From Queer to Gay to Queer

I am a direct beneficiary of the most successful social movement in American history. I am a gay man. Born in 1983 when a mysterious disease was beginning to decimate an earlier generation of gay men against a backdrop of societal indifference, I now live in a country where gay people can marry, serve openly in the military, and are legally protected from discrimination. Public polling regularly indicates that a large majority of Americans are accepting of their gay and lesbian fellow citizens, a majority that, thanks to the broadmindedness of younger generations, grows larger every year. Excepting some conservative subcultural redoubts and a few professional sports leagues, openly gay people can now be found in practically every arena of American life. The presidential candidacy of Pete Buttigieg suggests that the election of an openly gay person to the highest office in the land could happen within my lifetime. This welcome state of affairs would have been unimaginable to all but the most clairvoyant of gay people (and, for that matter, straight people) born in the middle of the last century. As an historian of the gay experience who came to understand the fact of his own nature around the time that our leaders were busy passing measures aimed at stigmatizing gay people (the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and the paradoxically named Defense of Marriage Act), it was certainly unimaginable to me. For what qualifies the gay movement as more successful than any of the other campaigns for equality waged by American minority groups is both the extent of the transformation that has been achieved (in both law and public attitudes) and the rapidity with which it occurred.  It is increasingly difficult to remember today, but within living memory the homosexual was the most despised figure in the

Already have an account? Log in

Want to keep reading? Join our community:


Support great writing by becoming a full subscriber to Liberties Journal.

Subscribe Today

Free Preview

Sign up with your email address, and access two free articles per month.

We hope you've enjoyed your free articles!

Become a full subscriber for only $50/year, (33% off cover price).

Thank you for supporting great writing.

Subscribe Today
Log In Subscribe

Sign Up For Free

Read 2 free articles a month after you register below.

Register now