Thursday, June 25, 2009

Old Gays, New Gays

Mark Harris' interesting take on the gay generation gap. Note the photo by SFer Marc Geller of the still-adorable now-successful actor Romain Frugé, who would later star in The Full Monty on Broadway:
The Gay Generation Gap

Forty years after Stonewall, the gay movement has never been more united. So why do older gay men and younger ones often seem so far apart?

This week, tens of thousands of gay people will converge on New York City for Pride Week, and tens of thousands of residents will come out to play as well. Some of us will indulge in clubbing and dancing, and some of us will bond over our ineptitude at both. Some of us will be in drag and some of us will roll our eyes at drag. We will rehash arguments so old that they’ve become a Pride Week staple; for instance, is the parade a joyous expression of liberation, or a counterproductive freak show dominated by needy exhibitionists and gawking news cameras?


And here’s the awful stuff [young gays] throw back at us—at 45, I write the word “us” from the graying side of the divide—a completely vicious slander (except that some of us are a little like this): We’re terminally depressed. We’re horrible scolds. We gas on about AIDS the way our parents or grandparents couldn’t stop talking about World War II. We act like we invented political action, and think the only way to accomplish something is by expressions of fury. We say we want change, but really what we want is to get off on our own victimhood. We’re made uncomfortable, or even jealous, by their easygoing confidence. We’re grim, prim, strident, self-ghettoizing, doctrinaire bores who think that if you’re not gloomy, you’re not worth taking seriously. Also, we’re probably cruising them.

To some extent, a generation gap in any subgroup with a history of struggle is good news, because it’s a sign of arrival. If you have to spend every minute fighting against social opprobrium, religious hatred, and governmental indifference, taking the time to grumble about generational issues would be a ridiculously off-mission luxury; there are no ageists in foxholes. But today, with the tide of history and public opinion finally (albeit fitfully) moving our way, we can afford to step back and exercise the same disrespect for our elders (or our juniors) as heterosexuals do. That’s progress, of a kind.

I'd be happy to debate such issues with younger gays, if they'd unplug their frackin' iPods or get off their cell phones long enough to share a complete sentence. Until then, just call me Gramps.

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