I saw another “end of gay culture” article yesterday, this one at Slate and written with a certain malicious glee. It’s by a young lesbian from Tennessee whose lack of historical perspective shows in her anticipation of the death of what she calls gay culture. She argues, too, that we no longer need gay spaces (or, if you prefer, queer spaces).
She mentions Andrew Sullivan, a much older and much more successful writer, who has maintained an “end of gay culture watch” for many years now. I’ve always wanted to ask Sullivan if he could imagine a black person or a Jewish person longing for an end to their culture. For these commentators, only gay culture deserves to be erased, allowed to fade, and encouraged to expire. Why?
It’s arguably much harder to define or describe “gay culture” than it is to define the culture of ethnic, regional or national groups. But it, and the need for it, exist. I know it when I have some stranger dismiss my gay mystery without reading it by warning others that it has homosexuals in it. Well, yeah, it’s a gay mystery!
I know it when I see some reactions of people to those of us who are identifiably gay or gender-nonconforming. I know it when I hear the laughter, however benign, of jokes that we will never be free from with the “gross” punch line being any sort of physical or emotional encounter between two men.
And I know it when I find myself in the supremely comfortable spaces inhabited by those I know, trust, and experience as exactly like me. Gay spaces. Queer spaces. LGBT spaces. This has become especially true as I age: there is nothing more relaxing to me in every way than spending a weekend at Rainbow Mountain, an LGBT resort in the Poconos where many of the guests are my age and older. It’s very comforting not to worry about how I look in a bathing suit. Comforting not to be concerned with youth I’ve not had for a couple decades now. And comforting to not feel any twinge, not even the tiniest, of the surrounding homophobia, the often nuanced “otherness”, which we can and do encounter in spaces that are not gay, queer, LGBT.
This writer is young. She’s trying to get her name out there, and being provocative is a way to do it. For someone like Andrew Sullivan, his assimilationist dreams lead him to a certain loathing of gay culture (inseparable from gay people) I think even he cannot really see. But as one commenter on the Slate site said, the author’s use of the phrase “dancing on its grave” was particularly, cruelly resonant. Those of us who have lived into our 50s know well the graves upon which she dances: our friends, our lovers, our brothers, our sisters, the vast sea of people who did not grow older with us and who are, ultimately, the gay spaces within which we will always live.