What does it mean to be gay today mean and how does that compare to being homosexual sixty years ago before the word gay had even come into common usage? Now there’s an interesting question I hope you’ll help answer for me; and there might even be a reward for the very best answer 🙂
Sixty years ago being a homosexual was a sin, no doubt about it, but it was many other things as well. It was one explanation for treason in the case of Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and the rest of the Cambridge Five. It meant being targeted as a threat to the American way of life by Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, himself the subject of rumors about his sexuality (as were key members of his staff).
It was definitely a crime, grounds for being prosecuted and hounded to your death like Alan Turing. It might also have been the reason a U.S. Senator felt driven to commit suicide after learning that his son’s sexuality might be exposed . It certainly meant being fired from your job as an astronomer with the U.S. Army Map Service as was the case with Franklin Kameny.
It meant being hated. But it also meant being feared, so feared that public service films were produced to warn boys like young Jimmy Barnes. If you look at none of the other links, take a look at this one. Knowing he’s about to be corrupted, you have to sympathize with Jimmy as he walks up those stairs!
Being homosexual meant being harassed by the police if you tried to meet up with others like yourself at bars like the Stonewall Inn in New York City. It meant being rejected by family and friends. It meant other things, of course, like being able to have sex without wearing a condom and not worrying about it. But mostly it was about downsides, not upsides.
In short, being a homosexual back then meant being different, despised and hated; and while there are still too many places in the United States and elsewhere where being gay today means being discriminated against, the world has changed a lot in the last sixty years. On balance, things seem to be getting better.
Many large American companies no longer discriminate against gays; nor does the Federal government or many state governments. In many places around the world gay people are allowed to marry. There are still others where they can be sent to jail or even sentenced to death for being homosexual, of course.
As for the United States, I’m not saying there couldn’t be a resurgence of bigotry and hatred down the road. One only needs to look at the emerging new racism in this country to realize that. There are always going to be haters and bigots; bullies in our schools and religious wackos. The battle for equality will continue for many years to come.
Having said that, it’s hard to deny things are different today than fifty or sixty years ago and that leads me back to my original question. What does being gay mean today? Is it merely a difference in sexual preference or is there something more to it?
I don’t see this question discussed very much. Here’s one take on it that didn’t help me that much, but I think there could be a story in this waiting to be told. Unfortunately, it’s easier to know what being homosexual was sixty years ago than to understand what being gay is today.
There’s no right or wrong answer, of course, but I would love to hear from people who have something to say about this. You don’t have to comment here on this posting; e-mails are welcome as well. And it doesn’t have to be long or over intellectualized either. It’s just whatever you think being gay means to you.
Thanks in advance for whatever help you can provide.