The End of Gay Culture.
November 28, 2001 1:06 AM   Subscribe

The End of Gay Culture. In a nutshell, the author is saying that the next generation of homosexuals is discarding gay culture after being accepted into society for its financial clout. What do you think? Is this good, bad or way off base?
posted by Poagao (24 comments total)
The End of History :)
posted by worldsystema at 2:10 AM on November 28, 2001

How times change. Now the rehabilitated queer revolutionary and his long-term lover are pushing around a stroller containing an adopted Korean orphan girl, taking jalapeno meatloaf to pot luck dinners at the local church, and practicing 1950s style monogamy. In other words, they’re turning straight.

First, let me say that having children, going to potluck dinners at church and practicing monogamy is not an exclusively straight thing. It's a relationship thing. I've never understood the need to classify things as gay or straight. Shit just happens. In the same way, different people have different relationships. Some go clubbing, do drugs, or have unprotected multi-partner sex, while some have children, attend church, or have one partner - regardless of their sexuality.

This author seems to be focusing on the fact that some of the extremes of the past are dying down whether they be dangerous or whatever. What he/she fails to remember is that the only reason gay couples or gay men are able to adopt children now is because it is finally legal to do so in a few states despite attempts by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Fred Phelps (whose birth was a hate crime). The same is true for attending church. Gays have been and continue to be unwelcome in the eyes of most national churches. We join because we're finally able to without having to keep ourselves in the closet or swear to remain celibate.

And even though I wasn't alive in the 50s and 60s, wasn't there a big social revolution happening? My research for a variety of university papers tell me so. Blacks were given equality, there were anti-war protests around the nation, women gained more rights. All of these minorities went to extremes to get attention, to get noticed, and to be given equal rights. Gays, being no different, were finally starting to become visible.

The old-fashioned opera queen living in a well-appointed brownstone packed with antiques exemplifies the highest ideals of classic gay culture.

Newsflash: This still exists in the same place it was in earlier times, the older generations.

The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture reads so well because Harris backs up his arguments with a fascinating array of evidence culled from unexpected sources. He uses the evolution of porn films, underwear, magazines, personal ads, and musical taste to illustrate each point.

Last time I looked, gay people used the same resources available to straight people. The porn films are the same except for gender - the same for magazines and personal ads. As far as underwear goes, someone tell me that Abercrombie & Fitch isn't trying to sell its products to young gay men. Have you seen those delicious pictures of bois in the locker rooms?

Basically, I'll probably buy this book when I finish Lord of the Rings and write the author a nice long letter asking him what he was smoking when he wrote this!
posted by pooldemon at 2:17 AM on November 28, 2001

y'see that's always the problem with gay culture - it's been defined by the gays that make themselves heard, the screaming queens, throwing their insecurities around... now people suddenly realise that there are gay men that don't live this way and they think this is some big change. It's a change in how we're perceived more than anything.
posted by creeky at 3:08 AM on November 28, 2001

Just like any other culture, gay culture will thrive, but evolve. It won't all be the two-pair monogomy with 2.3 kids (man, that .3 kid is ugly), and a dog (or would it still be a cat?).

I keep hearing about these 'societal acceptance of homosexuals', but what people don't realize is that is just along the coast of the pacific and the northern coast of the Atlantic. A good portion of the area in between those two borders would rather we just hide away in our closets and keep our mouths shut.

Also, the way to this is governmental acceptance, which is still a long way off. While we have domestic partnership policies, it's still going to take a while before anything serious happens nationwide. (And on a side note, wasn't 'seperate but equal' ruled unconstitutional?)

Another thing thats going to prevent this is the refusal of gay's to change their lifestyle to meet trends, despite being ultra-trendy in and of themselves.

But again, this only reflects some of what people conventionally know about homosexuals. I can remember when my co-workers were talking about 'gays' and 'what they do' and I asked them "do you know any gay people?" (this was before they knew I was gay obviously, although I'm hardly a closet case.) and they said, "well, no, but I see them in movies and television." I explained to them just like the exaggerations of straight people, gay people have exaggeration in the media. "Take me for example," I told them. I am a normal person, leading a normal job. I don't club it up, and I don't sleep with a half dozen people per week. (I'll be lucky if I get a half dozen people this century, but thats beside the point.)

You watch shows like Queer as Folk and Will & Grace, and you see such extremes in the culture. Queer as Folk is a good example; you have a group of people that live in Pitssburgh of all places (and it appears to be Gay-Mecca), and they all have their little diversions... but in the end nothing can keep them away from the clubbing and the drugs and the anonymous sex in alleyways. You never really see anybody ever get away from that.

When people learn more about gay people, whether they be the clubbing, drugging, sleeping around kind; the monogomy desiring kind; or anything in-between; when people learn more, they will understand that it is not gay culture that is changing really, its just evolving to involve the entire gay community.
posted by benjh at 5:00 AM on November 28, 2001

Gays are mainstream because commercial interests discovered how much money they have.
posted by Postroad at 5:04 AM on November 28, 2001

George Chauncey, author of "Gay New York," in his NY Times review wrote: "...what looks meekly assimilationist to Harris, like the campaign for same-sex marriage, still can look outrageously transgressive to others. Indeed, his confidence that gay culture is assimilated and his insouciance about the threats to it posed by the religious right mark his [1997] book as one only a gay urbanite could have written. Few gay men outside big cities have the luxury of worrying about whether they're becoming too straight."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:05 AM on November 28, 2001

The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture came out in 1997; God knows why this managed to make it to the front page.

Also, Postroad, Money, Myths and Change by Badgett proved that the various opinion polls allegedly demonstrating that queers have tons o’ cash are, in fact, wrong.
posted by joeclark at 5:32 AM on November 28, 2001

The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture came out in 1997; God knows why this managed to make it to the front page.

Lack of broadband connection?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:38 AM on November 28, 2001

Pooldemon's got it right: "... is not an exclusively straight thing. It's a relationship thing."

I've had gay friends who epitomized the multi-partner, club-scene queer archetype, and others who live happy, quiet lives and work in bookshops. Why the constant need to define some sort of separate "gay culture" - when the "rest of us" have been told, consistently, that the goal for ourselves and our gay friends is integration?

It's an artificial division, in an arena where integration is the whole point. I think it makes much more sense to talk about "human culture" or "early 21st century American culture" than to make the mistake of latching on to some sort of separate (and thus unequal, no matter how many bumperstickers you print) cultural identity.
posted by chrisat at 6:17 AM on November 28, 2001

as long as men get rid of the leather gads.
posted by clavdivs at 7:48 AM on November 28, 2001

This unique culture turned gay men into the world’s most successful aesthetes. Everyone now knows that many of the greatest artists, writers, fashion designers, musicians, and actors of the past century have been gay.

And then there are gay men like me who would have a hard time staying inside the lines in a paint-by-numbers book.

If this is the quality of crass generalisation to which the book actually aspires, and not just the reviewer's oversimplification, it's certainly not inspiring me to rush off an Amazon order.....

Straight-thinking gays are quickly becoming the new homosexual stereotypes in the United States.

What the hell does this mean? As noted by benjh above, even if something like this were the case, it's only really valid in a few major cities, but regardless, the concept of 'straight-thinking gays' is bizarre. The terms are mutually-exclusive, surely, because they're so reductionist - they associate the entire person with 'straightness' or 'gayness'. I can't be straight-thinking in my gayness - my gayness (horrible term) is about being gay. And I can't be straight-thinking in regards to anything else, because associating straight-thinking with other lifestyle choices and behaviours is as unproductive a stereotype as the "old-fashioned opera queen".

Disregarding questions of where lesbians fit into this view of "Gay Culture" that only seems to be about men for the moment, the other outrageous statement that requires to be underlined three times in red is:

The U.S. leads the world in more than just fast food and missile defense systems. For the past forty years, gay Americans have pioneered new lifestyles and political agendas. Where America goes, other Homo sapiens usually follow.

Chuckling mightily on this side of the Atlantic......
posted by jonpollard at 8:57 AM on November 28, 2001

Well, camp is, if not exclusively gay in origin, at least gay-identified. I do think it's worthwhile asking how the camp sensibility arose out of the peculiar, often horrendous, pressures of gay life earlier in our times.

That said, Hensch (the review author, not the book author) seems overcommitted to a monolithic cliche of past gay culture:

The older generation steadfastly preserves the unique aesthetic values of gay culture. They will keep on drinking Earl Grey tea with pinkies stubbornly suspended in the air until the bitter end.

Maybe the pinky-lifters were the only visible edge of the broader gay culture, even in the past? Perhaps, instead of saying that old queens are being replaced by dudes in overalls, we could say that deeply closeted dudes in overalls are being replaced by out dudes in overalls.
posted by argybarg at 9:01 AM on November 28, 2001

And lest us not forget about the gaying of straight guys. They are dying their tips blond, getting multiple earings, wearing nice clothes, and sleeping with women.
posted by benjh at 9:35 AM on November 28, 2001

sleeping with women

posted by tolkhan at 10:08 AM on November 28, 2001

I keep hearing about these 'societal acceptance of homosexuals', but what people don't realize is that is just along the coast of the pacific and the northern coast of the Atlantic. A good portion of the area in between those two borders would rather we just hide away in our closets and keep our mouths shut.

I don't know about that. As a resident of the mostly sane middle (which still doesn't care what you do on the coast) there is an extended in largely unacknowledged history of gays and lesbians. It seems that most of my rural relatives have had gay and lesbian neighbors (usually one or two farms down the road) going back several decades.

Most of the Midwest places a very strong emphasis on "mind your own business." As a result, a neighbor's sexual orientation may have been a ripe subject for gossip , but rarely an issue for direct challenge. As usual, the article focuses on coastal culture and confuses it with gay culture.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:31 AM on November 28, 2001

my gayness (horrible term) is about being gay.
Gayosity is the word you are looking for maybe?
posted by thirteen at 10:48 AM on November 28, 2001

"Your Gayness" -- is that how they address the mayor-elect of Berlin?
posted by verdezza at 11:00 AM on November 28, 2001

gayness (horrible term) and Gayosity

how about gayiquity? or gayility? gayment? gayality? gayicalitiness?

very strong emphasis on "mind your own business"

the very Victorian 'everyone knows but no one speaks of it.' the town i grew up in had the resident Well-Dressed Man and "His Friend" that were only mentioned in vague references and in stern warnings that we youngsters were never to go near their house.
posted by tolkhan at 11:52 AM on November 28, 2001

'everyone knows but no one speaks of it'

yeah, "open secrets," as they're sometimes called, are one of the causes of psychological double-binds (a cause of some forms of schizophrenia).

"Rule 1: Don't talk about it.
Rule 2: Don't talk about the rules.
Rule 3: These rules don't exist."

Making people live under such rules is a sure-fire way to inculcate mental aberrations.
posted by yesster at 12:06 PM on November 28, 2001

"Homosexual" itself is cited as "barbaric" by Ellis in the OED (new words section of the microprint version), the word being Greek grafted onto Latin.
posted by retrofut at 12:11 PM on November 28, 2001

tolkhan... my thought exactly.
posted by benjh at 1:39 PM on November 28, 2001

Gay Culture sounds like something grown in a petri dish after having your throat swabbed.
posted by tolkhan at 1:45 PM on November 28, 2001

As a bi boy who comes off as "straight" to most people, I'm always astounded and a bit disappointed at the presumption on all sides that there is a single "gay culture." I mean, christ, what ever happend to the Lou/Iggy/Bowie ideal? What about Bob Mould? Burroughs? To hell with "Queer as Folk," what about "Oz?" Large segments of both the gay and straight worlds reinforce the false dichotomy touched on here, that queerness only comes in a few easily recognizable and easily digestible flavors. "Culture" or no, vapid is vapid, be it the suburbs, a shallow and saccharine club culture, yuppiedom, or tired high camp pantomime. Its not about the fall of "gay culture" so much as it is about losing/abandoning the subversive elements of queerness.
posted by hipstertrash at 4:48 PM on November 28, 2001 [1 favorite]

I'd submit that there has never been any rise, or fall for that matter, in 'gay culture'. There IS no 'gay culture'. There is, however, a media representation to the public psyche of what it means to be gay, what a gay person's life is like, and how funny and talented all gays are - all as it helps improve a media medium's ratings/income.

Show me one aesthetic, high society fag and I'll show you 50 who are working retail on hourly wages. Ask me about a culture grounded on looks, money, and drugs and I'll think you're talking about any 'ol highschool rave where the kids are all experiencing their first K-hole - not trying to woo me with your savvy insider knowledge of a 'gay culture'. Show me an America accepting of the 'gay culture' and I'll show you a thousand military discharges.

News flash, America - gay people are just a reflection of Americans themselves... they come in all shapes and sizes, with all the same attitudes, personalities, desires, income levels, and educational backgrounds (or lack thereof). Gay people have all the same quirks, ideologies, psychoses, goals, needs and desires of Straight America.

My point.... the only thing that's changing (if anything) is that technology (read internet here) is still spreading it's way around the world - home by home, school by school, and office by office. The entertaining apect of 'gay culutre' created by the media is slowly losing popular interest... it gets old after a while.

You see, there is no gay culture and there never was. Technology is just forcing us all to 'get to know' each other a little better.
posted by matty at 10:05 PM on November 28, 2001

« Older What's up with this Iraq stuff?   |   Beneath the Dome... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments