I’m From Bergen County, NJ.

by lou r.

I don’t have a story. I have generalizations of gay life defined by me, by decade.

I was born in the 1960’s with only memories of Vietnam and civil rights.

In the 70’s, being gay was all about being x-rated. It was not a lifestyle but a sex act. You couldn’t be seen in public being gay, you couldn’t be open about your lifestyle, so you hid it in the deep dark corners of a world we lived in. It was actually illegal to be gay in most places. There was much violence against gays and most lived in fear of this violence.

Then AIDS came along in the early 80’s. We had a President who wouldn’t even say the word AIDS. This actually made people hide deeper in the dark corners. We feared for our lives even further.

Then in the 90’s, things opened up and everyone started coming out. It was a different world. Being gay became cool and more and more people accepted it. Laws were introduced to support those who were gay and laws were abolished punishing those who were gay.

After the turn of the century it just seemed being who you were was the way to go and hiding was no longer necessary. So here I am…take it or leave it.


  1. You are absolutely right. The definition of what is gay sure is changing and expanding. It use to be about sex period Now it’s about everything that being straight is about. And the people who brought about that change and expansion are the average gay man and woman that came out to his or her parents, friends, relatives, community and the world -and- the many straight people that stood by us.

  2. It’s wonderful that the hiding is less necessary. Last Sunday afternoon I was in Berkeley having a mocha at Caffe Strada with is across from UC Berkeley. As I left and walked down the street, I noticed two college-age guys in a van. As I watched, the driver leaned over, put his hand behind the other guys head and pulled him close for a kiss. It was such a sweet moment and was a perfect example of how far we’ve come out of hiding.

  3. “So here I am…take it or leave it.”

    I’ll Take It!

  4. I’m probably roughly your age, also born in the 60s. My memories of the decades and their relation to gays are mostly similar, but also a bit different in places. I too remember seeing in the media and reading about the civil rights movement and Vietnam, but I remember the feeling of societal liberation that started in the 60s rather vividly, extending into the mid-70s, at least: anti-war, women’s rights, sexual liberation, ecological awareness, black power, desegregation, consumer protections, back-to-nature earthiness, all of it, and I remember the gay rights movement being one part of that broader societal zeitgeist but not yet a lifestyle.

    It was in the late 70s, during the disco era, that I remember starting to read about gay males having a disco-focused and sex-focused nightlife lifestyle. I remember reading articles about this in mainstream, coffee table magazines and in newspapers, as well as seeing bits about it on the news. It seemed to me at the time that the multiple rights movements of the preceding decade and a half had made openness about this subject possible.

    I remember that party-frenzied gay image continuing until the early 80s, when the AIDS epidemic and the entry of fundamentalist Christians into politics under Reagan’s influence led to renewed prejudice against gays but also strong activism on their behalf.

    By the end of the 80s, with the epidemic wiping out many urban gay areas, serious, 60s-inspired, direction action activism was occurring with groups like ACT UP and others. I remember the late 80s and early 90s being a time when there was more in-your-face, on-the-street, open gayness in US cities than I encounter today. I think the gay movements of that period are responsible for the societal improvements you mention for the 90s, more people coming out and all.

    Today, it’s more relaxed and accepted in general, but also more subdued, with gays wanting to blend in with everyone else, even to the point of forming right-wing gay groups with all their prejudices except the one against homosexuality.

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