Psychology researcher Phillip Hammack has made a significant contribution to the literature on gay men like himself. He’s published his work in a few forms, including peer-reviewed papers and at least one presentation. Upon my request, Hammack sent me a copy of one version, entitled “Gay Men’s Health and Identity from a Life-Course Perspective.”
Heavily excerpted below, Hammack sees five generations of gay men:
The Stigma Generation:
Men of this generation were born in the 1930s and experienced early adulthood in the 1950s, just as the gay civil-rights movement was getting underway but before . Today, these men are in their 70s and 80s….
They have been witness to the gay and lesbian civil-rights movement from its birth to its height and its triumphs and setbacks. They saw the transformation of gay identity from a diagnosable mental illness to a legitimate social identity. They have been witness to the entire AIDS epidemic, and of course lost many to the disease. But they have survived. They carry with them the psychological and physical legacy of these experiences. They navigated cultural stigma, the hostility of health and mental-health practitioners, threats to their individual and collective well-being too numerous to count. They are our gay elders; we hear their voices far less than we should.
The Stonewall Generation:
Born in the 1940s, experiencing early adulthood during the 1960s, and today in their 60s and 70s, many men of this generation were active in the gay and lesbian civil-rights movement and benefitted from experiencing gay liberation at the height of their adulthood…. Hence unlike members of the Stigma Generation, they experienced an even longer period of their significantly more free from stigma and criminalization. But also like the Stigma Generation, they experienced the devastation of AIDS and the major setbacks to the movement that it brought with it, as well as a complete reframing of gay sexual culture away from the days of liberation toward the fight of AIDS through safer-sex practices.
The AIDS 1 Generation:
Born in the 1950s and 1960s, hence experiencing critical periods of adolescence and early adulthood during the 1970s, following Stonewall but before the AIDS epidemic emerged. Today they are in their 40s early 60s. Members of this generation experienced tremendous losses… they were perhaps the hardest hit by AIDS. Those who have survived are significantly traumatized.
The AIDS 2 Generation:
Men of my generation were born in the 1970s, hence experienced their childhood and adolescence with the AIDS epidemic, making a strong association between their emerging realization of same-sex desire with inevitable disease and death. But we did not experience the personal losses of generation. We grew up at a time when health and mental-health practitioners were increasingly supportive, when gay youth programs began to thrive in major urban centers, and when information about gay health and identity was increasingly accessible (even before the Internet). We grew up at time when we worried enough about AIDS to be vigilant about condom use….
We saw the discourse shift from AIDS to marriage equality, bypassing other important civil-rights issues like nondiscrimination legislation and transgender rights . Now approaching midlife, we no longer see our life course as inevitably abbreviated. We are not universally sentenced to a premature death.
The Post-AIDS Generation or the Marriage-Equality Generation:
Born in the 1980s and 1990s, members of this generation are now mostly in their teens and 20s…. the first generation to now experience their same-sex desires absent the same fear of AIDS that consumed members of my generation when we were beginning to have sex…. They are not “post-gay,” but their understanding of gay identity is different their gay brothers of previous generations. We are only beginning to hear the voices of this generation on their own terms rather than through the lens of paradigms constructed with gay men of prior generations.
For a while I thought Hammack was blind to the current generation. I thought there were six generations of gay men, not five. Instead I now fear that Hammack is unaware of what this current generation actually believes. Those beliefs add up to the complete eradication of gay as not just a concept but a population of men.
What he should be calling the Queer Generation believes:
They are not “gay,” merely sexual, or, in their terminology, queer. Intercourse between members of the opposite sex, if definitionally possible at all (see below), can be and is queer if its participants say so.
Since gay does not exist for them, homophobia functionally does not exist either. Hence their concerns are more putatively global or humanistic, which is another way of saying the thing that most morally offends them is racism. Every human-rights transgression is racism in some guise.
Men had a good run but women are better, obviously. Manhood either does not exist or is a toxic character flaw to be remedied. A queer man has no masculine traits whatsoever and considers those a dead giveaway of racism when encountered in other males.
Since men should be more like women, it follows that anyone can be any gender they claim to be. A penis is a female organ and fathers can give birth. They believe there actually are two kinds of people, cisgendered and transgendered. (Intersexed persons are transgendered.) It stands to reason that transgenders can be as gay as cisgenders.
Given all the above, there is no such thing as fixed gender, sex, sexuality, or sexual orientation. All of those are mere labels with no objective reality past or present. All of those labels can be detached, reattached, and mixed and matched at will.
To emphasize, there are two unforgivable traits in the eyes of this generation. One is to be racist, and they will indeed be the judge of that. The other is to be masculine, unless you are a “transman,” in which case more power to you.
This generation treats its beliefs like a loyalty oath that is a package deal you must sign (no exceptions). If you so much as quibble with any of the Queer Generation’s precepts, let alone challenge them out loud, you’re a racist.
Family hatred and AIDS did not kill gay men off. But have some patience: The Queer Generation is just getting started.