This morning I was lying in bed and listening to NPR (as I'm want to do) when they interviewed David M. Halprin, professor of "sexuality" from the University of Michigan. Although admittedly, slightly hungover, and I'll also admit, I could have taken his opinions the wrong way, it launched me out of bed to write this...
From what I understood, Mr. Halprin was wistfully reminiscing about the "good" old gays of gay culture, when expressing one's sexuality (and thus humanity) was confined to the closet, or defined by secrets/deviance/shitty techno music.
But first, a little history about myself. I didn't come out until the ripe age of 25. I grew up in a affluent, white, male dominated culture, and didn't have any gay friends, or even friends who had gay friends. Thus, I didn't have a reference point to adhere to, or a way to express my sexuality (except in my own private way).
I understand the reason to cling to gay cultural "signposts", be it speaking a certain way, dressing a certain way or acting a certain way. But what has always been represented gay culture to me growing up, never appealed to me, nor could I identify with it.
After I came out, and moved back to Chicago proper, I tried my best to assimilate to the urban gay mindset. I went to the Boystown hot spots, hooked up with people I regret and endured horrible music too numerous to list here.
What I'm getting at, is that I didn't or couldn't really identify with my straight friends, nor could I successfully integrate to the gay culture I was exposed to. You know what's more difficult than coming out? Being rejected outright by the very people that preach acceptance.
In the past these phrases have been said to me, and etched into my mind:
-"You know this is a gay bar, right?"
-"Honey, you aren't gay, you just want to be."
-"You drink PBR?"
Don't get me wrong. I'm not nailing myself to a cross, and I fully realize that many other gay men have traversed roads FAR rougher then mine. But it still irritates me that gay culture is now too mainstream, or too integrated within the larger world. Wasn't that always the point?
And what's worse, for a lot of people, IT'S NOT THE MAINSTREAM. There are still people afraid of coming out, who are shamed when they do, seeking nothing but a modicum of tolerance. Of comfort. Maybe even love.
But I can only speak for myself. I'm proud of the man I am. My family, friends and co-workers know I am gay. Perhaps, I, as a white man, have it easier. But that doesn't diminish my own struggle. And I certainly don't need anyone tell me where I do or don't belong, what to listen to or how to appear.
Homosexuals have made so much progress, that I am infuriated by certain people's reminiscing about "the good old days" when LGBTQ individuals were marginalized, or felt false pride for being "different". ALL people are different. What makes us human is what we have in common.
At the risk of being redundant, I think we can all agree that what binds us together is the simple, honest and human need to be loved, spiritually, mentally and yes, physically. This doesn't need to be over thought, discussed or written about, or worse...taught.