Monday, May 7, 2018

Monday Musings

A very interesting column in NYT by Frank Bruni.  An ode to gay culture of the past, he also interviews Mart Crowley: at 82, he has seen great changes in our culture when it comes to civil rights for gay/lesbian/bi/trans/etc etc people.  He wouldn't change those advances for the world, and yet he mourns the loss of "Gay Culture."  My first response (knee-jerk as it is) is that so-called Gay Culture was limited to a narrow section of white men.  (I know, I'm an ape flinging shit.)

My experience of that culture (albeit I was quite young for the birth of it) was it was a men's club only.  And usually a white men's club.  I affirm that they were taking great risks just gathering together, meeting in bars and dance clubs.  It was a time of great camaraderie, free love and celebration.  This cohesion was absolutely required when the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit gay men disproportionally.

I remember when I was first coming to awareness about my own sexual orientation, and its fluidity, the thought of going to a lesbian club was dangerously exciting.  And, was there even a lesbian club?  Not where I lived.  There were gay bars that welcomed women in, but no real lesbian space for ourselves.  I longed for a place where I could play, let loose, and meet women like myself.

I have a deep memory of the exaltation of gathering together for pride marches: holding my girlfriend's hand and kissing her in public.  What a rush!  Something forbidden for so long was now openly expressed.  To be completely surrounded by 'my tribe' was a transcendent experience.

The thing is, what we fought for, what we advocated all along, was we were people with equal rights who demanded to be treated equally by the law and by the social norms of society.  Our lives were as boring as any straight person, so the thought went.  Of course, alongside this advocacy, were always the outliers, the Fairies, the free thinkers, the Bull Dykes, the anarchists who never asked for permission or "normalcy" but to be unmolested by society as they lived their lives.

We have come a long way, but there is still far to go, especially for trans people.  There are still pockets of hate everywhere in this country, and queer people are still being singled out for beatings and death.  But I know we have made great strides.

I'm not sure what to make of Bruni's column and Crowley's words -- yes, there was an underground culture born of necessity both to affirm and to protect ourselves.  There are still great gatherings of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people.  But it is no longer clandestine, and for that we should be grateful.  There are myriad experiences of being queer that we love to share with each other, that we appreciate in each other, that we celebrate and mourn with our brothers and sisters.  But people in general do tend to self-segregate, and that's a fact.

I've lost a bit of this 'gay culture' myself, after having met the man who would become by husband.  Happily, every queer friend I have supported me in my choice and celebrated our marriage.  They welcomed the hubs with open arms and it's a glorious thing to behold.  But I have lost a bit of the tribe identity, not because they pushed me out, but because my tribal identity itself was altered.  I re-entered 'straight' culture because the partner on my arm is a man and I am a woman.  That's basically it.  It's not how I perceive myself, but how others perceive me.  

Crowley and to a lesser extent, Bruni, lived through a unique period in American culture.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  Queer people coming out were empowered and exuberant with the rush of it all.  I experienced the second wave of feminism in the U.S. much the same way.

Maybe there is no decision to make upon column.  Maybe it is describing just what is.  Maybe I should just shut up and listen.


  1. The Bruni article is such an interesting read, Tara. Thank you for linking to it. Makes me wonder about the power of sub-cultures and the loss found in the gains. We are all one, but then again, there really is beauty in our stunning differences. Wouldn't it be cool to have it all... Acceptance, oneness, distinction, and holism.

  2. Wait. Bruni is my age (he went to UNC Chapel Hill with me) and I'm only 54 (not 82)-- your link doesn't work, so is he talking about someone else? I'm going to look it up.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. Mine was sloppy reporting. I fixed the link, and edited the post to reflect the interview with Crowley.

  3. Tara, I think you have done a lot of listening -- and that you shouldn't shut up, because you have things to say. And, your own journey doesn't mean you have lost anything, IMO. xoxo

  4. I really appreciate your professional approach.These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.



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