Gay History: Do Young Gays Even Know – Or Care?

Interestingly enough, Fort Lauderdale boasts one of the largest depositories of gay historical material and memorabilia at our Stonewall National Museum and Archives. But as a history buff my whole life, I wonder: after us old faggots go to that great Leather Bar in the Sky, will the younger iphone generation really give a shit?

Hey, I’m a piece of living gay history myself. When I was working for the long defunct retail chain called Two Guys from Harrison at its Garfield, New Jersey outlet back in college, my old boss, a dead ringer for Jackie Gleason, if Gleason had channeled Joan Rivers, took me and a few of my fellow closeted friends out to our very first night in the West Village and the very first gay bar I ever walked into, the Stonewall. This was a year almost to the day before it was raided and the whole Gay Liberation movement went into overdrive.

But I challenge you to walk into a gay bar today, not one that still caters to us aging jeans and T shirt guys or leathermen – I’m talking about bars like Lauderdale’s touristy Alibi where the median age on a Thursday Long Island Iced Tea night is 32, not 55. And go around and ask the young ones, the ones with the peach fuzz on their faces, what the Stonewall was, and you will probably get the same vacant stare they’d give a man over 50 trying to make them (unless, of course, they like a Daddy).

I’ve taught college level writing for one of the universities here in SoFlo, where I was able to easily identify my students’ ethnicities. And it never ceased to amaze me when I got on some sidetrack and started talking about the days of segregated America, where there were white toilets and colored toilets and white water fountains and colored water fountains, how so many of my nineteen year old African American students gave me a “you gotta be joshing us, right prof?” look. One black student in a paper actually spelled MLK’s name Mather Luger King.

The philosophers say we can only know where we’re going if we know where we’ve been. But does such thinking have any relevance in the world where I can chat online with a hot hairy humpy guy somewhere in the Middle East while his country is being bombed to bits?

I’m no television addict, but there are a handful of shows that intrigue me and I’m an ardent fan of the “The Good Wife’ which I consider one of the best written, most intelligently engaging, urbane dramas on TV today, even if at times it brings back unpleasant memories of the office politics and backstabbing I witnessed or personally experienced in my days as a NYC health care PR exec.

In one segment, there was this young, up and coming female lawyer, apprenticed to the main character, who decided that, despite a promising career in law, she was leaving it all to marry, have her baby, and be a mother. My main character, played by Julianna Margulies, who grew up on the cusp of the feminist movement, is taken aback by her decision. The young girl’s very telling response: “Your generation had to prove something – my generation doesn’t have to.”

I’ve thought of that line every time I see another young, what we would call in the day, swishy boy. Instead of just acting like a guy, more and more under 30 gays are what I like to label nouveau retro fems.

But is there anything wrong with that? We who lived through Gay Liberation or inherited its mantel felt we needed to prove to the str8 world that we were men first, gay second.

With gay marriage blessed by the Supreme Court or two men lying in bed obviously just having had sex on network TV, what’s left to prove?

And by translation, does history matter anymore?

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