you hate the institution of marriage and then watch Modern Family’s hardworking bourgeois gay couple through those eyes. What’s being subverted? Traditional marriage, or some bohemian identity-politics fantasy of homosexuality?

Even the most casual glance at the goals and aspirations of our community activists – both Gay, Inc. and street protesters – give a picture of a modern gay community seeking conventionality: we value marriage and family, participation in national defense, religious inclusion, assimilated employment and housing, and societal respect for our lives and our unions. Looking at our legislative goals, you’d think we were all Republicans (and, indeed, at least a quarter of us are).

And this is certainly troubling to some in of our community. Those who have been out long enough to remember the transgressive cultural ideology of our youth often do so fondly. Yes, life is certainly easier when the store clerk helps you pick out a gift for your husband, but there was a sense of purpose and a heady rush of righteousness to screaming “fascist pigs” while storming out of a store that made it clear that they didn’t serve people like you.

Outsider status has its appeal. There’s very little intimacy in “belonging to” a citizenry of 300 million, but subcultures provide encouragement and support and care for those who share in the burden. The more that the greater society rejects you, the more intense is your sense of belonging to your community. And, ironically, the more one takes on attitudes and attributes that further separate you from the oppressors.

And for some in our community, the struggle is what defines their identity; it’s what gives purpose to their rage. And on the day that we finally accomplish civil, social, and religious equality, they will find themselves sadly pointless and obsolete.

But most of those who fear gay assimilation aren’t just angry or sentimental for the days of rejection. They also are legitimately concerned about a loss of culture, the diminishing of the unique perspective that our community created and which gives us color and life, our peculiarity and individuality. The more we embrace assimilation, the more we lose a bit of who we are.

They are right, of course.

The more that younger gay people assimilate into the greater community, the less our segregation will cause us to coalesce around shared culture points of music, expression, language, politics, and social thought. Gay institutions such as leather, drag, pop icons, feminist music, biker women, and sexual abandon will suffer and diminish as a result – to some extent they already have.

But “our culture” is another term for “what makes us different” and sometimes that which we claim as our own is really just a response to the rejection of others. Art and beauty are often born out of pain, and comfort seldom inspires originality. And as rejection recedes, so too will reaction.

But I believe that there will always be a gay community that is set apart to some extent from society. We will always have a place to go to be around people who share our unique perspective driven by the very real difference of our sexual attraction. And it will have to go through the process of finding what is of lasting unique value and what can and should be given up in trade for the comfort and security that comes from acceptance.

I can’t predict what will survive our continued assimilation, but I know that you can’t truly stand apart without disregarding the opinions of others. And as we gain equalities, the risks for many gay people will become too great. It is all but certain that some of our culture points will either go extinct or become stylized homages to an earlier time, like lederhosen or Saint Patrick’s Day parades.

Yes, it is true that we will be a more equal people, a more secure, accepted, and included people. But it is also certainly true that we will have less sparkle and freak.

Comments

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Emily K
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

Since I never considered myself “outside” the community of 300 million (Americans, I’m assuming) – and was never forced to seek any other community as a result of my sexuality – I think I can say that I never even HAD those things that make the radical queens and dykes from the 60′s and 70′s so sad to see go. How can I say goodbye to something I 1) never had and 2) never needed to nor cared to obtain in the first place?

Mana
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

I think the sparkle and freak will always be there, for those who value the subculture for what it is. Now there are simply less people driven to the fringes by rejection. I think it is an improvement to have communities driven by genuine interest rather than desperation, but I’m a young lil’ thing.

It’s kind of like lamenting the loss of a tight-knit immigrant community because the fascist regime in your home country has changed, and is no longer creating refugees. Sure, the community is nice, but at what cost to create it?

We’re left with a diffuse gay population that reflects the fact that we are all completely different people. We aren’t handed a “welcome to gayness!” pamphlet upon birth and showered with glitter before getting sequestered off with Our Own Kind (or at least, I wasn’t). And being gay doesn’t mean you value what someone else does, just because they’re also gay. The dissolution of gay subculture is a reflection of the fact that we are not all the same, and we should not be pigenholed into a set of behaviors and preferences just because we happened to turn out gay.

While it’s sad to see a vibrant community shrink, I’ll take the situation as a welcome byproduct of acceptance. Diversity is good.

L. Junius Brutus
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

Assimilation is the way to go. Drop far-left ideology (this will be a challenge for most, if not all, gay organizations), expel the freaks who give gay pride parades a bad name and let them stop pretending that you’re anything but normal people. True victory is when being ‘gay’ is so unremarkable that the word stops being used.

Jim Burroway
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

If you want to take away my sparkle and freak, you’ll have to pry them from my cold dead hands.

MarcusT
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

Agreed, Mana. But I doubt that the “subculture” community is actually shrinking – it’s just that people outside it feel freer to come out as LGB now, whereas decades ago anyone who wasn’t a fringe-rebel type would have stayed closeted. Diluting the pool, in a sense.

Grandmère Mimi
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

What wonderful commentary, Tim.

L. Junius Brutus, your recommendations sound rather extreme. I’m straight, but I’d hate to see all the sparkle and freak disappear. Gay or straight or something in between, people are people. Be what you want to be.

As greater acceptance comes, the lesbian and gay culture will meld with with the surrounding culture but also affect the surrounding culture, as it already has.

In truth, a good many of the gay folks I know, and I know quite a few, seem to lead rather ordinary (bourgeois) lives, making a home, making a living, caring for family.

I don’t think it’s possible to predict or control what parts of distinctive gay culture will survive.

My straight 2 cents worth.

Emily K
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

Agreed, MarcusT, I couldn’t have said it better. Or, as I’ve put it elsewhere, gays aren’t becoming “prudes,” it’s the “prudes” that are coming out gay.

Cooner
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy, I know you just used Goldberg’s article as a springboard for this discussion, which is a valid one, so this isn’t directed at you.

But I did read his column the other day and did find it interesting that Jonah seems to think they gay community has been stuck in the same free-love mindset for the last forty years. Yes, the assimilation of gays into mainstream culture is a real phenomenon, but it’s not like it came about suddenly all at once on the day Obama was elected and promised to repeal DADT.

He also falls into the same only-two-camps trap that many conservative (and liberal) pundits fall into these days: that gays have a choice of being either bohemian or bourgeois? There is nothing inbetween? I mean, I’ve never been into the glittery pride-parade culture at all myself, and I do favor a conventional middle-class security, but I’d still say my life and views skew at a significant angle from Jonah Goldberg’s bourgeois attitudes! And I’m certain I’m nowhere near alone or uncommon in that regard.

R
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

I’m of a somewhat younger generation (I’m in my 20′s). I didn’t come out until well after 2000. Growing up I saw Ellen come out on prime time ABC and heard about Elton John coming out, AIDS was a big thing we all learned about (mostly about why we shouldn’t treat those who have AIDS poorly). I grew up, came out, got married, and my wife and are are talking about how we’re looking forward to becoming parents. I’m not conservative politically, but, that’s for reasons beyond my sexual orientation.

I grew up in a world vastly different than those in the gay movement in the 1970s. I didn’t see myself as universally an outcast for my sexual orientation. The only people horribly bothered by me being gay are my parents, none of my friends care, and even their parents are accepting of me. It never entered into my mind that I’d have to be alone my entire life. True there is anti-gay bullying problems in school, but overall there’s much more hope and support offered to gay kids these days. I think that gay young people are more likely to accept social norms, because society is accepting THEM more.

David Malcolm
December 29th, 2010 | LINK

I think to some extent queer people will always be a little on the outside. But the fact is that so often we’ve been pushed out of things so hard that we abandon all the good parts of our lives that went with our old place.

The sexual practices of many gays go beyond simply being attracted toward men.

I remember going to the bar shortly after I came out and trying to somehow find a sense of community with the people there. I made a few friends, but more than anything I learned that the gay community in Winnipeg tends to be more than anything a list of people you have or haven’t f*cked… I won’t be sad to see that fade into something with a little more dignity.

Ryan
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Goldberg’s article was a nasty attack on liberals and Democrats, presenting a bizarre straw man argument where liberals are against marriage and family and monogamy. His suggestion that gay people wanting to get married is a “subversion” of liberal values is as absurd as it is offensive.

Hunter
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Ryan, you’re right about Goldberg’s article, which is, as far as it goes, just like all his articles — cherry-picked information and devoid of any contact with reality. As Cooner pointed out above, Goldberg’s in a time-warp and focusing on a fringe element of the left to typify all of us. (And frankly, I never noticed that the New Left was all that gay-friendly — until they saw a chance to co-opt us for their agenda.)

L. Junius Brutus — “a bad name” with who? The “let’s wait until the time is right” contingent? In Chicago, Gay Pride is a family thing — people bring their kids to see the nearly naked dancers, the Dykes on Bikes, the leatherfolk, the Pink Batons — and the police, firefighters, and politicians. (Lots of politicians.) I think that “bad name” rests with those who don’t like much of anything that’s not beige.

The “gay community” is not the only community that most of us belong to, and its institutions, if I can use that word, are like the institutions of any other subculture. They’re not going to disappear, because as much as we assimilate, we are still, in one respect or another, different, and those institutions give us a place to rejoice in that difference — and if our Pride parades and my own circle of acquaintances are any indication, we’re not the only ones rejoicing. I work and live with people who value me for the sparkle and freak as much as for anything other quality I possess. To them, I’m just me, and the difference is part of the package, and a plus at that because I’m not just like them. It’s worth remembering that there are people who value us outside the community.

Donny D.
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

“Two decades ago, the gay left wanted to smash the bourgeois prisons of monogamy, capitalistic enterprise and patriotic values and bask in the warm sun of bohemian “free love.” And avant-garde values. In this, they were simply picking up the torch from the straight left of the 1960s and 1970s, who had sought to throw off the sexual hang-ups of their parents’ generation along with their gray flannel suits.”

Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, is reliably full of crap. Here (and elsewhere in his article) he just makes it up as he goes along. We had our own ideas about sexual freedom predating “The Sexual Revolution” in the mid-1960s or late 60s “free love”, and it was our ideas that we lived, well before the mid-60s, not following two or three decades after straight people as Jonah Goldberg would love to believe.

I think the only real reason we went so heavily to short hair for gay men and to whatever degree toward “bourgeois” lifestyles is out of fear, fear of times that have been getting generally harder since the early 1970s. When you could quit a job and get another in the next week, or could easily find another affordable apartment, you could live a lot more freely than most can now. I think so much of the reason we’ve gone for greater conformity is that getting by economically is just that much harder and we need not to handicap ourselves in the competition for things.

I don’t see much to “celebrate” in our young people becoming almost indistinguishable in appearance from straight people. Being allowed to belong is good, but how good is it if you have act like you’re having a good time when your straight friends are all laughing ’cause one of them sneered “that’s so gay” about something s/he is deriding? Maybe younger straight people really ARE so much better about us than straight Boomers and older were, but sometimes I have my doubts.

Anyway, our community has always had people who wanted marriage equality, as well as people who dismiss gay marriage as a pathetic imitation of a dysfunctional straight institution. I think the emphasis on marriage equality might be more of a sign of what dominant, economically better off elements in the community have prioritized than is true for us as a whole. National civilian employment protections (ENDA) will benefit far more people than universal same sex marriage, since a lot of gay people don’t care about marriage but nearly everybody has to work.

Having said that, I do think marriage equality is important. And that our community will always have great diversity, despite how the gay business and political establishments would like us to be perceived, and we will continue to have significant differences with straight people, starting with our attitudes toward sexuality (I think we are generally more sex-positive, for one thing.)

Emily K
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

People here are acting like we younger gays (20s here) are assimilating because we feel more pressured to conform.

If you hung out with me for a day, or maybe even had a single conversation, you’d see that I’m anything but “typical” in thought or manner, yet this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m attracted to other women.

Younger generation gays like me are “assimilating” because we are brought up already “assimilated.” Telling my parents I liked girls was like telling them the weather. My friends were accepting, and any peers who derided me for it (not very many) were considered the “outsider,” not vice-versa.

And I didn’t go to a performing arts high school either; I went to a diverse high school in the middle of a Catholic Conservative town.

Now, I know I’m not the typical case, but I’m more typical than the Bar Queens of Yore would like to think. And my case is becoming more and more typical every day; every year; definitely every generation.

Gen. Y gays are less likely to have “sparkle and freak” of the 70′s because we don’t need to sparkle or be freaks to fit in with other young gays around us – and, we have an increasingly lessened need to huddle into our own community because everyone outside of it hates us.

Of course, if older gays feel resentful of this, all I can say is maybe you should find an environment that DOESN’T encourage ALL types of people to come out, just “sparkly freaks.”

Kelly
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

I think like any rights movement, getting rights and access to the things the main culture has is about *choices.* Like Tim wrote, a lot of gay culture is a reaction to not having access to what straights had. I think anyone who likes the sparkle and freak has the option to be as sparkly and freaky as they want, but there no longer has to be the assumption that being gay means you HAVE to like those things, that you CAN’T want a spouse and kids and a dog and a house in the ‘burbs. Now, that’s actually an option where it wasn’t before.

Paul in Canada
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Having read this article a couple times, I’m struck again with a thought that has been brewing for quite some time: acceptance vs. respect, assimilation vs. diversity. Is it not possible for both sides to exist simultaneously?

We will always be, to some extent, a sub-culture, given that we make up only about 5-10% of the population as a whole. This is true of any ‘minority’ – the need for ‘community’.

Having come from a very conservative religious background, most of my family now respect who I am, but don’t necessarily accept my sexual orientation.

In some cases, my partner of 15 years and I are very assimilated into our little neighbourhood, yet our uniqueness of a male/male relationship is ever-present as we both work on the lawn, clean the pool, shovel snow and cook the dinner. We’re different than most of those around us.

My hope is that we can, and should, continually re-create who we are as we evolve, grow and mature, embracing both our commonalities with those around us while celebrating our diversity.

Priya Lynn
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Junius said “Assimilation is the way to go. Drop far-left ideology (this will be a challenge for most, if not all, gay organizations), expel the freaks who give gay pride parades a bad name…”.

Who died and made you the dictator for LGBTs? I’ve been pretty much the model of assimilation up until now, but in honour of your bigotry when the next gay pride parade rolls around I’m going to march in it for the first time and wear the most outrageous half-naked costume I can think of – let the freak begin!

Stephen
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Interesting comments.

I walked past Stonewall when it was happening and was oblivious to what was going on. I’ve been in about 5 gay bars in my life. I was never part of the ‘subculture’. I’ve always despised drag as demeaning to both men and women. Being homosexualy oriented is an aspect of my life and not the most important one at that. I always thought the ‘screw anything that breathes’ mindset of the 60s and 70s was a crock and never bought into it. We have our own pressures to conform and our own ways of doing it that are no better or worse than the rest of the world. Thanks for reading the Goldberg piece so that I don’t have to. The man’s a fool and I didn’t see how he could have possibly written something sensible so I’m glad to know this was merely another attack on liberals.

I work in the theatre so I’ve enjoyed a feeling of being one among equals for most, though not all, of my working life. The theatre is pretty well assimilated in a way that the movies are not. But that’s as much an aspect of the low regard in which the theatre is held here in the US as anything else. I’ve made my life with the same man for almost 41 years so my experience has not been typical though it’s by no means unusual. DADT meant nothing to me in an emotional sense because I fail to understand how any self-respecting person, gay or straight, would want to be part of the armed forces. But that’s my prejudice. Same goes for ENDA and Pride marches, but I’ve always worked in an environment where those issues have been a right for 30 years or more, so I’m not qualified to speak to that either. I do care about marriage equality, though I’d rather we’d gone for civil unions that have legal standing instead of having to buy into the absurd posturing that’s going on surrounding the issue of my husband inheriting my social security, which is what it amounts to.

I don’t think that those of us over, say, 40 have much to say about what’s going on. We’re living in the after-glow of the 60s through the 80s. Young people today enjoy the benefits that came about through our struggles but it’s their world now and they should make their own place in it. Yes, I’m an old-fashioned lefty and was startled when I was recently in San Francisco to be having dinner with a couple of wealthy older gay men who had nothing but contempt for Harvey Milk whom they regarded as nothing but a self-aggrandizing blowhard. We have never been a unified community. There’s quite a few of us who have always rejected the idea of community at all. That’s still true: look at the ex-gays, proudly living in their own imaginary version of the 50s.

I was in an ER the other day and found myself introducing my husband to the nurses with no trace of embarrassment from any of us. I still need to pinch myself sometimes to believe the world has changed as much as it has. If by the sparkle and freak you mean the dismal hiding and camping about then I say the hell with it. We’re much better off without that tiresome nonsense. It was only ever an expression of the oppression so many of us felt and there’s no reason to be nostalgic for it at all. If you really want to get it back move to Alabama, or one of the other churchified states. Or go to a revival of The Boys in the Band, an artifact of the 60s that has been so entirely beached by time that it’s as incomprehensible as a tea-dance at The Monster (Prizes will be awarded to those who get the allusion). Only a very very small minority of gay men ever lived like that. Happily now most of them have come out of the closet. And some of our younger brothers and sisters don’t even know what a closet is. So why should they go prancing about calling each other Mary?

Ben in Oakland
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

I read goldberg’s article on Tuesday. I have never heard of this man before. I had to read the article twice just to understand wotinell he was talking aobut, and then a third time to realize that I didn’t understand it the first two times because…

…he was pulling the whole thing right out of the place where he got the idea of Liberal fascism.

Yet another article by another clueless straight man who knows nothing about being gay, our history, and what we want. But, as with most ideologues, being right is nothing compared to having a capital-T Truth.

he set up false dichotomies of left and right, attributed nonsense to them, and triumphantly announced that it was a different world.

Than what? The gay world he pulled out of his ass.

I’m 60 years old. In the 60′s and the 70′s, the issue was coming out in a world (outside of san Francisco) where you could be jailed, lose your job, thrown out of your apartment, cut off from your family, forced into “treatment.”

On top of dealing with the closet, in the 80′s and 90′s we had AIDS to deal with, and the rise of the religious right and the anti-ex-gay industry.

Yet through all of this, we persevered.

I sent Goldberg this letter. I doubt I will ever hear from him.

Mr. Goldberg:

I read your column for the first time today. I’m not willing write here as much as I could about your comments, because I have no way of knowing if you would care enough to read it. If you are interested, please let me know, and I will take the time.

But, for now, without trying to put too fine of a point on it, I don’t think you know an awful lot of gay people– certainly not those from my “Stonewall” generation– or really, anything about us beyond a socially conservative caricature. Your column was full of broad generalizations about gay, straight, Left, Right, and the so-called Gay Agenda that don’t resonate either with my experience or that of anyone I know.

A lot of people would consider me a Left winger, because I believe in things like equality before the law, social liberalism, and the like. A lot of people would consider me a conservative because I support a strong military, though I oppose militarism and wasteful miltary spending. I also support fiscal responsibility, which the right only talks about. I support families, but not just conservative christian ones. I support welfare laws, especially those intended to get people off welfare.

None of this makes me an ideologue of either stripe. I hope it just makes me concerned about what happens to our country when ideology trumps intelligence and compassion.

I was particularly taken by this comment, though. “I do not think that the arguments against gay marriage are all grounded in bigotry, and I find some of the arguments persuasive.”

Regarding the first clause, if I understood the rest of your column, I think you probably meant to say that “not all bigotry is grounded in hatred.” That’s true. A good deal of bigotry is grounded in an always there, but rarely stated, and wholly imaginary presumption of inherent superiority, concomitant with the social privileging that goes along with it. But ultimately, at least from the point of view of the the people whose lives are deleteriously affected by that presumption, there may not be much difference.

Regarding the second clause of your statement, I would love to know what those “persuasive” arguments might be. As an out, thoughtful, intelligent, legally married gay man, I feel fully competent to address your concerns. But I must tell you, I have yet to hear one argument against the full inclusion of gay people in our society, and the ending of this stupid, wasteful bigotry, that doesn’t boil down to religious prejudice, social prejudice, ignorance, fear, or assumed superiority. And none of those positions is a good basis for sound social policy.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Ben in Oakland
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

I forgot to add, I am not particularly concerned about the potential loss of “gay culture”, what ever that may be. there are some wonderful things about it, some things that are not so wonderful. I dipped into it, certainly. given my younger whorish days before settling down to be a happily married monogamous man. I sang in the SF Gay Men’s Chorus, was involved in the first Gay Games as a coach, fought against the Briggs Initiative and Prop. 8.

Yet i couldn’t imagine anything more boring than hanging out at a bar. Gay softball is just as boring as straight softball. I didn’t see queer as folk until a few months ago, and though I enjoyed it, it was not because of similarities to my life. when i was with my first husband, we had more striaght friends than gay, simply becuase we had more in common with them.

I’ll echo others. I have no problem losing gay culture, whatever it is, if it means no more plitical wars, no more kids killing themselves, no more families torn apart, no more soldiers dying becuase of someone’s homophobia, no more hate crimes, and no more idiots leading this country into its long decline becuase they can get power and money by battling their own dmeons in public.

Priya Lynn
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Stephen said “If by the sparkle and freak you mean the dismal hiding and camping about then I say the hell with it.”.

No, that’s not what anyone means by sparkle and freak, but then you knew that.
Stephen said “And some of our younger brothers and sisters don’t even know what a closet is. So why should they go prancing about calling each other Mary?”.

No one ever said they should. And by the same token if they want to go prancing about and calling each other Mary it sure as hell isn’t your business to tell them they can’t.

Priya Lynn
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Ben said “I also support fiscal responsibility, which the right only talks about.”.

Talks about, and then procedes to behave incredibly fiscally irresponsibly, pushing debt onto Democrat governments and then demanding that Democrats cut taxes knowing they can’t and this will make them look bad so the Republicans can get re-elected and continue pushing up the debt which only Democrats will address.

fannie
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Junius said “Assimilation is the way to go. Drop far-left ideology (this will be a challenge for most, if not all, gay organizations), expel the freaks who give gay pride parades a bad name…”.

So, the answer to LGBT acceptance is to further marginalize the already-marginalized members of our community?

Tim writes:

The more that the greater society rejects you, the more intense is your sense of belonging to your community. And, ironically, the more one takes on attitudes and attributes that further separate you from the oppressors.

If joining the Normal Club means taking on the mindset and tactics of oppressors, as Junius demonstrates, you can count me out. I’m a lesbian who one day wants to legally marry my partner and who lives a pretty boring life, but for the sake of all the members of our community we should do better than that “the radical freaks give us a bad name” bullshit.

Daniel
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Golberg’s whole article was a strawman argument. I reject it completely. Marriage and family are not conservative strongholds. When you look at actual statistics conservatives divorce at a much higher rate AND have children out of wedlock at a much higher rate. Goldberg, as always, bases his entire column on faulty research.

Regan DuCasse
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

I’m loving this analysis. I hope I can add something intelligent with this perspective.
Outsider minorities, especially let’s say black folks and gay folks, have been defined mostly by their more theatrical and entertaining members.
After all, the larger society accepts you on those terms, even if dubious about admitting it.
They’ll accept you as long as you perform certain kinds of music, dance a certain way, keep up the funny quips that deprecate your own.
‘Gay culture’ that sparkles and has it’s gender bending and constantly introspective freaks, make them easier to pick from the pile.

But we’ve needed our share of them because although relegated to a limited definition, they helped us to laugh to keep from crying and share the burdens all the same.

Think it something like how black gangsta rap and the hip hop culture, defined a generation and how middle class and affluent white kids made it a part of THEIR rebellion against certain parental values to embrace it.
But these are also parts of the entertainment industry that’s defined by it’s self aggrandizement, violence, crassness, anti gay and anti woman expression.
But that’s nothing new.

Once someone of the bigger tribe embraced the same entertainment or could even IMITATE it, they didn’t have to expect to suffer damage from it.
After all, straight men with a drag persona, or white rappers and soul singers profit from those very cultures, that are rejected in the mainstream or perhaps bring it to the mainstream.
And straight men, gay for pay, get Oscar nominations.
I think what I’m trying to say here is that there have been similar concerns in other minorities especially. And family structure and mainstreaming have been under attack for so long, that the outside culture doesn’t seem to have a point in historical context in which to see how it happened and affected each minority.
How so many black women ARE unmarried, and are unmarried mothers. How the Jewish culture, not only diluted by pogroms against them in the world, but they are alarmed by extra cultural marriage and child bearing.
And gay men and women have been decimated by family estrangement and HIV/AIDS.’

How we HAD to reconfigure, as Tim points out, was based on factors of rejection and finding our own purpose while navigating in a society hard to trust who didn’t trust us.
That preferred us a perpetual children.

But there were ALWAYS those among us who went about that with a determined purpose to be essentially who they have been all along.
Hence the comments of those whose experienced wasn’t defined by high dramatic visibility, theatricality and tragedy.
I don’t think most of us would miss those extremes our groups have been defined by, and negatively so.
And the old guard of warriors who had different risks to bear, were never like that anyway.

There is more than sentiment we can share for a different time. There is still much noble work to do, just a different way of going about it.
Not everyone is cut out to be engaged in outright activism, but however way it’s done, especially in being so seamlessly integrated that it barely gets notice, can’t hurt.

We observe how the anti gay are going about THEIR work. Co opting civil rights analogies (even as they rejected ours), complaining of being persecuted and losing their rights, they look like people desperate to be and feel IMPORTANT to something.
That their ‘fight’ will have the gravity and influence that the civil rights era did.
That somewhere someone will record their efforts as having the highest moral calling EVER.
And that to them it IS a fight, and a hard one.

Tim has commented on the RESULTS of how, when and who’s life was changed by gay equality. Yes, there are some parts of it that are not needed or expressed the same way. But will always be relevant and worth committing to each memory.

Orgs like TVC and FoTF, have no record of participating in the civil rights movement. Indeed, Jerry Falwell was an active racist and supported segregation. And the WBC has white supremacists like Shirley P-Roper as outspoken on race and gender as she is about homosexuality.
They really are all of a piece, not just anti gay.

They aren’t people who can articulate what equality really means.
Note that Star Parker isn’t referencing ABOLITIONISTS whose moral standards and embrace of the values of equality and so on, are well documented.
She quotes a slave owner instead, whose morals are quite contradictory when it comes to the freedom of ALL men.

We’ll all have our memories and personal experiences no matter what to color our respective histories and what they meant.
No need to mourn.
That would be like mourning a new day.

Daniel
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

To Emily and some of the other posters who seem to really want to make this some sort of generational divide–I really don’t think older gays hate younger gays because you don’t have flash. I think it’s more because of a lack of acknowlegment of how we got here. For all the lack of embarrassment or issues young people have around being gay it’s because older gays fought the battles that got us here.

In reality I think older gays are a little jealous that you younger gays don’t have to struggle like we did at the same time they are really happy for you.

It’s no surprise that younger gays aren’t aware of the struggles of older gays what with the educational system as it is. But on the rare occasion I meet a younger gay person who does have some sense of GLBT history (and it does happen fairly often that a young person is interested in something that happened before they were born) I’m always interested in hearing from them.

Jason D
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

L, Junius. Uh, we weren’t fighting for the right TO BE LIKE everyone else. Just the right to be TREATED like everyone else.
No one was stopping anyone from being normal (whatever that is).

Rupaul is a world famous drag queen, was a MAC makeup model (the first EVER for the high profile brand, and DAMN did she work it!) and now has a handful of Drag TV shows that are doing well enough to keep more on the way. And she did this by being a big, happy, unapologetic freak.

I write scripts and jokes for a local drag revue group and it’s made me more money this year than any legit acting job has in 10 years.

I’m not the most fabulous of gays, but I wouldn’t change one hair on any drag queen’s head or begrudge a leather daddy his finest leather chaps. The first bricks at Stonewall weren’t thrown by “normal” looking gays. We’re here because of the freaks, not in spite of them.

IF that’s not your thing, no big deal, there’s plenty of people who enjoy the show, and are happy to see the freaks, but don’t you dare go all gestapo on us and start rounding them up. That sure as hell isn’t what I’ve been fighting for.

Ben in Oakland
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

” Uh, we weren’t fighting for the right TO BE LIKE everyone else. Just the right to be TREATED like everyone else.”

And that is the underlying base (in both senses of the words) assumption of Goldberg’s column.

thgank you, Jason. as always, my second favorite poster.

Richard Rush
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

Jason D: Bravo! Thank you for you comment. I agree completely.

I’ve lived through a fascinating time, as I literally “came out”* in the summer of Stonewall (1969). I am in awe at the courage of those drag queens and other “freaks” who paved the way for all of us. Some may wonder what I did personally to help pave the way – well the answer is nothing, and that haunts me. But thankfully I never took the route of marrying a woman.

My partner and I would seem boringly normal to anyone, but I’m disgusted by the gays who want to rid the gay community of the non-conformist freaks.

In general, I’m happy for the gays now coming of age, but I’m sickened by GOProud/GayPatriot types who are essentially conformists that somehow mustered up the courage to come out as gay – thanks to all the freaks that paved the way. If these people would have come of age in 1969, they would have certainly followed the closeted fake heterosexual route. But now they don’t want to be seen as associated with a gay community that doesn’t conform to strict conservative social standards except for that one itty-bitty fact of being gay.

*Remember, “coming out” in those days primarily meant coming out to yourself and other gay people.

grantdale
December 30th, 2010 | LINK

In his next article “As Female Becomes Bourgeois” the laser-sharp mind of Goldberg is going to reveal that is probably a good thing that women have gradually become unthreatening over the past decades.

Because there’s his utter neglect of the other side of Liberation (c)1960+ to contend with.

Where is the discussion of short-haired women in comfortable (if unflattering) shoes who think they should be able to work for the same pay, get a home loan without a man’s signature, play softball in their 50′s if they wish, not wear make-up or a bra or a girdle, play pool in bars, ride motorbikes (repair them even!), make their own decisions about their bodies, etc etc etc?

Aah, but if one mentions all that Goldberg would surely think “but that’s feminism, per se, not lesbian/ism”. All stereotypes of both feminists and lesbians aside. And it’s all gone mainstream and assimilated and been the death of Feminist Culture. Boo hoo. Give it the last rites and stick a slab on it.

But he’d also be missing the point as to why so many early feminists were indeed lesbians: simple fact of the matter, they were bound to be feminists given the legal and social status of women at the time. All modern women have been touched by the actions of those few feminist freaks who could not and would not conform; be they lesbian or straight, or female or not-female.

So count me in as one dull half of a utterly mundane couple who is more than happy to not just recognise but praise all those who were too weird and too freaky and too outrageous to ever be able to hide; and who decided it was time to claim what rightfully belongs to themselves.

Few of us, the dull, the bourgeois*, the suburban, would EVER have had the courage or perhaps even the opportunity to be open except for their insane aspirations. Admit it: we’d have regarded ourselves as having too much to lose.

At the same time… I don’t mind it all when the too weird and too freaky and too outrageous can bring themselves to acknowledge our dull, suburban contribution to the changes over the years. Legal and social reform requires not just the getting of attention, but hard graft out of the public eye, and a steady destruction of harmful stereotypes and fears.

Those of us in grey flannel suits have also had a modest influence on this whole gay thingy. Sorry about that.

—————————

* Goldberg used the word “bourgeois”???

Good Groovy God, look who’s pointing fingers at people stuck in the 1960′s or whenever! Did he write that article curled up in a macrame egg-chair?

Neon Genesis
January 1st, 2011 | LINK

Blacks are more assimilated into mainstream society than they used to but blacks still make rap music, they still have Black History month, and they still have their own culture and churches. If blacks can be assimilated into society while still retaining their cultural uniqueness, surely gays can as well.

Charles
January 3rd, 2011 | LINK

I’m turning 23 this year. And I think gay culture is still relevant, and is still important. I watched “The Boys In The Band” two years ago and thought it was the most relevant movie about my life and my friends’ life ever. I didn’t feel like we had changed so much from 40 years ago…

But yes I’m worried this culture is going to be forgotten and done away with by Stepford gays who want to be just like the straights. And I can’t for the life of me understand why:

Honestly, look at the culmination of 2000+ years of straight-dominated society: mysoginy, sexism, racism, homophobia… That’s the 50s, the supposedly “golden years”. Then the “freaks” (feminist women, freaky queers etc.) came out and finally, 50 years later things aren’t perfect but the majority of the population is now being treated in a much, much fairer way.

Do you really think gay culture has nothing to bring? Nothing to be celebrated for? Maybe it has been created by exclusion and despair, but in the end it had something to bring. Just like Tchaikovsky composed some of the Western World’s best music ever, but probably wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been suffering from chronic depression (partly caused by his homosexuality actually…).

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