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Comment: Where did ‘gay’ culture come from?

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  1. We need to recognise more the distinct difference between the aesthetic and behavioral (and I would say woefully shallow) ‘gay’ subculture and the wider LGBT community. Its a shame the article couldn’t go into more depth.

  2. I hate the sloppy use of the word ‘community’ (not only as a gay man – it’s just as bad when referring to ethnicity, I’ve even come across the truly ridiculous term “Asian community”) except, at a stretch, in rare circumstances like the reaction to the Admiral Duncan bombing.

    The struggle against stereotyping has a long long way to go, particularly because it’s so often promoted by gay people – see all the references to the pope’s ‘dress’ in parallel threads, for example.

  3. The way it’s been put to me is that I don’t need to be part of ‘the community’, because I’m not fabulous enough to need a sub-culture. Bit sad though; a while ago I tried to volunteer at a gay youth support group, but it was quietly suggested that I was too straight-acting, and that it might not work out.

    I can remember dressing and acting a bit more flamboyantly straight after coming out, mainly because that’s how gays are ‘supposed’ to be. It didn’t suit me, and that’s how I’ve come to feel about the ‘community’; it doesn’t suit me.

    1. You were considered too ‘straight-acting’ to be accepted by a gay youth support group? That is shocking!

  4. Terry Stewart 13 Feb 2013, 1:27pm

    This notion of gay culture leaves me confused. I have very little in common with many gay people, apart from the fact that I like having sex with men.

    Money is at the centre of this current sense of “Gay Culture” and is driven by the desire to make a quick buck, by a few people who would be quite willing to ditch their gay customers, if the straight customers proved more lucrative. We seen this in many instances and the London Apprentice is only one example.

    I am Irish so I suppose my sense of culture ought to be with in association with others who are from the same island. There are many Irish individuals that I do not identify with and having lived in England for forty years I have an affinity with like minded people who live here in London.

    Some happen to come from England and many others come from different parts of the Globe. Many are straight gay trans. Some like opera whilst others like south Indian classical music, to give only two examples.

  5. Terry Stewart 13 Feb 2013, 1:28pm

    I personally identify with the people who I am around and who show a love and a respect for me, for others and for themselves. Other declared cultures are just abstractions to me.

    If I wish to engage in some sort of social solidarity, then my commitment to Equality for all is where I lay my cultural/community hat.

    I am opposed to all forms of Nationalism and Homo-Nationalism is only one form of that backward looking idea.

    1. Wow, powerful stuff Terry.

      Thanks for sharing :)

      1. Terry Stewart 15 Feb 2013, 10:08pm

        :-) xxx

  6. I fully relate with the gay men Jacob refers to who do not in any way identify with gay culture as it’s commonly known.

    Gay culture can be intensely competitive, ruthless, shallow and hostile to those who don’tt fit certain levels of social status and parameters of perceived perfection:- even worse in so-called ‘gay ghettoes’ where levels of self-obsession and hedonism create a bleak aura of desperation verging on self-destruction (ie San Fran’s Castro).

    Go into some clubs today and it can be difficult to spot a person who is truly normal in the every day sense of the word and who imbues an inner contentment and happiness that is not derived from taking in some ways from others.

    When you do spot such a soul they invariably become assimilated into the codes and ethics of gay culture over time, alas.

    It takes someone with an extraordinarily strong sense of inner belief and self-will to stay true to who they are not become a caricatured parody of what gay culture expects them to be.

    1. theotherone 13 Feb 2013, 1:46pm

      your statement could have come from a right wing christian without a single word being changed.

      1. Somewhat less likely to be influenced by prejudice though, isn’t it?

        1. theotherone 13 Feb 2013, 1:59pm

          is it though? the arguments against ‘effeminates’ have been raging for quite some time and the supposed oppression of those who are not effeminate is discussed again and again but you know i don’t know how many times i’ve seen club nights having to be set up outside the mainstream ‘gay community’ to accommodate these effeminates and butch women who someone dominate and control everything

          1. But Samuel B doesn’t mention effeminacy at all. Disliking the extremes of narcissism and self-absorption that can (can) be found in some parts of the scene isn’t the same as disliking effeminacy or non-masculine traits – indeed I assumed he was referring to the obsessive gym culture as much as anything else.

          2. Where did I mention effeminate people or any “tribe” come to that.

            I was referring more to the attitudes, conditions, unspoken rules, expectations and indeed judgments of what our culture deems to be acceptable in order for gay people to fit in.

            Indeed it can be said that it is these very attitudes and hostile judgments that make many of us gravitate towards particular sub groups of gay culture, such as the bear, leather, muscle boy, twink and fashionista communities, the latter of which I suppose I would be filed under.

            It’s rare you will find a welcoming universal environment where your face does not fit and you are not regarded with a modicum of suspicion, as I have personally experienced all too well:- and at 34 I certainly know a little about these things.

            it is the truth at least from my perspective, and I am not going to spout PC lies for your benefit.

            Of course t’would be great to hear from someone who HAS found gay culture more welcoming and positive.


          3. Case in point:- XXL was established for bears and larger men to feel comfortable and at home in an environment of like-minded men, one in which they would not feel judged or looked down upon by holier than thou muscle boys et al.

            From what I hear, XXL has become the mega success it is because of this policy, and you always hear what a relaxed, fun, attitude-free time punters can expect to have there.

            At the end of the day we really are our own worst enemy:- we grow up with judgments hurled our way and instead of growing from the experience we then hurl them at one another as adults because someone looks, acts or thinks a different way.

            We need to accept everyone unconditionally, including our selves, if we are ever to be truly happy as individuals and as part of a wider gay cuiture/community.


      2. Your post is quite ironic, actually, because what I describe about gay culture is a form of facism-lite:- that is dislike for the unlike.

        What I do notice clearly about the type of gay men who do not feel they fit in with gay cultural stereotypes is that they tend to be free-thinking, individualised, self-expressed human beings who do not feel a need to conform to a stereotype because they are centred and happy in themselves and not constantly seeking validation from external sources.

        Gay stereotypes take to an extreme level of exclusion, narcissism and hedonism result in the sub-culture of gay men who can only find escapism from the realities of real life by maintaining a constant presence on the drug and alcohol fuelled 24-hour club scene and as such are exploited by those who feed and profit from those of us addicted to such a lifestyle.

        It would be truly liberating if gay culture could one day break down its stereotypes and empower itself to be all embracing and inclusive.

        1. Oops, should have appeared as a direct response to theotherone!

        2. ‘The dislike for the unlike’ – excellent phrase!

          However, rather than being a form of fascism, isn’t it just what you find in every society? Surely it’s just the tribal instinct. Can it not be said of any other group that is labelled, accurately or otherwise, a “community” – Chinese, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean, Indian – that it’s made up of people who’re not wildly keen on any form of deviance from their conventions?

          1. Very interesting point, Rehan.

            Perhaps what it tells, of rather warns, us is that we all have a propensity to lean towards fascism of elements of fascism given the indoctrination of certain conditions and/or environments.

            it is the tenets of living in a civilised society that respects all of the freedoms that we take for granted that prevent such a slide:- as good enough reason to remain vigilant of those who would seek to remove such freedoms – including those who would use gay people and our eternal struggle against intolerance as an excuse to criminalise freedom of speech.

            Btw, nice to debate with you:- we aren’t always on the same side of the fence but how great it is that in this diverse world there will always be some things we can see eye to eye on! :)

          2. Indeed it is, Samuel B!

            Perhaps because I’m the product of a marriage across class, political allegiance and religion I’m given to noticing the degree to which civilised qualities can be trumped by the tribal instinct. It’s not something you can do much about – truly civilised people are probably the tiniest minority around, and always have been (but the good news is, it’s probably a bigger minority nowadays than it’s ever been yet).

          3. How about if we all got the same tattoo on our wrists? Then you wouldn’t have to act all queeny if you didn’t feel the need.

            I am exactly the sort of guy this article is about, a friend said I was like a £6 note that had been misprinted so that it still looked like a regular fiver!

  7. theotherone 13 Feb 2013, 1:42pm

    bloody ell! better phone up the effeminate queers i’ve known who where not welcome in ‘the community’ and tell them they’ve been oppressing straight acting gay men all along

    1. I think you’ve perhaps jumped to the wrong conclusion here: I don’t think article’s interpretation of ‘gay culture’ is solely about effeminacy or being “straight-acting”, I took it to refer to the commercialised view of gayness, which so often seems to be – from gay and non-gay alike – about skin and hair products, taste in soft furnishings and a particular sort of style and lifestyle dependent on a certain level of disposable income.

  8. In the past decade I have noticed (probably happening before but I was unaware of it) how this imposition of a gay cultural norm has been used to mask racism. Some marginal deviation from the gay norm is viewed as quirky for white gay men. But gay men of colour are obliged to abandon any cultural ethnicity and exclusively perform the ‘gay norm’ to be accepted. Many is the time I’ve heard white gay man claim they’re not racist because they have black friends and you look at their friends and think – yeah, total coconut

    1. Perhaps – but then if they’re Black or Asian British why should they not accept the ‘gay norm’ just as much as white British men? It’s hardly as though, say, Jamaican or Pakistani culture are noted for their acceptance of minority sexualities, is it? And if they’re of African origin, it has to be said that to tie in being gay with the often extremely homophobic cultures there would be a feat many would struggle with.

    2. Staircase2 14 Feb 2013, 3:02am

      Can I just point out that there has long been a black gay scene and places for gay people of colour in London.

      I don’t go out on the gay scene much any more but I would imagine those parties, club nights and events still attract a large crowd.

      The issue with racism is largely to do with the lack of general welcome to people of colour on the mainstream gay scene, not that there aren’t existing communities

  9. The problem here, it seems to me, is that there are two important, desirable social goals that the LGBT community is trying to accomplish. Unfortunately they can tend to work against each other.

    Firstly, there is the drive to show that not all LGBT people are the same, that we don’t all behave in the stereotypical manners assumed of us and that we’re as different and diverse as non-LGBT people. For this goal the stereotypes are often seen as damaging and in need of ditching.

    On the other hand we are ALSO trying to make the world a safe place for people who DO conform to the stereotypes. There’s nothing wrong, in and of itself, with behaving stereotypically – it’s feeling forced to do so to fit in or, just as much, feeling forced not to do so to fit in that is the problem. If inhabiting the stereotype genuinely makes you feel happy and fulfilled – if it’s genuinely what you’re like and how you’re comfortable behaving – then that should be applauded and celebrated.

    See the conflict?

  10. Gay Activist Paul Mitchell 13 Feb 2013, 3:42pm

    Stonewall Riots 1969…

    1. Might you expound on your interjection, Paul?

  11. floridahank 13 Feb 2013, 4:26pm

    It would be interesting to conduct a scientific study to see what percentage of heterosexual men choose to go into the homosexual behavior for whatever their basic reason is. Because “human sexuality” in its widest understading is complex, there probably are important reasons for hetero’s choosing homo’s lifestyle. I would think the APA could consider this an important study.

    1. What ignorant twaddle, usefully signalled (as it usually is) by the use of the term ‘lifestyle’ in relation to sexuality. No-one of any intelligence would consider ‘an important study.’

      1. floridahank 13 Feb 2013, 10:50pm

        Rehan, it’s not “ignorant twaddle”, it’s a serious question that you gave me no answer. Has there been any studies regarding heteros going into the homo lifestyle? You seem to think that human sexual behavior is simple. I disagree because the APA doesn’t seem too qualified to make specific distinctions on what, why, how, when a person becomes homosexual, and about any genetic factors that show factual evidence of when this happens. Also, do you argue that a hetero could simply go into homo sexual behavior? I’ve never seen where this topic was studied by the scientific community. They seem to merely assume some generalities when examining homosexuality, using anecdotal material but give no genetic/biological markers that indicate any scientific argument.

        1. Staircase2 14 Feb 2013, 3:04am

          …’lifestyle’ my arse…

        2. Nobody who writes the phrase ‘heteros going into the homo lifestyle’ (‘twaddle’ was being polite) deserves an answer. Grow up – and read a bit, if you can.

          1. floridahank 15 Feb 2013, 3:35am

            Why do you say that heteros cannot go into the homo lifestyle? I’d like to see why this is impossible. When sexual acts take place, who’s to say it’s not possible? What is it that you want me to read? If you have some worthwhile information, please let me know since you seem to know it all.

          2. ‘The homo lifestyle’ – boy, you really don’t get it, do you?


            Then again, maybe you were able to ‘change lifestyles’: why don’t you tell us about it? The desire to do so would appear to underpin your repeated appearances on these forums.


  13. So “straight-acting” gay men are oppressed by more “flamboyant” gay men, and at the same time, there are all those personal ads that specify “straight-acting only.” Interesting…

    I don’t personally believe there is really such a thing as a “gay community.” What we have in common is mostly our struggle for equality and our need, as a small minority, to meet partners. With the former making some good headway, and the internet revolutionising the latter, will there be less and less need for a gay community? I work and socialise with straight and gay people and wouldn’t want it any other way.

    I think the real issue here is not about being gay as such, it’s about our society’s attitudes toward gender non-conformity, which we still do not accept. Flamboyant men are still oppressed and hence have need for the solidarity of a community. And hence the split with more masculine gay men.

  14. Lion in Winter 13 Feb 2013, 10:58pm

    Wow – you previous posters are missing the point! Gay culture was born of needing to be clandestine – where a word, and look, an action, could not only connect you with another while subverting the rest of the room, but could also expose you to the same room, inviting ridicule, violence, or worse. Hanky codes are but one example from the past, as were keys, etc. Gay culture was born of being in on a secret joke – hence the popularity of Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Oscar Wilde, name-your-icon. They were in on the joke, and geared their acts to reflect that. Gay culture is historically one of double-entendre, humour,wit, music, opera, nightclubs and neighbourhoods.

  15. I think it is leo important to keep in mind, that derogatory notions by other gay people who deride others as ‘tho gay’ if they are flamboyant or over animated – let’s face it, if you are apparently not macho enough in someones eyes.

    It’s a growing trend I believe is equally appalling.

  16. Staircase2 14 Feb 2013, 2:49am

    ” Queer culture allowed the inclusion of a great number of men who were probably ‘straight’, but also saw no problem with having sex with other men for a bit of fun or money. Why? Because there was no real stigma against it in the way there is today.”

    This is misleading.

    It was only shortly before this period that Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for example

    1. Jacob Wilde 14 Feb 2013, 9:29am

      I would point you in the direction of the excellent book, ‘Queer London’ by Dr Matt Houlbrook. Stigma existed within many aspects of society, and yes, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned. And yet there is a massive amount of evidence to suggest that in working-class London communities, homosexuality was tolerated. We also know that a great number of men were involved in the ‘trade’, where they would essentially go ‘gay-for-pay’.

  17. Staircase2 14 Feb 2013, 2:55am

    The notion that the ‘Gay Community’ doesn’t exist is a modern notion based on the fact that now, essentially, it doesn’t.

    The Internet has broken up the traditional social networks which existed before.

    Up until very recently there was very much a vibrant Gay Scene and with it a vibrant Gay Community.

    And while there were understood notions of what it took to ‘be’ Gay, the truth is that those scenes were in fact extremely diverse and multi layered.

    Perhaps it is only when viewed from the perspective of a keyboard thru a computer screen that it appears that the Gay Community was some kind of cultural straight jacket.

    It certainly never felt like that during my time spent clubbing during the 90s and early 00s for example

  18. I don’t have much time, but I agree fully with the second paragraph.

  19. Frank Boulton 16 Feb 2013, 6:02am

    A single article can’t address such a vast subject. As th LGBT community has grown and become more visible and better organised, it has diversified.

    A few have commented that I’m too straight-acting for the “gay scene”. This reaction has come from a very small minority of the pub club scene.

    These days there are more special interest groups to cater for LGBT diversity. I don’t think that they “gay community” is rejecting people, so much as people are find the LGBT communities that best suit them.

    It would be good to see an article about gay culture in terms of our literature, music and other arts. In Europe this has a magnificent history going back about 2,700 years.

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