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View Diary: What Does Being Gay In America Mean? (72 comments)

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  •  As usual I find your writing pointed and direct (7+ / 0-)

    and in a very good way.

    I must admit that my own experiences were a bit more mixed and I'm reasonably sure that's due to my more middle-class background. When you were 12 I was 28 and had been out of the closet for only a few years. My experiences, though differing from your own due to circumstance and surroundings, was still in many ways quite similar. I very quickly noticed how much emphasis was placed on looks; this was not what bothered me the most though. What bothered me was the level of racism and misogyny I encountered among my "fellow" gay men. You will find it odd of course but I felt quite alienated from the community as it existed when I came out of the closet. To be sure some of that was my own emotional immaturity. I actually felt more at home after I left New York and moved to DC where sense of style has never been strong and where the visible and active gay community was in fact relatively small back in the early 1980's. The mentality was different too; while there was always the ubiquitous need to see and be seen and too look good, there was, at least among the people I was familiar with, an emphasis on being involved in some way, shape or form that provided a way of interacting in a structured way and that created a feeling of safety and inclusion that I missed when I moved to San Francisco.

    The myth of the "typical" gay man is an old one. It was around when I was in my 20's. It was being critiqued even then but clearly things have not changed appreciably. There was certainly a sense in which I bought into this sort of mythology; I was just close enough to the reality where the seduction could play itself out at some level. At the same time, even when I was young I was quite aware that few if any of the gay men (and what few lesbians I knew) certainly did NOT fit the approved stereotype of having lots of expendable income. What I saw was many people on the margins and others who created serious financial problems in an effort to conform to expectations.

    It has long been my presumption that the price we paid for the loss of our outlaw status is that we became a niche market and one quite ripe for exploitation.

    I do thank you for this diary which I have very much appreciated. I'm aware that I owe you a call and will follow through on that by the the end of the week.

    •  Excellent points all (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      714day, sfbob, Zack from the SFV

      Always glad to hear from you, bob. Thanks for the compliments. I appreciate them all.

      RE: racism and misogyny
      Yes, I know exactly of what you speak. It's still very prevalent in the gay community today. All one has to do is eavesdrop on conversations in WeHo or The Castro hear some of the disgusting ignorance gay men still traffic in, sad to say.  Back in 1999 a year before I moved to L.A., one of the things I remember most vividly was a friend of friend standing on the corner of 18th and Castro complaining that S.F. had become too "ethnic."

      And then there's all the nasty remarks gay men regularly make about women's bodies which I find particularly vile.

      I'll confess to being more than a little shocked to hear you say you missed a sense of safety and inclusion in San Francisco. There's something I never expected to hear!

      Yes, the stereotypical gay male myths are very, very seductive. Also, I will own up to being one of those on the margins who created serious financial problems for myself trying to conform to wildly unrealistic expectations of hypermasculinity and all the you yourself witnessed.

      It's no wonder so many gay men end up seeking relief and escape from all that insanity through drugs and alcohol. It's easier to live full-time in a world of unrealistic fantasies when you're drunk or high.

      Thank you again for all the kind words. We will talk again soon, I'm sure.

      •  As usual I left out a bit of what I'd intended (2+ / 0-)

        to include.

        On the one hand, to respond to your surprise at the how I found things when I moved to SF I will say that it was somewhat relative. As I'm sure you can appreciate, I did have some advantages compared to the typical mid-30's gay man moving here from elsewhere; there were places I knew of to go to. Even in those places I found people to be a bit more standoffish than I'd been used to in DC. In truth I suspect that it was an artifact of when I moved here. It was the darkest part of the AIDS epidemic, when people were dying frequently and there was little hope on the immediate horizon. People were very much on edge in SF in 1986. So the long and short of it was that I was able to develop a sense of community here but it actually took me longer than it had when I moved to DC.

        The other thing I meant to include is something my late ex from DC remarked on, always bitterly and that others have commented on here as well, to wit that there is in a sense no single "gay community" and the expectation of encountering such a thing and not doing so can be very disappointing. He had his own demons of course and those made it harder for him to find a place for himself even when he was, from an external perspective, supported and appreciated. The fact is that there are multiple communities and while some of them are obvious and visible, some are more difficult to find and to appreciate (while still others are toxic and are best avoided).

        There is no escaping the fact that one must create one's own community around oneself.

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