Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Generation Quiet

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Generation Quiet

Article excerpt

At age 23, I am getting my first taste of what it is like to be openly gay in the "real world" as opposed to the comfy confines of a liberal college. In addition to an escalating fear of baggy clothing and carbohydrates, I have become increasingly troubled by my "never closeted" generation's ability to lie about their sexuality--to be proudly out only so long as it's convenient.

A good friend of mine--who is only 32--often lectures me about how he didn't even understand the term gay or know a single homosexual until he went away to college. And while I don't see our age gap as being significant, he is quick to point out, "You had Will & Grace; I had Kate & Allie."

Indeed, I remember seeing the movie Jeffrey at age 16 and the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman as part of a sophomore class trip. I grew up hearing about gay rights on the news and reading about "that gay congressman" in the paper. The recent onslaught of gay programs such as Boy Meets Boy and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is further confirmation that Generation Q, before ever coming out, has the unique experience of observing the way the media and society perceive the gay community.

But what the media teaches us is the art of being "gay...and OK"--not gay and out. Take Rosie O'Donnell, for example. America always speculated she was gay and loved her nonetheless---until she talked explicitly about being gay. Lesson learned: Be gay; just don't really be gay. Our society hasn't begun to embrace some grand notion of universal tolerance; it has begun to embrace the notion that it's no longer legitimate to bash gay people quite so openly.

We grow up in a culture of mixed messages. As a closeted teen I remember wondering why--if it was OK to be gay--the Boy Scouts were even allowed to exclude gay men. And what message did St. Joseph's University send to its gay and lesbian students by inviting Sen. Rick Santorum to deliver their 2003 commencement address? That you can be gay and successful in this country--as long as you're not really gay.

Be out but be quiet.

While working as a paralegal at a major law firm in New York City, an associate who'd been with the firm for two years told me that no one in his practice knew that he was gay. …

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