Nov 12, 2016

How We Survived the Homophobic World of the 1980s

A few days ago, we discovered that over 40% of the U.S. population believe that all Mexicans are rapists and all Muslims are terrorists, that African-Americans are inferior, that the handicapped should be ridiculed, and that sexual assault is ok.    It gives one pause, but it's not without precedent.

When I was living in West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s, most heterosexuals believed that gay people were pedophiles and violent criminals, that we were inferior and should be ridiculed, and that physically assaulting us was ok.

We heard incessant "fag! fruit! fairy!" jibes from family, friends, and classmates, while politicians, judges, teachers, preachers, and psychiatrists joined their voices together in an incessant shout of "You're crazy, evil, sinful, criminal!  You shouldn't exist!"

After surviving all that hatred, it was hard to imagine that heterosexuals were even human.  Surely they were soulless monsters who spent every waking moment plotting new ways to defame, humiliate, and kill us.

So we carved out our own Safe Space.

Our world, the only place where we could let our guard down and be free, was bounded by Sunset to the north, Melrose to the south, Doheny to the west, and Highland to the east. At each of those boundaries there was an invisible barrier separating us from the wilderness.

Of course, we had to travel outside our world sometimes, for jobs, to go to concerts and museums, to get to gay bars like Mugi.

But we were very careful: the woods were full of wolves.  We followed strict rules for survival.

1. Be inconspicuous: keep your voice low and your hands at your side.

2. Closet any signs of gayness: no rainbow flags, gay pride t-shirts, Advocate magazines.

3. Never speak to anyone you don't know, unless it is absolutely necessary.

4. Never take anything that a stranger tries to give you.  It will probably be a tract about how sinful you are.

5. Never go to a straight bar or restaurant.  It will be full of homophobes.

6. Avoid heterosexual books, newspapers, movies, and tv shows.  They will be full of homophobia.


What about the heterosexuals you must interact with daily, your classmates and coworkers:

1. Keep the conversation strictly professional.  Be polite but aloof.

2. Don't volunteer any personal information.  If asked, be vague and noncommittal.

"What did you do last weekend?""

"Oh, I just hung around.


3. When they ask about your girlfriend or interest in girls -- which they always do within a few seconds of "hello" -- lie.  Invent one.  Never come out to them, and never say you don't have a girlfriend, or they will try to fix you up with one.

4. When they say something homophobic -- which they always do shortly after asking about your girlfriend -- don't respond.  End the interaction and retreat.

5. What if you are accidentally outed?

If they start screaming, then obviously you should retreat.  If they merely ask insulting questions like "Which of you is the boy, and which is the girl?", use your own judgment about whether to respond.

6. Never accept invitations to parties, dinners, or other social events.  You will be fixed up with a girl or asked to discuss your interest in girls.

7. NEVER cruise them, regardless of how hot they are, or how friendly.  They will interpret your interest as a humiliating insult, and attack.

I have a story about the rules, but writing them all down took up too much space.  It will be up next.