Kundalini Splendor

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

On Being Gay in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries  

I just wrote a rather long piece on the above topic, but somehow lost the entire post before I could complete it.  Here is a "summary" of what I was saying (I need to say these things, for they are issues that have impacted my life greatly).

Two (maybe more) states have now approved initiatives to legalize gay marriage in their states (Maine and Maryland).  For gays everywhere, this is a momentous decision.

I grew up in the thirties during the Great Depression, when the topic of homosexuality was so hush hush it was never mentioned at all in most circles.  In the late forties, I took a class in library science, where the teacher (after making a face) explained to us that "there were such people," but that books pertaining to this lifestyle must be kept under the librarians' counter, to avoid disseminating "dangerous" material to the public.  She was referring to such books a Kraft-Ebbing's studies of "sexual perversion" and the infamous novel "The Well of Loneliness," which portrayed lesbians as part of an"army of the damned," condemned forever to live in isolation and guilt.

Despite the public condemnation of gays, those who loved one another continued to live in what were deeply committed unions, public support or not.

After the aids crisis and Stonewall, things loosened a bit, but it was still extremely risky for gays and lesbians to reveal their sexual preference to any but their most trusted friends.  To do so mean likely rejection from family and conservative friends, loss of jobs, and public humiliation.

Gradually, things changed, but it was still decades before full acceptance became a possibility.  As a result, many gays (I was one) lived a "double" life, creating one persona for the public and family, another for one's beloved companion.  This "self censoring" was not good for the psyche or soul--it was as if some important part of the self were erased when one appeared in public, and the "taint" was always present.

Ultimately, due to the efforts of certain brave souls, gays in many states won the right to have "civil unions," which allowed them to visit partners in hospital, share common property and such.  No civil marriages were allowed--the measure failed when put up for public vote, even in California, where outside groups (Catholics and Mormons) poured money into the state when a referendum took place.  Needless to say, the measure failed.

Gay marriage then become a central issue in the 2008 Presidential election (in the meantime we were fighting two wars and many young (and some older) soldiers were being slaughtered for a cause that no one truly understood).

In this last election, gay marriage was no longer an issue.  Let us hope that the result in the two states that approved the initiative is merely a precursor of many such referendums--civil rights should not be restricted to those whose behavior conforms to the demands of certain religious groups. Love is love, and those who wish a permanent commitment, should be accorded the same rights as other groups.

I might add that I personally have no desire to marry anyone, gay or straight, but am quite happy to live a single lifestyle.  However, I marvel at the many changes of attitude that I have witnessed in the over eighty years of my life, and am grateful to be living in a more inclusive society.

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