Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Growing up gay, then and now

A recent conversation with a friend about substantially younger gay men on Facebook got me thinking about the differences between being a young gay man now and my own experiences with growing up gay.

For one thing, social attitudes have changed dramatically. Today, urging tolerance for LGBT people is de rigueur in many areas of society. While the "liberal" mainstream media can still be conservative on our issues, they have mellowed somewhat, and besides, they have far less influence than they did. By contrast, in the seventies, in the blue-collar neighborhood where I grew up, urging such tolerance was just not done; I was the only one who did, and my point was not exactly well received. When I did officially come out, it was into the world of the politically correct Savonarola clones, who led me out of one closet only to shove me into another.

Moreover, the Internet allows queer youth to form virtual communities with people like them around the world as well as to receive unfiltered information about sexual issues. Such things can be useful to anyone and vital to someone growing up in Baptistville, Texas. Back then, by contrast, not only did we not have social-networking sites or even Usenet newsgroups, but we did not even have the access to unfiltered information about homosexuality that exists today. Instead, we had to rely on rumors or at best those gatekeepers of right thought, the "liberal" mainstream media, which seemed unable to mention gay people without using the word "predatory." Those who criticize technology as isolating and dehumanizing should take note.

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