The Next Gay Generation

Some of them are angry at my perceived nostalgia:

"As a 21 year old, Ivy-educated gay man, I find it interesting, albeit predictable, that older gay men are lamenting the death of gay culture. Frankly, I'll be much happier once drag shows and camp goes out the window. Unfortunately, I feel sincerely that the prevalence of sex shops and theaters, the celebration of farcical dress, and the obsession older gays have with a separate minority identity have done little outside give fodder to the religious right and keep us out of the mainstream. In fact, I feel that the older generation has done a great disservice by not giving us real role models and, instead, taking joy in anonymous sex in darkened theaters, dissolution of the family model, and wallowing in outrageousness. All of these things have contributed to a gay culture wherein I, as a politically active, liberal, professional, educated, monogamous, partnered, JCrew/LL Bean wearing, HIV Negative man am an unfortunate minority.

How am I supposed to support gay leadership when they seemingly endorse a culture of death (excessive partying, no interest in children, HIV, anonymous sex, etc.) and lament whenever another pit of self disrespect (i.e. sex shops/theaters, drag theaters) is closed? I truly love you and your words, Andrew, but enough is enough. Let us move on together and create a real culture with a real future and abandon the culture of separatist victimization we were forced into years ago by a repressive society."

I understand where this guy is coming from. But I don't think my essay suggests we should cling to the past. On the contrary. I wrote "Virtually Normal" for a reason and helped pioneer the idea of marriage for gay couples almost two decades ago precisely to chart such a gay future. But human beings are fallible and flawed and, well, human. While we can and should strive to move on, we need not be excessively judgmental about those in the past or present whose pace of adjustment is not so swift. I have never been an angel myself, and have often failed to live up to ideals I hold. But life is a flawed  journey; and the point, at least in my Catholic soul, is the struggle and forgiveness in that struggle. I've learned that lesson the hard way. I hope my 21 year-old reader does better in his own future. He'll start from a base my own generation had no inkling of.

I might add that there's nothing to my mind in any way wrong with drag, cross-dressing or other gender-bending activities. They do not define gay life, or many gay men; but they are surely one part of gay culture and are genuine expressions of some gay men's identity. In the past, drag queens helped forge the small space in which today's 21-year-old Ivy Leaguers can now breathe. The lesson to me is that gay men should do less judging of one another. We should rather try and become the future we want to forge. And let our example, however imperfect, lead others.