September 26, 2007

Assimilation Nation

So, you all remember that I went to Miami for my birthday. While there, Mister Bookworm and our friends went to the gay section of South Beach.

"Just a section?" you ask. "I thought it was the whole thing!" And you wouldn't be completely wrong.

But we went to the gay section which was the length of a city block. My friends lamented the erosion of the gay section, though. They said that in past years, the gay section used to extend for several blocks -- perhaps as many as ten.

Meanwhile, gay specialty magazines like Out and Advocate have taken huge hits in readership and advertising over the past years. The drop in advertising and readership this has been sufficiently explained away by Tanya Irwin in her latest column for Magazine Rack, but I still have to wonder if her original optimistic hypothesis doesn't have some merit to it.

It wasn't so long ago that Joe.My.God. noted the decline of gay bars in Orlando. ORLANDO! Gays practically invented Disneyland, people. This is just too shocking for words.

Well, for more words than I am using right now.

Or the amount of words used by Joe.

Ok. It's not too shocking for words, but it's pretty shocking. It's upsetting! (But not enough to ruin my mascara. I am not a barbarian.)

And big gay bars and clubs elsewhere, like NYC, San Fransisco, DC... have been closing, too. Of course, there are other explanations available there, too, and Joe talks about those.

But still I wonder.

Is it possible that the gays are being assimilated? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing in terms of our fight for equal recognition under the law?

I can see it being a good thing because it would mean people are realizing that gay people aren't a threat to civilization. We're not trying to destroy your marriages or molest your children. We're just trying to mind our own business and experience the freedom of property that everyone else enjoys when they enter into marriage arrangements.

I could also see it being a bad thing because it would also mean our visibility is disappearing.

I don't really think the gays are getting blended into the giant American daiquiri, but it's an amusing thought that has crossed my mind a couple of times in recent history.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 26, 2007 04:12 PM | TrackBack

The big worry about integration is always that the sub-group will be absorbed into the larger group, such that its uniquely valuable features are lost. When a sub-culture actually has something of value to offer, that's a legitimate worry. However, if the broader culture is rational, then the better values will usually remain intact, becoming available to the wider population. That's certainly true of the major value of immigrant sub-cultures in America, namely FOOD. YUMMY!

I don't think that we have to worry that the integration of gay and straight culture will mean that gays will lose their distinctive quality, namely sexual attraction to and interaction with the same sex. That seems pretty likely to persist! :-)

As for other incidental features of gay culture, some of them have already percolated (to some degree) to the wider culture. My impression is that men are objects of sexual attraction today (e.g. in movies) more than in earlier decades. And many men act accordingly, e.g. working out more, dressing better, etc. Overall, I'd say that women are grateful for that effect. (I'm not certain that that's due to the influence of gay culture, but it seems plausible.)

Other aspects of gay culture seem more likely to disappear. I won't cry over the demise of grossly effeminate manners found in some gay men: I don't even like them in women. (That's definitely influenced by isolation from the broader culture, in my experience.)

All in all, I do think the integration is great news. It means that being gay in America isn't a big deal, that it's something that straight people are comfortable actively going on around them. (That fits with what I've seen of the statistical data too.) It's not really decreased visibility at all: people are seeing gay people openly living their normal lives all around them. That's a far more effective form of visibility than the attention-getting weirdos in the gay pride parades.

Posted by: Diana Hsieh at September 26, 2007 05:43 PM

Yeah. I'm putting my foot down on this: I am not giving up sodomy.

Posted by: Flibbert at September 26, 2007 05:58 PM

Aw, c'mon, Flib! "If you were *really* gay" you'd give lesbianism a chance. *snicker*

Posted by: Rachel at September 26, 2007 06:04 PM

"And many men act accordingly, e.g. working out more, dressing better, etc. Overall, I'd say that women are grateful for that effect. (I'm not certain that that's due to the influence of gay culture, but it seems plausible.)"

I think it's very plausible. It's not uncommon for men to go even further to get spa treatments like waxing, manicures, etc. I think that's probably due to the gay culture, although I'm not sure. In any case, it's not seen as unmasculine to do such things. Whatever its cause, I think it's great, too.

Posted by: Monica at September 26, 2007 06:34 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?