Thursday, October 13, 2005

The End of Gay Culture

More than cats hate water, Andrew Sullivan despises George Bush. Ever since President Bush endorsed a Constitutional Amendment protecting marriage, Sullivan's rage at President Bush has so infected Sullivan's writing that little of it has merited serious consideration. Sullivan's anger has been so deep that Sullivan, a one-time small-government conservative, even endorsed John Kerry, a socialist.

Oddly, during the last several years, one topic has remained comparatively immune to the poisonous effects of Sullivan's rage: the gay community. Sullivan, a homosexual with HIV, is remarkably insightful on the gay community. His latest article, an optimistic New Republic piece called The End of Gay Culture, is no exception.
Slowly but unmistakably, gay culture is ending. You see it beyond the poignant transformation of Provincetown, MA: on the streets of the big cities, on university campuses, in the suburbs where gay couples have settled, and in the entrails of the Internet. In fact, it is beginning to dawn on many that the very concept of gay culture may one day disappear altogether. By that, I do not mean that homosexual men and lesbians will not exist--or that they won't create a community of sorts and a culture that sets them in some ways apart. I mean simply that what encompasses gay culture itself will expand into such a diverse set of subcultures that "gayness" alone will cease to tell you very much about any individual. The distinction between gay and straight culture will become so blurred, so fractured, and so intermingled that it may become more helpful not to examine them separately at all.

For many in the gay world, this is both a triumph and a threat. It is a triumph because it is what we always dreamed of: a world in which being gay is a nonissue among our families, friends, and neighbors. But it is a threat in the way that all loss is a threat. For many of us who grew up fighting a world of now-inconceivable silence and shame, distinctive gayness became an integral part of who we are. It helped define us not only to the world but also to ourselves. Letting that go is as hard as it is liberating, as saddening as it is invigorating. And, while social advance allows many of us to contemplate this gift of a problem, we are also aware that in other parts of the country and the world, the reverse may be happening. With the growth of fundamentalism across the religious world--from Pope Benedict XVI's Vatican to Islamic fatwas and American evangelicalism--gayness is under attack in many places, even as it wrests free from repression in others. In fact, the two phenomena are related. The new anti-gay fervor is a response to the growing probability that the world will one day treat gay and straight as interchangeable humans and citizens rather than as estranged others. It is the end of gay culture--not its endurance--that threatens the old order. It is the fact that, across the state of Massachusetts, "gay marriage" has just been abolished. The marriage licenses gay couples receive are indistinguishable from those given to straight couples. On paper, the difference is now history. In the real world, the consequences of that are still unfolding . . . .

. . . .

The tiny, rich space that gay men and women once created for themselves was, after all, the best they could do. In a metaphor coined by the philosopher Michael Walzer, they gilded a cage of exclusion with magnificent ornaments; they spoke to its isolation and pain; they described and maintained it with dignity and considerable beauty. But it was still a cage. And the thing that kept gay people together, that unified them into one homogeneous unit, and that defined the parameters of their culture and the limits of their dreams, were the bars on that cage. Past the ashes of thousands and through the courage of those who came before the plague and those who survived it, those bars are now slowly but inexorably being pried apart. The next generation may well be as free of that cage as any minority ever can be; and they will redefine gayness on its own terms and not on the terms of hostile outsiders. Nothing will stop this, since it is occurring in the psyches and souls of a new generation: a new consciousness that is immune to any law and propelled by the momentum of human freedom itself. While we should treasure the past, there is no recovering it. The futures--and they will be multiple--are just beginning.

Whether you are gay, straight, both, or undecided, I recommend reading the whole thing.


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Blogger Bryce Thomason said...

President Obama is firmly committed to the homosexual agenda and recent promises made to the LBGT and others have caused some in the conservative movement and the evangelical and Pentecostal churches to shudder. It is also clear that the church's concerns have little bearing on the President's position to throw the doors open for the "gay agenda by closing the steel doors around those who make so much as a whimper against the gays. Signing the untested and highly suspect Matthew Shepard act is the latest evidence of that.

4:52 AM  

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