‘Carthage must be destroyed’

Last week was the final meeting – “get-together,” even – of Rainbow Bridges. This tiny, almost-unknown program, sponsored by a seniors’ residence and funded (at $4,000) by the former Lesbian & Gay Community Appeal, held fortnightly social events in a rec room in a TCHC building at Jarvis and Wellesley. The intent was to bring together different gay and lesbian generations. (Memorabilia.)

Sunshine Centres nametags: Joe Of course this was expressed as bringing various “LGBTTIQQ2S” generations together. It would have been churlish to dismiss the program just because it used such a discredited acronym – which was taken seriously by one of the facilitatrixen, who never once said gay or lesbian. But not many transgenders showed up. (Their usual modus operandi is a reverse takeover. Not this time.) We all coexisted just fine. (During introductions: “I’m Joe and it’s not in dispute that I’m a he.”)

What really came as a surprise was the fact that young people showed up. I expected 100% eldergays and seniors, but no: “Kids” in their early 20s not only attended but talked to us. At least one was clearly not remotely out to his Jamaican parents in Scarborough.

Each session lasted three hours, and some of the activities were more suited to kindergarten. But it was always OK not to participate, and in fact we refuseniks got to know each other. This again achieved the program’s actual purpose, because even if you stuck with the kool kidz at the back of the room you still met people.

I was surprised yet again when several sessions had interpreters (or one interpreter plus a student) and that deaf people actually showed up. (With the funding they had, there was no excuse not to pay the interpreters.) I have found over the years that gay and lesbian deaf people are much more willing to deal with hearing people. Not one of them had a life story that was not fascinating from start to finish. We heard about participants’ life stories during the final exercise of the final session, in which people created or decorated or simply filled “memory boxes” and narrated the events signified by each decoration or inclusion.

During one of the breaks, we enjoyed the echt-Toronto scenario of a bunch of Hispanics yammering away in different dialects of Spanish while deaf people, ASL students, and one or two others yammered away in sign language. I doubt this could have gone without remark in New York.

And they fed us at every session.

So then: What happens next year? At the last session, responsible persons from Sunshine Centres for Seniors and the Community One Foundation attended, and what I suggested to them was that Sunshine Centres reapply for a different project that would still bring the generations together. Don’t make this into an institution, I told them, but try something new with the same theme. One thing it dearly needed was more publicity.

I never expect Toronto’s diverse LGBTTQQI2S communities to do anything that acknowledges, suits, includes, or respects me. I now know of one project that did. This is not faint praise, let alone damning with same.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2014.03.30 13:27. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

Michael Mason writes in to offer a socioeconomic history of, as he puts it, “the notorious ‘pink pound’ of legend” (edited):

A little about my background. I was news editor (and a director) of Gay News for eight years back in the ’70s until I left to start a paper of my own called Capital Gay, which ran until the mid-’90s. There was much talk of the pink pound used by gay marketeers, as you say, including the advertising department at Gay News. A myth? Well, historically there was truth in it, though it died in the ’70s.

You have to remember that before World War II, the general economic family pattern was for the male to act as the “breadwinner” whilst his female partner stayed at home to look after children and the home. Wages were set to allow the male to provide for a family (though, of course, the standard of living was much lower in those days). In poorer households, women would also take paid employment, but at absurdly low rates so that their incomes were commonly referred to as “pin money” – loose change, almost, saved for things like Christmas or the summer holiday.

It was during this period that the pink pound truly existed both for single gay men and for couples (gay men, not lesbians) with single gay men receiving a “family wage” and male couples a double “family wage.”

With the birth of the women’s-liberation movement and the passing of the 1970 Equal Pay Act, this began to change. Capitalists accepted the change with alacrity because the expansion of the labour force meant that they were able to reduce the average wage so that, today, two partners with average earnings have to work in order to take home a comfortable income. By the ’80s, the phenomenon of the pink pound had vanished and the advertising crew at Capital Gay were under instructions not to use the phrase in any of their sales materials (though The Pink Paper continued to use it, he said irritatedly).

Your observations on the economic value of gay men’s work is also interesting. Readership surveys at Gay News showed a disproportionate number of gay men working in the “caring” professions – teaching, social work, etc. – rather than the higher-paid competitive professions in industry and commerce. But again, historically, the picture was a little different because of the operation of the class system.

Before the passing of the Sexual Reform Act in 1967 and its partial decriminalization of gay sex, the closets of middle-class gays were built of much sterner stuff than those of working-class gays out of fear that they had more to lose materially and socially. So it was that the secret backstreet clubs for homosexuals/criminals tended to have a much stronger working-class ethos to them, with middle-class gay men venturing into them cautiously, as into a jungle. There was a lot of pleasing class confusion in these venues. On the one hand, middle-class men envied the greater working-class forthrightness about homosexuality; they were both excited by relationships with “rough trade” and initially fearful that they would be robbed or exposed if they went with a man less well off than themselves. But club regulars would get to know one another and trust one another, so that it was far commoner for gay couples to be of mixed class than heterosexual couples.

Out of this emerged a common model of the middle-class partner mentoring the working-class partner. And though that sounds patronizing and distasteful, the working-class partner would have new opportunities opening for him – theatre-going, foreign travel, and yes, wine-tasting. And though the clubs retained their working-class ethos, there was a great deal of fluidity in social relationships. I’m old enough, I’m afraid, to have experienced these clubs as a teenager/twentysomething, so I feel a certain nostalgia for the days where the classes mixed easily and unconsciously. I have a symbolic “black date” [or turning point] in the ’90s when the class system returned: It was with the opening of the Village Soho, catering for young professionals with Filofaxes, where the beer was imported and sold in bottles at prices higher than a draft pint from Charrington’s.

The effect of cross-class relationships was that it raised the horizons of many young gays, who became ambitious for – and were encouraged by their partners to become more ambitious for – higher-status jobs that paid more. It’s often forgotten that, from classical times, pederasty – and many of these relationships were pederastic, even if they were not necessarily between partners of different ages – involved obligations on the more experienced partner to impart education to the other.

So it was that, before the ’80s, gay couples appeared at least to have notably higher standards of living.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2014.02.15 11:43. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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:

  1. 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 [Stonewall]. 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 [have been witness to] 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, [and] 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.

  2. The Stonewall Generation:

    Born in the 1940s, experiencing early adulthood during the 1960s, and today [aged] 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 [lives] 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.

  3. 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 [through] early 60s. Members of this generation experienced tremendous losses… [but] they were perhaps the hardest hit by AIDS. Those who have survived are significantly traumatized.

  4. 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 [the previous] 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 [sic]. Now approaching midlife, we no longer see our life course as inevitably abbreviated. We are not universally sentenced to a premature death.

  5. 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…. [This is] 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 [from that of] 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.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2014.01.31 13:12. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

From my friend in an Xtra comment that is essentially impossible to link to and is as fungible as, say, the job security of a Pink Triangle Press Web developer or journalist:

Michelle, if you were savvy enough to detect the sad undercurrent in these posts by gay men over and across the blog world, the reason is that white gay men over 45 have had three holocausts thrust onto us:

  1. Family and society rejection, which historically went without saying when people 45 and older were young (unlike youth in the last 10 years or more).

  2. A death plague that destroyed our entire fledgling social experiment in open homosexual maleness, which collapsed into death and loss and horror (with the survivors struggling about trying to make sense of our second life holocaust).

  3. And now the third… homonational pinkwashing – the theoretical positioning of white gay men as the enemy of all queer and trans peoples around the world, the oppressors of all queers and trans of colour and gender.

Once again a societal bully has selected gay men as the target, as the bad guys, as the oppressors, cissy racist sexist hegemonic collusion with power and privilege over people of colour’s colonization. Has a group ever been more targeted as the fall guy for hate and envy and attack? There it is. Read it and weep.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2014.01.28 13:54. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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