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

Out of the Ghetto

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

Out of the Ghetto

Article excerpt

FOR HALF A CENTURY THE SEPARATIST IMPULSE HAS SHAPED GAY life. It has been the motor force of change, propelling us into the future. Separatism has displayed itself in the pre-Stonewall urban sexual subculture of gay men; in the alternative institutions created by lesbians in the 1970s; in the community centers, political organizations, and religious groups we formed in the 1980s; and in the many businesses that cater to our tastes. In lots of ways separatism has served us well. So why not a bigger, better separatism in the future? Why not lavender malls, a queer political party, a gay Ivy League, and Q-Span? Because separatism's viability was rooted in particular historical circumstances -- and times change.

Separatism has been a demographic phenomenon made possible by the baby boom. Experts have noted that the numerical strength of the boomers let them make history; the gay community flourished as the boomers grew up. The numbers of that generation let us fashion viable communities. Separatism has also been an urban privilege. In migrating to these places of refuge, we created large doses of concentrated queerness. Urban anonymity allowed us to navigate the crosscurrents of the closet. We were open in the Castro but not with our parents a thousand miles away. We built a separatist world while minimizing the risks of exposure.

Separatism has been a response to oppression. Pre-Stonewall, it functioned defensively, protecting us from hostility. Since Stonewall it has served as a way to build a power base to make change. And it's worked. Yet our successes are ineluctably leading to integration. The separatist impulse is undermining itself. We can see this in the difference between issues of the 1970s and of today. In the 1970s we fought police harassment, sodomy laws, and the classification of homosexuality as a disease. …

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