? regarding generations...

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    Jul 23, 2007 6:41 PM GMT
    I wonder - do you think that the generation of gay men in their 20's/30's has a different perspective on the world and the way society views/treats homosexuality, than gay men in their 50's +?

    What I mean is, for the majority of my life, being gay wasn't necessarily "ok" but I think that we (my generation) have had completely different experiences than our older friends. We walked through the doors that you opened, knocked down, etc.
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    Jul 23, 2007 6:45 PM GMT
    So I would imagine that we have enjoyed a certain level of, "tolerance," due to your efforts.

    We have lived our whole lives aware of AIDS, but didn't watch the community and our close friends succumb to the disease as you may have.

    I guess what I mean is, do you think that since we don't personally know where we came from that we might not appreciate where we are now - and perhaps that is why some when they hear someone like Mr. Washington say what he did that it might be more offensive to you because of how much work it took you to get us where we are.
  • NickoftheNort...

    Posts: 1416

    Jul 23, 2007 7:50 PM GMT
    (going to be quick, as beddy-bye time nears for this 20-something)

    After having been to two free weekend seminars dedicated to gay socialization, one for boys who like boys (ages 16-25) and one for men who like men (any age), I heard greatly varying experiences with identifying as being gay (homophilic and -sexual and biphilic and -sexual). Some key elements were the increased openness and tolerance / acceptance for those who identify as being gay, the Internet as a source for establishing online gay communities, and the decreasing concern and fear of HIV and AIDS.

    Yes, the seminars themselves witness to a differernt playing field for contemporary gay men.

    (I'll get back to this once I have thought of something more significant to say)
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    Jul 23, 2007 8:51 PM GMT
    Another interesting topic... (I think I'm becoming a forum addict, lol).

    I would say yes, in general I think the younger generations have different perspectives and experiences. It is definely less of a big deal to come out now than it was, say, 20 years ago. There are still challenges, but I think things are improving.

    That said, I also see a difference in attitude
    that also seems to be generation-related. It seems that to an increasing extent, younger guys dont want their sexual orientation to be a big deal, and manage to do a great job handling it. High school guys dating, in mixed groups with their straight friends... I think that is phenomenally cool.

    I'm not prone to give sole credit to the previous generations for this progress, however. I haven't yet formed a full opinion on this, but I often feel as if guys 10+ years older than me were socialized into a gay world where being gay automatically meant X, Y, and Z, and they then assimilated to take on those traits just because they were desperate to have a peer group. I think this is passing with greater mainstream acceptance, and I am glad for it.

    I also find that I sometimes feel I am doing "damage control" for the first or second wave of out gay people, where delivering a message was key, and patience and tact were relegated to the back seat. (This is still a major problem in my view). I find I have to re-educate some straight people that not all gay people are the same, and that being gay can be as big a deal -- or as trivial -- as your mindset and willingness allows. I also have some issues with the inevitable link between sexual orientation and STDs, though thankfully that is changing too.
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    Jul 23, 2007 8:54 PM GMT
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    Jul 23, 2007 10:36 PM GMT
    I first realized I was a "homosexual", in the parlance of 1957, when our HS freshman theology teacher/home room teacher (It was a Christian Brothers school) gave a lecture about not accepting rides from strange men. He described homosexuals to us and I sat there with a cold sweat as I realized I was one of the people he was speaking about. To his credit, he treated it scientifically and did not use pejorative terms. In the next weeks I realized I would never have a "normal" life like my uncles or cousins. I was an only child, and my parents were in their 50's, so my main goal became to keep my homosexuality from them. I bought muscle mags and quasi-gay mags i.e., Physique Pictorial), but never acted on my impulses. Not only did I not want to harm my parents, but I knew gay acts were illegal and could lead to prison and a ruined career. In the late 1960's I knew some men I worked with were gay, but never even thought about speaking of it with them. When I got a job with the Federal government in 1972, one could be fired for BEING homosexual, much less acting on it.
    Thank goodness things changed. I came out at the best of times, January 1974. Youth, disco, the clone look, gay novels, gay pride.
    Enough rambling. I hope young gay men no longer have the concerns I had in my teens and early 20's. I don't want young guys to thank me for protesting and marching. I'm glad they don't have the fear I had. Carry on!
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    Jul 24, 2007 2:52 AM GMT
    Wow, so this is an interesting topic, I'm glad it was suggested. Lengthy post, just a warning.

    In my opinion coming out in this day and age is of course a lot easier than it would have been 40 years ago, and I'm thankful for that...and I think the reason for that is people have continued speaking out, and not only in a "let's have more gay rights" kind of way, but in a "let's teach others" kind of way as well.

    I'll explain...in my family, being gay was not something that family members admitted to even 15 years ago...we're very Italian, and very Catholic. However, the funniest thing happened in the late 90's...my mother's generation all seemed to have gay children. It was the freakiest thing, but I kid you not, I have 6 gay cousins in my generation...this helped the family to understand what it means to be gay because we all sat down and explained it to them...

    I think the same thing is happening within society as a whole....in this post "Will-and-Grace" society, I think people are starting to truly believe that being homosexual is not a choice, and that we really cannot help who we're attracted to. Youth clubs in high schools like the Gay Straight Aliance, or B-GLAD help people in the community to learn what it means to be gay, and not to condemn us for it.

    While we all certainly appreciate what came from the Stonewall riots and such, I think we're just now starting to see the real fruit of that labor: people are starting to essentially not care whether someone is gay, judging them on the merit of their personality, skills, etc.

    Now, I understand this is not the case in some areas of the United States, and certainly politicians are still too ancy about passing all the laws we'd like to see passed, but there's a good quote that I read somewhere, and it reads "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

    Today is a few steps past the first, and we've many more to take, but I think young people who're just now realizing they are gay view society with a little less fear, knowing they can connect with others like them. The older generations lacked the internet and ways to connect with people except for travelling in person to those areas that were deemed "gay"...it made it a lot scarier and certainly easier to view society as the "big bad wolf".

    The west coast has been a great place to grow up for me because it's just so darned laid back here. I have yet to meet people who're overly homophobic....and most of those that I have met were usually just a tad bit homophobic because they hadn't met someone who was out and taken the time to get to know them as a person.
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    Jul 24, 2007 4:32 AM GMT
    Since I agree that all gay men are not the same - even ones of the same generation - I can't speak for my generation as a whole - only for me.

    Of course I have a different perspective than a 20-something or 30-something. Just as I have a different perspective from a 70-something or 80-something. And just as kids being born now will be different from the 20- 30- crowd. That's just the way of the world. We were socialized at different times, and in different places, under different conditions.

    The first bar I ever entered had no sign out front, no windows. Only a single carriage lamp by a red door with a peephole. No dancing was allowed until after midnight, when they would lock the door and post a sentry. If the police showed up, the alarm would go out, and couples (male-male and female-female) would resort into hetero pairs and extra men would grab chairs before the police entered.

    The year was 1971. The city was Memphis. Operating a gay bar meant paying off the police, and going to one meant there was a good chance the police would be writing down your license plate number to see if you were anyone important - like the son of a city councilman or a big business figure.

    AIDS (SIDS, in those days) was just an article in Time magazine about KS in Homosexual Men. We didn't know anyone who had had it, much less died of it. That happened in NYC - another world. "Safe Sex" meant doing it someplace where you were less likely to be arrested, rolled, or killed.

    To be demonstrably gay was to be ostracized at best. One of my friends was revealed (we didn't really say "outed" much) to his family, and the family moved away from him, and hid from him.

    One night I was sitting in a bar the location of which had been, a couple of years earlier, a straight biker bar. Some bikers from out of town came in - stomped the length of the place - realized how it had changed, and decided to leave - but not without breaking my nose just for being there, and being a faggot.

    Fast forward to today.....

    My partner & I live together openly in a home we both own, as California Registered Domestic Partners (the 85th couple in the state). We still have to fight for things - expansion of domestic partnership rights - DOMA - other things. But the battles are becoming more political and less physical. We've also buried friends and lovers, not only to AIDS, but to the million other things that can get you by the time you're "middle-aged".

    Is it any wonder our perspective is vastly different?

    One of my hopes is that a day will come when gay kids can date in jr. high just as straight kids do - not just in Berkeley, CA, but in Ames, IA, or Paducah, KY. Then we'll learn how to form relationships at an appropriate age, and not end up relationally inexperienced at 20-30-40, even 50.

    Today beats yesterday by far, in my opinion. But we can't rest until tomorrow beats today.
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    Jul 24, 2007 6:00 AM GMT
    "Today beats yesterday by far, in my opinion. But we can't rest until tomorrow beats today.

    I hear that.
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    Jul 24, 2007 1:43 PM GMT
    Big Joey,

    I dont know it was that bad in the 70's. I remember watching the movie "Cruising" with Al Pacino, about this homosexual serial killer in New York. In the movie it seem gay men in black leather dancing openly , just like today club, no harrasement from the police. However probably those stuff is in the movie and it is New York not Memphis.

    Anyway, during my college years 1985-1991, I used to hang around the gay bar , The Flame in Ann Arbor , Michigan. Sometime coming home alone , sometime with some guys for hook up. In my university there is a basement toilet with a bj hole on wall, where there a lot of student (me included) and outsider looking for some quick sex. Other places of pick up is Adult Book store with peep show where you need to put a quarter for a few minute of x rated movie. Over here also, there is bj hole for some quickie.

    I really thinks today generation have it easier. You can meet people in the internet so you dont have to risk your self looking for bf/sex in all those places above.

    However, it been 15 years since I leave US so maybe my view is a little bit outdated.
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    Jul 24, 2007 1:53 PM GMT

    "Cruising" was circa 1976 in New York - and yes, that's very different from 1971 in Memphis.

    New York, Chicago, San Francisco - any number of larger cities had a cautiously growing number of bars & cruising sites by the 70's. Men will always find places and ways to have sex. It's in our nature.

    West Hollywood, CA - a "boy's town" if ever there was one, didn't exist until about 10 years later when we voted in cityhood. And the "Blue Parrot" - a site that is still a bar - was revolutionary in that it had large, clear windows and a corner lot - the people inside weren't hiding from the world. I think it opened in about '75 or '76. I first went there in '77.

    It's not so much that we couldn't find action - it was whether or not we felt we had to hide from the world. Some still do have to hide - and that's very sad to me. We can't stop pushing now.

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    Jul 24, 2007 3:56 PM GMT
    Thanks for relating some of your experiences BigJoey.

    Your post was basically why I put this topic out there - to give guys (like me) an idea of how much easier we have it nowadays. To help us to appreciate that were we to be born at a different time, our lives could have been drastically different - even dangerous.

    Personally, accounts such as yours give me a sense of, well, obligation isn't the right word, but I'm compelled to do my part to continue to affect change. Like the perception of homosexuality, or laws, helping to push for equality.

    I think my generation needs to realize what a headstart we've been given and APPRECIATE that by not undoing all the work others before us did before us.

    Boy I am just not articulating my thoughts very clearly this a.m. - but hopefully you understand what I'm saying...

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    Jul 24, 2007 7:03 PM GMT
    Great topic, NRG579. I feel the younger gay generation truly does have it easier today. That is a good thing and it is due to many of the older generation's efforts and courage of standing up and speaking out.

    What concerns me is how out of touch some of the younger generation of gays are regarding what's really going on today and the lack of knowledge and appreciation for the gays that came before them. I'm not saying all young gays are out of touch, that's certainly not the case, but just by reading some of the younger poster's comments on this site says a lot about their misguided view of what's really going on.

    In general, I feel many of today's youth have not had the experience of rallying/organizing for a cause regarding queer rights, experienceed the death of a huge population of gay men because of AIDS or living as a young gay person without today's resources. (cell phones, world wide web, gays in the media, support groups, etc.)

    There seems to be a me, me, me attitude towards problems in today's society. If it doesn't effect me, I don't care, don't want my sexuality to be a big deal, sexuality can be as trivial as I want it to be, etc.

    In my opinion, as long as we don't have the same rights as straight people, we still have a lot of work to do. As long as we have the political leaders that we do today, we have a lot of work to do and as long as we have AIDS, we still have a lot of work to do.

    Things are better today than yesterday, that's for sure. My partner and I registered as domestic partners with the state of Washington yesterday. In front of us stood a couple that had just celebrated their 50th year anniversary of being together. One of the gentelmen, in his eighties, told me that he never thought he'd live to see the day he and his partner would be recognized by our government as domestic partners. He was very happy about it but reminded me that the fight was not over yet. He jokingly said that at his age, he was too tired to fight and that he'd he'd leave it up to the younger gays to continue the fight. I told him that by he and his partner just being there, infront of all the TV cameras and reporters, he was still making things better foir future generations of gays.

    Again, I'm not saying all gay youth are this way, but based on the some of the comments I've seen posted, there seems to be a disconnect between the generations in our community.
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    Jul 24, 2007 7:15 PM GMT
    I don't think that you're generalizing, and I agree w/ you. I have to admit that I myself am rather ignorant of many of the struggles that gay people have had to cope with over the years.

    I guess it's sort of the situation that I've heard parents say, that their children believe the world didn't exist until they were born. And that's not to say that the child is ungrateful. It's simply a matter of, we have no personal connection to things that happened before us, until we are educated about them and those occurances take on a personal meaning.

    I've grown up in a world where sure, homosexuality has been controversial, but not (from my experience) and outright punishable no no. So, when I hear/read experiences of gay men in the past, I'm like, "What? You mean, xyz wasn't okay???" And only then do I realize how good we have it today.

    I hope I'm making sense...

  • MikePhilPerez

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    Jul 24, 2007 7:18 PM GMT
    Well when I was young, gay sex was a crime here in Ireland. We have come a long way since then. We are now talking about gay marriage. I am out only to my family. One of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Watch my mother cry when she found out. I don't know if I could do it again. There are people in my life that don't know I am gay and I want them to know, but how do you tell them?. It is getting easier for gay men but it needs to get easier.

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    Jul 25, 2007 1:02 AM GMT
    I came out in the late 70's and I remember the 'secret society' aspect of it. It was both freightening and cool at the same time.

    Going into a gay bar whether in some rural area, or a small city, you had to be careful. You could be a target for violence more easily, frequently, and without fear of legal repraisal. If you were gay in NYC at that time it was almost prestigious. Spending tons of time at Studio 54 was an experience that (because I survived) I will never forget.

    Then again a few years later, I tell my friends who are younger, write down the names of your tem closest friends. Then I cross off 4 at random and say that's what AIDS was like for me.

    The younger generation experienced a different reality. They didn't experience the same things so thier passion for justice is likely to be far less militant. I fought for the right to be accepted as a gay man, not to be accepted as a stereotype. Many of the younger generation (particularly those who don't associate with anyone older). That's one of the reasons they seem to loath being described as gay.

    Gay doesn't define me, but it is as fully integrated into my being as being a man, or having my life experiences or wanting to learn more about science or technology or art etc.

    I always listen intently to those who are older than me as I do to those who are younger because I grow from thier experiences and it gives me a broader perspective.

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    Jul 25, 2007 1:39 AM GMT
    I could not come out when I was a teenage in the late 70's and early 80's. My homophobic family and ultra conservative at that would have shunned me. I've spent 30 years playing straight.

    (forgive me, I've been drinking very old brandy and feel really good right now)

    Playing straight I got married and have been in an unhappy marriage for 18 years. My wife does not know that i am gay. I have not had any affairs outside of our marriage. She lost interest in sex 14 years ago. I have tried, she is just not interested.

    I must be who I am. At some point my family will be told, or not. I am not really concerned about that any more. Must think about me first.

    I consider everyone here a friend even though I have not met you. A very good friend of mine at work, she is a Lesbian, told me that I must be true to myself. (she was the second person I came out to).

    I am rambling. Love to all.

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    Jul 25, 2007 3:15 AM GMT
    NRG great topic and posts. This is a very interesting subject and one I think needs to be explored more often. Hopefully my experience will add to the conversation.

    (Warning it is a pretty long post)

    I have to stand humbled by the amazing posts by jorel1 & BIGJOEY. It is quite eye opening to read posts like that and it provides me with some much-needed perspective.

    As a twenty year old I remember growing up and watching shows like The Real World and Will & Grace as well as many other shows that had some gay character or story-line. As a young teen those shows were my education as to what being gay is. I specifically remember seeing Danny on Real World: New Orleans deal with his boyfriend Paul who was in the military at the time. I also really loved watching Chris on Real World: Chicago and his partner Kurt. I lived vicariously through them and found myself feeling much more confidant and secure in my identity as a gay man after seeing them happily living their lives.

    I also grew up with the internet. Although I had to do it covertly, (as my father is a pastor and my whole family is very Christian), I was able to log onto gay.com and chat with gay people. I talked to all kinds of guys, from teens like myself to older men, and even made some long-term online friends with whom I discussed any and everything on my mind. These conversations were extremely helpful because many of my questions were dealing with religion and it was only through the internet that I was able to expand my views on the Bible and religion in general. I think it is in large part these resources that enabled me to come out to my father at 16 and go away to college at 17 as a self-accepting and confident gay man.

    With that said, my experience hasn’t been all roses and rainbows. Because my family is so religious my father is no longer paying for my college and my relationship with my entire family is “very strained” to put it lightly. Also, lets not forget Matthew Shepard and the many less publicized hate crimes that have occurred since. We still have an incredibility homophobic administration and LGBT people still do not have equal rights all across this country.

    As stated before we have much work to do. Yet, I agree, things are much easier now for gay youth and many of us are not grateful for those that have come before us. At the same times I am hopeful and confident that we are all continuing to move forward.

    I know that in time, ALL of these stories of homophobia and heterosexism will be a distant memory of the past.

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    Jul 25, 2007 3:27 AM GMT
    Difference in generations...

    I remember a kid from high school. His name was Richard and he was feminate in his nature. I don't know if he was gay or not but the 'jocks' in high school picked on him because he was a little different. I don't know if he was gay or not but I feel horrible years later that I didn't step forward to be his friend.

    Richard could play the violin and play it well. That is part of the change in generations. I don't know if it was the media mainstreaming homosexuality or if times just changed. Being gay today is a whole lot different then being gay twenty or thirty years ago.

    Times change...sometimes for the better.

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    Jul 25, 2007 4:00 AM GMT
    Not that I'm old or anything....but...

    Every generation has its own challenges and I'm very happy that crystal meth was not around when I was coming out. When I see someone strung out on that shit it is an instant transit back to the mid-'80s and the spectacle of men turned into skeletons by AIDS.

    But I think AIDS has to be the main difference. I've written about that before here. It has marked me for life. There isn't a place in Atlanta I can go that isn't haunted by dead friends and the grief is always just below the surface. When my canary died a few months back, it unleashed all the memories again.

    At the height of the epidemic, I would spend entire days in hospitals, washing shit and blood off friends, always wondering when I would come down with the disease. Early in the epidemic, nurses and doctors would abandon my friends in their dying hours, refusing to go into their hospital rooms. They died in unbearable pain. This became so horrible to witness, people -- including me -- collected pills to kill ourselves. (It was years before I stopped collecting them.) I attended dozens of "assisted deaths." My first partner killed himself.

    Watching the indifference of the Reagan administration was enraging. I got involved in ACT UP early on and later in Queer Nation. You had to so something with the rage.

    A difference, as several people have pointed out, between then and now is the shared goal of gay people. I'm generalizing but today the goal is assimilation, to erase all visible differences between the dominant culture and the gay subculture except for "what we do in bed." This effort is so fanatical that people who maintain a distinctly gay identity are disaparged. We even eroticize the super-normal -- the fratboy in A&F.

    For me, as BG mentioned, it was attractive to be part of an outlaw culture. After a brief marriage and attempting to play by the conventional rules, to assimilate, I loved being queer. As painful as it was to be identified as a freak in some ways, it was awe-inspiring to see how people had turned the very source of their marginalization into an asset, rather than trying so desperately to assimilate.

    If anything has been lost in the time between the 70s/80s and now, I think it's the example of what a gift it is to be different. It's not something to be overcome. It's something to be cultivated. AIDS killed off many of our brightest examples of that. (There has been a lot of writing about the way this understanding of the value of difference has moved out of gay life into youth culture.)

    But that is the mysterious difference for me. If you give me the choice of a Warhol film or going to an A&F runway show, I'll always go for the Warhol.
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    Jul 25, 2007 3:02 PM GMT
    Yes, OW. The years is 1983, I was 17 , preparing my self to further study in US, when it come out in newpapers about a strange nameless disease killing gay man in San Fransisco. Of course , when I get to the USA, the disease really explode and it was all over the news. When Rock Hudson die the disease finally was brought to the open and only then we start hearing about safe sex.

    I was a member of a Gay Student Association at college and this issue was constantly brought up simply because we dont really know what it is. Unlike you I have never personally meet anyone die of AIDS. It must be really horrible to go thru what you go thru. AIDS really spoil the party for gay men back then. I remember asking my boyfriend will he still be with me if I got that disease. There always nagging fear in our head that we have already been infected. Each time I come down with a fever I thought it AIDS. It like you have this fear , it just a matter of time I will be infected.

    This younger generation indulging in unsafe sex have no ideas how horrible it is back then.

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    Jul 25, 2007 3:59 PM GMT
    This is extremely enlightening! To read your personal experiences of the initial awareness of AIDS is, well, heartbreaking. I have never known or met anyone with HIV/AIDS. Well, I'm sure I have, but if I did, I didn't know it. And then I read accounts like PSBigJoey - I can't imagine having to live so, 'underground.' or the example bgcat57 gave, "write down 10 friends and cross 4 off" - gave me chills! Or the experiences Obscenewish shared.

    In a way, I feel sort of like being a gay 20-something in this day and age has turned into being about about being cute and trendy and coy - and I think that if more of us "young'ns" knew what it was like to be gay a handful of years ago we'd realize that we have an obligation to carry the legacy of those before us, who, had to live in secrecy, who watched their loved ones succumb to a horrible death, or may not even be with us anymore themselves - we'd be much better off personally and much more eager to do our part to ensure we don't undo the progress that has been made.

    So, to all of you who helped make this day and age what it is - a heartfelt THANK YOU! You meant more than I knew!

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    Jul 25, 2007 5:32 PM GMT
    Well, realize, NRG, that one way that the dominant culture (anywhere) keeps minorities disempowered is to try to deprive them of a sense of their own history. Outside of slavery, the history of black people in America was literally not included in text books for years. The "black history" movement began outside formal education. And that's exactly where gay history is sited now -- in projects outside the schools.

    The failure to educate people about a minority's struggle reinforces bigotry by default and of course deprives young members of the minority from having a sense of community and continuity. It is amazing to me that as much as things have changed, most gay kids still go through an agonizing coming out unless they happen to be in urban culture. If they were being taught gay history as part of their general education in history, I think the anguish might be reduced.

    As a kid, the only thing I ever ran into about gay people -- like an article in Life Magazine -- was negative. Such articles actually provided a way of recognizing who you were at some level, but in a wholly negative context. I can remember going to the library and hiding in the stacks, reading about homosexuality when it dawned on me that I wasn't only attracted to women. Nobody to talk to and nothing to read but pathologizing crap.

    So, I don't think younger gay people are shirking their duty by not knowing their history. It simply isn't taught to them. Many of the people who would serve as "elders" are dead of AIDS. And, although this has changed lately, there hasn't been much of a community effort to record our history.
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    Jul 25, 2007 5:43 PM GMT
    Over in the UK we have been commemorating / celebrating 40 years since the changing of the law here to legalise homseuxality.

    One of our major TV channels has run a few new programmes over the weekend about the history of Homosexuality in the UK, and how the laws and attitudes have changed. It's been very enlightening and entertaining.

    Like Jewish people (the holocaust), Black people (Slavery/prejudice), Women (being able to vote, bra burning) and other historically oppressed groups it's only right that we acknowledge the past and remember the fights we have had to make to achieve what we have.

    One of the Tv programmes included interviews with Gay guys from the 1930s and how they lived. It was very touching and made me grateful to those people for their struggle, and proud to be a Gay man.

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    Jul 25, 2007 5:43 PM GMT
    I for one am going to put forth the effort to become aware. Thank you x 10!