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Having grown up as a minority in a pretty repressive environment in the deep South, aggressive taunts from heterosexuals in my community - my family, even - were a mainstay. You get used to it pretty early on in life because there's not much of a choice there; being out is life-threatening in that world and sometimes just supporting others who are like us can put those who are hidden at risk. And in this place, in too many places, heterosexuality is beaten into people's heads, literally and figuratively. It's in our churches. In our schools. For so long it was embedded in the framework of our military - as if bravery, if honor were heterosexual qualities. As if god-fearing religious people can only be straight.

This code was enforced with beatings, with outings, with shunning. It was enforced through the repression of the closet - as cold and evil a place as you'll find. We just instinctively knew that we were supposed to be heterosexual, that it was the right thing, and anything else would be tortured out of us, til we repented and agreed with this conservative life we were coerced and threatened into. The closet was far from a respite, it was never a secret, warm place where anyone could feel safe or secure. The closet was a forced 'institution', an expectation imposed by forces before we were ever born into existence.

Under those circumstances, it becomes difficult to understand how a community could thrive, but we did. Our community persevered, we came out, we stopped forming hiding spaces and began forming places to openly meet, to be seen with each other, to explore ourselves together. A different way of thinking was introduced to society, and though the forces of conservatism tried, our culture grew into something beautiful. It's something to be proud of - we formed a new reality that an oppressive group hated, and that group was no match for us.

This is the one aspect of living this life that I think should always be celebrated. This is an achievement against long odds. Who would have thought a community this diverse and spread out over many miles could have shifted public consciousness so much? Who could have foreseen that we could celebrate our differences with the mainstream and with each other, and tell our complex and layered story to everyone, all over?

It is under that backdrop that Out Magazine's editor-in-chief Aaron Hicklin chose to write a retrospective on 2011, calling for the end of gay culture and the heterosexualization of our people. Writing that shows like Glee are on TV, portraying our community as "equal" to heterosexuals, Hicklin tells us that gay people are "strange and peculiar" and that this is something to be ashamed of.

Discussing the "windowless gay bar with the peephole in the door," he tells us that gay people used to be drugged out sex fiends and that we are, and should be, making ourselves into benign - and probably white, there is no mention of queer people of color in the piece (or for that matter, people who are bisexual or transgender) - clones of heterosexuals:

Looking back it's clear that this dramatic metamorphosis, from poppers to paninis, represented a broader shift in gay culture, or – if you believe the commentator Andrew Sullivan – the "inexorable evolution" towards the end of gay culture itself. Sullivan may have been overly optimistic in a 2005 article that he wrote for The New Republic, welcoming the receding differences between gay and straight, but he was the first to fully articulate the assimilation of gay identity into the mainstream. A year later, when I became editor of Out, it seemed pertinent to ask what function a gay magazine would serve in a world that, if not yet post-gay, seemed to be heading that way.

No, I don't believe the gay conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan. I am also not sure that I'm optimistic about welcoming this shift. Why should we try to be just like the people who have, in a lot of ways, abused and terrified - inflicted decades of terror - upon us? Why is this a goal of Hicklin's? There's so much that's so good about all of us, so much we've been through and yet we're still here. Why would we give it all up now to embrace and exemplify a culture that never wanted us and made that fact known by making a lot of us dead over the years, in any way they had the power to accomplish the task? Why would we embrace the culture who created discriminatory laws against us on purpose as an institutional barrier to our ever gaining any sense of freedom and acceptance - for who we are - why would he think it's important?

Hicklin discusses these anti-gay laws, but completely misses the point of why they should be eliminated, arguing that the laws against marriage, military service, employment and entry into the country should be erased from the books so that we can be even more similar to heterosexuals:

The perception that marriage equality was a poisoned pink chalice persisted up to the 2008 election, when even Obama was careful to clarify that he wasn't in favour of gay marriage, apparently heeding warnings from Bill Clinton to give the issue a wide berth. Yet in this year's debates between the ragtag pack of Republican presidential nominees, the usual rhetoric denouncing gay marriage has been noticeably absent. Even Obama, facing precarious odds for a second term, has said that he favours repealing the notorious Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented federal recognition of gay marriages, even those performed in states where they are legal.

What changed in those few short years? In many ways the transformation of attitudes has been ongoing for decades, accelerated in large part by the impact of Aids, which reconfigured gay identity around community and relationships. In TV shows such as Glee and Modern Family, gays are no longer comic stooges or punchlines, their relationships treated with the same respect as those of their straight counterparts. They hold hands, they kiss, they even share the same bed. This was a quantum leap on 1990s shows such as Will & Grace, in which the gay characters had the whiff of "confirmed bachelors", to use the archaic euphemism of obituary writers, rarely presented in functioning relationships, much less in love.

This is simply not the case. There are people in our community who never wish to get married or join the military, because they reject those as important institutions in society. Some see them as heterosexist, or even racist, and don't want to put more Americans into that system to push out either more dead bodies or more heterosexism and racism. There are, of course, those who genuinely wish to do all of the same things heterosexuals do, and they should be legally allowed to do it, but it was never supposed to be the goal of our culture at all.

The reason these laws are so dangerous is that they promote homophobia, both institutionally and through face-to-face discussions and interactions of our rights, and homophobia kills people. The goal was never to assimilate, it was to not die because these homophobic laws are on the books. The World Health Organization, for example, has told us that homophobia and transphobia are so dangerous that they contribute to the spread of HIV across the globe:

Criminalization, and legal and policy barriers play a key role in the vulnerability of MSM and transgender people to HIV. More than 75 countries currently criminalize same-gender sexual activity. And transgender people lack legal recognition in most countries. These legal conditions force MSM and transgender people to risk criminal sanctions if they want to discuss their level of sexual risk with a service provider. They also give police the authority to harass organizations that provide services to these populations.

Ridding ourselves of these draconian laws saves lives, and that is what makes it necessary to continue to fight de jure discrimination - not some bizarre Stockholm-syndromesque attempt to belong to the culture that has tried to kill us.

And, on criminalization of queer people? Not a peep in this piece. You would not know that we are being arrested, jailed and detained in great numbers - especially queer people of color. You wouldn't know that in 2011, we're still not even able to seek effective counsel when we are accused of crimes because the system is so replete with bias that it even colors the perceptions of the people who are trying to help us. You wouldn't know that all of these factors increase not only deportation of queer immigrants, but that they keep otherwise decent people from entering our country, even if they are seeking refuge from oppressive regimes.

He ends by telling us that 2011 was a great year for gays and that things will just keep getting better, in terms of marriage and appearances on TV shows and songs.

His piece of writing is an incomplete, dangerous and shameful thing. Leaving out the lived experiences of most of our community is not something that should be easily accepted. We should be proud of ourselves, our diversity, our accomplishments and our future.

Originally posted to indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:17 PM PST.

Also republished by Invisible People.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    "No doubt many are offended by the idea of same-sex marriage. But, of course, those who don’t like the idea of same-sex marriage don’t have to marry someone of the same sex." - Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky

    by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:17:15 PM PST

  •  F*ck assimilation (11+ / 0-)

    I don't begrudge any gay person who wants to get married, but becoming a carbon copy of a straight person was never my goal, and I don't think it was the goal of the original gay movement.  

    I want to be accepted on my own terms, not merely because I'm a nearly identical version of a heterosexual.  Uniquely gay relationships should be valued and recognized.  We shouldn't have to fit ourselves into the categories that straight people have established.  In other words, I think we should be changing the system, not accommodating ourselves to its heterosexist strictures.

    Excellent post, Scottie.  Bravo.

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:40:32 PM PST

    •  Those are pretty much (8+ / 0-)

      my feelings. I don't see anything wrong with marriage but it's not for me, and it's not for a lot of other people. There shouldn't be a rigid set of rules, here. Those who want certain things are entitled to get them and those who want other certain things are also entitled.

      I've talked a lot with people who actually prefer something like a domestic partnership to a marriage, for example. And this is something they should have access to if they want it. No one should be forced into a marriage they don't want just for social validation.

      "No doubt many are offended by the idea of same-sex marriage. But, of course, those who don’t like the idea of same-sex marriage don’t have to marry someone of the same sex." - Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky

      by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:47:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree with most of this (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FogCityJohn, FindingMyVoice

      But I think you may be swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. Surely, the ultimate goal of the original gay movement was something along the lines of "Each person should be free to live the life that seems best to him/her." I don't think that's too big a stretch from the history that I know, and that formulation is also not far removed from the basic organizing principles of American society.

      To my mind, that freedom to choose the way in which one lives one's gay life must include those who choose a "traditional family" lifestyle of committed monogamy, kids, and a house in the suburbs, as well as those who choose more open or freewheeling relationship styles, and everything in between. That we are afforded the right to marry in no sense requires that we do so: but I damn sure want the option on the table, in case I decide I might want to avail myself of it, whether or not I ever do.

      I am less worried about the alleged disappearance of a distinct gay lifestyle or specifically gay areas. To paraphrase something I heard in a meeting with a colleague the other day, because living the gay lifestyle used to require you to behave in certain ways and restrict your choices of places to live does not mean we have to (or that we should) continue those practices today. We can acknowledge our past and continue those parts of it that are good, helpful, and relevant to where we are now, and we should leave the rest buried in the dead past where it belongs. To do otherwise would require us, Canute-like, to attempt to sweep back the advancing tide of progress. I doubt there are many of us who, in order to preserve an allegedly more authentic gay lifestyle, would be willing to forego all the hard-won civil and legal rights we've now got, and also to forget about going after more of them. And not everyone wants to live in (or can afford to do so) San Francisco, West Hollywood, New York, Boystown, Providence, or Atlanta. Gay people are not place-bound in the way that some Native cultures are: and I, for one, am grateful for that fact.

      •  I don't disagree (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FindingMyVoice, jayden

        I certainly think all gay people should have all options open.  Those options should include marriage and a very traditional lifestyle that closely approximates a straight one.  That's not for me, but if it's for someone else, I say go for it, and I'll fight like hell to ensure the option is available.

        My problem is that I don't want acceptance of me as a gay man to be based on whether or not I approximate a heterosexual lifestyle.  So if I want to, say, have an open relationship or a three-way relationship, I think those choices should be just as valid and just as accepted by society.  In short, I don't want my equality to depend on my being able to fit a narrow definition of what constitutes an "acceptable" gay man.

        That's all I'm saying.

        "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

        by FogCityJohn on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 08:46:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Bravo, Scottie! (8+ / 0-)

    Keep raging, my friend. Keep dragging elephants out into the light. ♥

  •  while comparisons between the gay community and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FindingMyVoice

    the African American community is fraught with pitfalls, I think we can draw parallels between the two communities and the declaration of a "post-racial" US in 2010.  Subsequent events have proven racism is alive and well in our society and even flourishing in some circumstances.  The declarations of the demise of "gay culture" seem as premature as the declarations of a post-racial America

  •  Huh? (4+ / 0-)

    I don't know where you found the part that I've emphasized.

    Discussing the "windowless gay bar with the peephole in the door," he tells us that gay people used to be drugged out sex fiends and that we are, and should be, making ourselves into benign - and probably white, there is no mention of queer people of color in the piece (or for that matter, people who are bisexual or transgender) - clones of heterosexuals:
    I don't have the same reaction to you that he is imposing a suggestion we all get assimilated and benign.

    We've always had assimilated and benign members of the community.

    It's just 30 years ago, they were all in the closet pretending to be straight.

    And the only gay people that straight people could identify were the outliers who had no interest in fading in.

    The change in gay bars that he's describing from windowless dens of shame, to nice glizty places you can take any friend or your mom is real.

    You probably are too young to remember how uniformly seedy gay bars used to be.

    Some still are. But I for one do not miss the black cage with a buzzer I had to go through to enter my first gay bar in the 1980s.

    I really did not read this article as shot in the ongoing "assimilationist vs. queers" war.

    0: Number of Wall Street bankers arrested over crash of 2008. 4784: Number of Americans arrested protesting Wall Street's fraudulent practices 11/29/2011

    by Scott Wooledge on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:48:33 PM PST

    •  The reference to peepholes and poppers. (3+ / 0-)

      That's where I inferred that.

      And I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one. Even from the subheading of the article, the guy was talking about how the end of gay culture is nigh.

      "No doubt many are offended by the idea of same-sex marriage. But, of course, those who don’t like the idea of same-sex marriage don’t have to marry someone of the same sex." - Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky

      by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 01:51:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are you offended that he tells people (4+ / 0-)

        gays used to be drugged out fiends? "Fiends" is your word. It's like you're demonizing drug use by characterizing it's use as "fiendish" but are angry at him for suggesting that drug use is no longer a part of LGBT culture?

        I mean, he's fooling himself if he thinks LGBT people are not still struggling with substance abuse issues. John can show you the data. It's easy to Google up.

        But that's a problem with thinking of substance abuse as a public relations issue and not a health issue.

        Queer or assimulist we should should be able to acknowledge without shame drugs are a part of the culture of much of the urban LGBT community and they are a health problem.

        0: Number of Wall Street bankers arrested over crash of 2008. 4784: Number of Americans arrested protesting Wall Street's fraudulent practices 11/29/2011

        by Scott Wooledge on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 02:01:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I said SEX fiends. (3+ / 0-)

          And the phrase "sex fiends" is a fairly common English phrase and has been used against our community for so long that my point in including it was to wonder aloud why he would go there.

          "No doubt many are offended by the idea of same-sex marriage. But, of course, those who don’t like the idea of same-sex marriage don’t have to marry someone of the same sex." - Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky

          by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 02:06:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  But it's "Out" magazine. (4+ / 0-)

            It not a general interest magazine, it's intended for an gay, white male audience.

            And peepholes were real (they were).

            I find your position weird.

            On the one hand, you're angry at him on behalf of the people who don't want to assimilate into the picket fence culture. You demand they be respected.

            But on the other hand, you're also angry at him for discussing openly the dirty laundry of the LGBT community.

            But the on the second point you yourself are advocating for the erasing of mentions of "sex and drug fiends" in his column.

            But "sex and drug fiends" could also be people with just different values about monogamy, or drug use. The value judgment on what people do with their bodies sexually or with regard to what substances they ingest seems to be coming from you.

            0: Number of Wall Street bankers arrested over crash of 2008. 4784: Number of Americans arrested protesting Wall Street's fraudulent practices 11/29/2011

            by Scott Wooledge on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 02:15:44 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am saying that he (3+ / 0-)

              sees it just as you described, as 'dirty laundry', and as a Very Bad Thing. I'm saying that it's just weird of him to do that.

              His thesis seems to be that gay people have a bad history of doing drugs and having sex and should stop doing that and get married and join the military.

              My response is that he is not correct or complete - not just about the history or why we have that history, but even about the present and the future. He's underinclusive and resorts to well-known stereotypes about our own community to make his points.

              "No doubt many are offended by the idea of same-sex marriage. But, of course, those who don’t like the idea of same-sex marriage don’t have to marry someone of the same sex." - Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky

              by indiemcemopants on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 02:20:06 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not sure about this: (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                musing85, FindingMyVoice
                His thesis seems to be that gay people have a bad history of doing drugs and having sex and should stop doing that and get married and join the military.

                I don't know that he's necessarily advocating those things.  He seems to be saying that marriage and military service are now possible, when once they weren't.  I'd agree with him that having gay people be able to marry and serve in the military are good things, although I don't think I'd ever choose either of those options for myself.  I certainly would never argue that either one is the right thing for a gay person.  And I'd never agree that we should need to do those kinds of things to be accepted as equal citizens.

                I think Scott is right about this:

                But "sex and drug fiends" could also be people with just different values about monogamy, or drug use.

                Those "different values" are not a bad thing, at least when drug use isn't excessive, and we should be careful not to treat them as if they are.  (I don't think you're judging them here.  I'm just making the general point.)

                "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

                by FogCityJohn on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 03:25:27 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Well, he did mention Andrej Pejic. (0+ / 0-)

                Have you SEEN Andrej Pejic??  SCHWING!

                I mean, I know what you mean.  I'm only attracted to the Andrej Pejics dude-wise, and if I have to be "square" to prove my bona fides to the Gay Community, there's literally no point for me in declaring as queer.  The one time I went to a gay bar (which was by mistake, as I was looking for a Goth bar), it was (AFAI could see) entirely populated by highly-built buzzcut guys (many without shirts, but so what--I don't like buzzcuts) dancing to, well, dance music.  The impression I've gotten is that in the Reagan Era, the squares have taken over even gay culture.  The forms that gay visibility have taken actually frustrate me rather than encouraging me--it's either We Fit In The "Guy" Box As Well As Anyone Else or We Don't Fit In The "Guy" Box So We Must Be Meant For The "Girl" Box.  Even Adam Lambert wouldn't think of growing his hair out. probably the better to avoid being "too androgynous".  (For that matter, Andrej Pejic, if he's gay, hasn't come out that I know of.  He's just notably androgynous by our standards--but then, so much for our standards.)  Where are the gay long-haired dudes wearing Spandex and listening to Sunset Strip rock'n'roll?  Are they anywhere?

                The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

                by Panurge on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 01:33:57 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  I strong believe that people have a right (4+ / 0-)

    to have the same choices available to them and I will support political efforts to make them available. However, that does not mean that I have to makes those choices for myself. As an active anti-war protester in the 60s and at various times since then, I felt more than a little weird arguing for the repeal of DADT, but it was a necessary step for justice. My version of being gay/queer or whatever has always to be different and ti try to march to the beat of my own drummer.

    Thank you for celebrating differentness.

  •  Hicklin is clearly suffering (4+ / 0-)

    from the myopia that certain gay people are subject to when they spend all their time in large cities on the coasts and outside the South.  In these greater gay Meccas, straight people have become used to relating to gay and lesbian people, maybe even a transgender person or two, and figured out that the downfall of western civilization really isn't on that fabled Gay Agenda.  So gay couples can buy a house in the 'burbs, in some of these states, they'll marry, possibly adopt children, an live lives that, from the outside, appear indistinguishable from those of their straight neighbors.  As children, that's probably what most of us dreamed of having anyway.  It's certainly what I wanted.

    Out here in the hinterlands, far from the coasts, it's still 1952.  Well, maybe not that bad.  Perhaps more like 1980.  We are no longer invisible to our neighbors, but there are many people out there who wish we would just go back in the closet and stop forcing them to recognize that sex and gender are not a simple binary concept.  In such an environment, the closeness afforded by the LGBT community is absolutely necessary.  In reality, it is also needed in those gay Meccas on the coasts as well, for all those LGBT individuals for whom the stereotypical American Dream holds no attraction, and for those who are marginalized even within the more mainstream LGBT community.  There is still plenty of anti-LGBT violence even in New York and Los Angeles, still much discrimination and hatred.  The suburban gays are fooling themselves if they think the days of hatred and harassment are over.

    The fact is, gay culture isn't going away any time soon.  I think even if we were able to completely integrate ourselves into mainstream hetero culture, there would still be a need for like people to gather and, well, dish.  And I'm sure that Hicklin can and does dish with the best of them.

    -5.13,-5.64; Conviction is a greater enemy to truth than lies. -- Nietzsche

    by gizmo59 on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:33:22 PM PST

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