The New Gays

They just don’t make gays like they used to. Kids who come out today are different from those who stepped through the closet doors when I did. For a select group, being gay is not — and never has been — an issue.

I grew up in the 60s and came out in 1979, at the age of 21, into a very homophobic society. Interestingly enough, I recall very few occasions, outside of the occasional dirty joke, when the topic of homosexuality even came up. Queer was the polite alternative to faggot.

Cool parents didn’t exist when I came out. My child, gay? Absolutely not! Some parents handled the news better than others, but hours of tearful attempts to talk the wayward child out of a bad decision almost always followed the revelation. Then the gay kid got sent to counseling — not the effed-up parents who needed it. Ministers, priests, rabbis, and psychiatrists were called upon for assistance.

The parents love the child, but hate that he’s gay. The child doesn’t understand the difference, and thinks it’s him they hate. He grows up believing there’s something intrinsically unlovable about him. I mean, if your parents don’t love you for who you are, who will?

Everyone telling you that an essential truth about yourself is a bad thing damages the psyche. Self-esteem plummets. Depression and/or other emotional issues arise, sometimes leading to suicide. Among my gay contemporaries, self medication through drugs and alcohol was the norm.

Today I live in a far more gay-friendly world than anyone could have imagined when I came out. The news these days is full of stories about society’s increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships. Exceptions abound, but for the first time in history, a majority of Americans — especially young people — have positive attitudes about homosexuals.

Now I see young  men whose parents accept their gayness without any drama. Consequently, gay doesn’t define these kids more than any other trait, characteristic, or special interest defines them. They’re free of the homophobic baggage generations of gay men before them have carried through life.

And from where I sit, that is a good thing.