I read an article in the New York Times on Friday about the demise of the so-called gay “Outsider” culture. It touched a nerve.
The basic thrust of the piece is that the increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians in our society, culminating in Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, has resulted in the decline of a gay culture that thrived in the wake of Stonewall. It was an “outsider” culture that was defined by oppression from general society and, later, by the devastation of AIDS. It was a counter-culture that celebrated being gay within a protective community that faced a hostile environment.
It was also a culture that created barriers and stereotypes, both within the gay world and in society at large. Because of this, I welcome its demise.
Both Mark and I grew to maturity in the 70’s. We both knew we were sexually attracted to men. But unlike others of our generation who found their way to San Francisco or New York or Los Angeles, we did not have the courage to come out. Furthermore, we each looked at gay culture – or what we perceived it to be – and thought, “I’m not like those people. If that is what it means to be gay, then I’m not gay.”
And so we stayed in the closet, as did many others. “Gay culture,” as it then existed became a barrier instead of an invitation.
Decades later, I am glad that the situation is very different. Because of society’s increased acceptance of gays and lesbians, young people – as well as older closeted men and women – feel safer in coming out and are much less likely to feel that, in doing so, they have to fit into some kind of mold in order to “get into the club.” They can be both gay and themselves, just like heterosexuals can be straight and be themselves.
There are no stereotypes of what a straight person is or should be. Thankfully, we are coming fully into an age where the same applies to gays and lesbians.