Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In Case You Thought Gays Couldn't Commit


I'd like to update this post in response to a comment from Bruce Garrett. I encourage you to read the comment from Bruce because he brings up some very good and well thought-out points--points that I had not considered when I originally wrote this post.

Now, in my clarfication, I'd like to say that my comment about my coworker was not to condemn his behavior or demean the work of him or his generation (although I see now that my words were more harsh than I had intended them to be). My comment was that my coworker is falling for the same fallacy of logic that people like Paul Cameron fall for. Paul Cameron determined the average life expectancy of gay men by looking in the obituaries of gay papers during the height of the AIDS epidemic--thoroughly skewing his results to the point of being meaningless. Other anti-gay grouops have claimed the rates of STDs among all gays are astonishingly high by looking at studies done only on gay men in STD clinics, giving similar useless results.

Obviously, these are studies and claims that have poor results because of sampling. These groups ignored gay people that didn't die during the AIDS epidemic and those that didn't list an obituary in a gay paper. They also ignored gays that didn't go to STD clinics. My coworker unintentionally ignored a group of gay people that did not frequent the party scene or the drug scene (he was heavily part of this scene by his own account).

In my coworkers case, I believe that his experience was similar in that he knew most of his friends from the club scene, most of whom were involved in drugs and unsafe sex. Had he met his friends outside of this type of environment, he might have had a different point of view. Gay or straight--the club scene surrounded by promiscuous sex, drug use and partying is not a safe one, and these types of environments will skew people's perceptions just like a sampling problem in a study.

So, that was my intent. I apologize for not being clear and being too harsh about the environment I was describing. And, I appreciate Bruce's comment (which I encourage you again to read). Bruce is right--there are people out there like him and my coworker that have lived their lives as openly gay men for decades so that the life I have can be as easy and fulfilling as it is. They've fought the battle, and I frequently think back in awe of how hard it must've been, so I in no way want to demean that experience or contribution.

Now, if I've still come off to strong, I apologize again, but I believe my point about sampling errors skewing people's beliefs or perceptions about gay life and gay life span still holds true.

Here's the original post:

I was talking to an employee at work the other day about how there aren't any old gay people (Well really I was listening to him talk about it). He's gay and about 65 years old and was lamenting that most of his friends had passed away over the years. Now granted, he did live through the height of the AIDS epidemic, but he didn't seem to draw the connection between his few remaining friends and the out of control party days he fully admits he used to be a part of. Maybe if he had met some gay people at his local church or local community organization, rather than out at drug-induced raves he wouldn't have had such an unfortunate turnout. Then again, this is the same person that spent over 15 minutes telling me how hard life was for Geminis. I guess some people just don't get it--on both sides of the issue.

Anyway, in case you are like him and think that a) gays die young or b) gays can't commit, check out this story of the nuptials of an elderly lesbian couple that have been together for 40 years. Now that's a long time in anyone's book. Who knew there were even gay bars back then?


At 29/5/07 4:57 PM, Blogger Bruce Garrett said...

Maybe if he had met some gay people at his local church or local community organization, rather than out at drug-induced raves he wouldn't have had such an unfortunate turnout.

Now that's appallingly thoughtless for you Brady. I'm 53 years old, and I'm at the stage in my life where I'm starting to see many of my own friends pass away. Age does that to everyone, never mind drugs and partying. But I've had gay friends pass away due to AIDS too Brady, and I am not now, nor ever have been, a circuit party hound. So many dear friends of my own that I still miss so very much... AIDS touched damn near everyone of our generation...mine and his. You didn't have to be a party hound.

Point of fact, when I was 28, which was back in 1981, raves had yet to even be invented. Oh, there were a lot of drugs and partying going around in those days...yeah. And I'm here to tell you Brady, that I saw no difference...none...in that regard between my gay and straight social circles. None. The major difference was that AIDS didn't affect my straight social group the way it did my gay one...most of whom I didn't even start meeting until the middle 1980s when computer BBS systems came about, and I had a chance to socialize with gay people someplace other then a bar.

A little math tells me that when your co-worker was 28 years old it was 1970. Do you understand what life was like for a young gay guy back then? Stonewall had only happened the previous year. I was 16 going on 17. Oh how I WISH I had a gay friendly local church or community youth organization to turn to back then. Except for a few rare urban zones...they didn't exist back then. And if they did you sure didn't see them advertised in the local newspapers. I grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before I discovered Deacon Maccubbin's Lambda Rising bookstore, if I wanted a copy of The Advocate, or The Washington Blade, I had to buy them in seedy "adult" bookstores. Ask me how I know that straights can be just as sexually perverted as gays. The only places I knew of where gay people met back then, before the Internet came along and saved my life, were seedy bars downtown. That was IT for me Brady. It would have been worse for your co-worker when he was a teenager.

Church groups? Local community organizations? In most places in this country back then, you could loose your job, be denied or have taken away a professional license, have your apartment lease terminated if you were known to be gay. It wasn't until 2003 that the supreme court voided the sodomy laws. There's a reason why so many of us spent so much of our social lives in a demeaning degrading sub-culture of cheap sex, booze and drugs. Straight people have their own party cultures too...the difference is that our generations, his and mine, had to fight like hell to give us other choices. And now that they finally exist...we're getting old.

I know you're better then this Brady. Give your older co-worker a break. Be glad you didn't have to grow up when he did. Every little ray of sunshine in gay people's lives now, every tiny little inch of freedom and dignity, we had to fight tooth and nail for. All the ways young gays can meet and socialize freely, openly, proudly now, apart from the bar scene...God how I wish I had them when I was a young man. I might not be 53 years old and still single...


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