Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Andrew Sullivan (no, I am not his clone!) posted a letter on his blog:

"As a 21 year old, Ivy-educated gay man, I find it interesting, albeit predictable, that older gay men are lamenting the death of gay culture. Frankly, I'll be much happier once drag shows and camp goes out the window. Unfortunately, I feel sincerely that the prevalence of sex shops and theaters, the celebration of farcical dress, and the obsession older gays have with a separate minority identity have done little outside give fodder to the religious right and keep us out of the mainstream. In fact, I feel that the older generation has done a great disservice by not giving us real role models and, instead, taking joy in anonymous sex in darkened theaters, dissolution of the family model, and wallowing in outrageousness. All of these things have contributed to a gay culture wherein I, as a politically active, liberal, professional, educated, monogamous, partnered, JCrew/LL Bean wearing, HIV Negative man am an unfortunate minority.

How am I supposed to support gay leadership when they seemingly endorse a culture of death (excessive partying, no interest in children, HIV, anonymous sex, etc.) and lament whenever another pit of self disrespect (i.e. sex shops/theaters, drag theaters) is closed? I truly love you and your words, Andrew, but enough is enough. Let us move on together and create a real culture with a real future and abandon the culture of separatist victimization we were forced into years ago by a repressive society."

Reading this made me pretty angry. This 21-year-old has no sense of history. Not to call names, but he's a fucking (in a partnered, monogamous way) brat. Plus he thinks that wearing JCrew/LL Bean is somehow acceptable. Not so!!!

Anyhows, let's see- he's 21, that means he was born in 1985. Jesus F. Christ, that's the year I came out of the closet. In 1985. In January, actually. At that time there hadn't been a single positive portrayal of homosexuals on the television. Rumors floated about the Elton John might be gay. I was attending a very liberal school- University of Michigan- but the straight guys on my hall still had the liberty to have a "No Fags" party which was advertised via posters across the entire campus. Lots of people came and got really, really drunk- and I'm pretty sure that all of those LL Bean/JCrew wearing guys and gals were straight, every single one of them. That's because I stayed in my room and was deeply humiliated because I was so chicken shit that I didn't do something to stop the party. The next week I came out of the closet.

When Mr. Professional, Monogamous, HIV negative Man was in grade school I was being called names in front of the Arizona State University school senate. I was a sodomite, according to the vice president. No one censured him, because of course he was right, since it was illegal in Arizona to have homo sex, even Monogamous, Partnered homo sex was against the law. But enough gays and lesbians made friends with enough friendly straight folks and altogether they lobbied the state government here in Arizona. The law was finally thrown out in May 2001. Almost five years ago. Cock sucking for Partnered, Monogamous Ivy League Men has been legal in Arizona for slightly less than five years. If certain homosexuals and lesbians and their straight friends hadn't pushed the issue, it would still be against the law.

When the letter writer was in his early teens the number of positive role models- on television, movies, out celebrities- had become so common that it was no longer even big news. He never knew what life was like before Queer Eye and Queer as Folk. I talked with Archerr about this on the way home from work- how Consenting Adult was so ground-breaking when it was originally aired in 1985. We were both glued to the television- "Look, the gay guy didn't kill himself or become an axe murderer!"

I don't know why this kid's letter bothers me, except as someone who does history for a living, I'm well aware of several trends:

-History repeats itself. This desire to be "normal" and fit in was pushed by the earliest homo rights people:

Gay Pioneers.

Just as it is being pushed today. It doesn't matter. The people who hate homos will hate us whether we wear JCrew/Ll Bean or drag. They may show more visible hatred of the drag queens/kings, but if you asked them about a hypothetical 21-year-old clean cut guy, the hatred would basically be at the same level. Just look at how much venom was directed toward Brokeback Mountain because the movie was about, gasp!, gay cowboys.

-People who don't know history often demonize the people who came before them (e.g., drag queens and sexed-up men), without understanding how their contributions (leading the Stonewall protests and AIDS awareness) allow modern day folks to lead better, more complete lives. Part of this is the inability to understand what life was like before you or I were around. Hell, I have no clue what people did before television and can barely remember what I did before the internet.

Civil Rights will continue to come our way, pushing forward, receding, pushing forward again. I just wish people like this kid would do more pushing and less whining.

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