Day By Day

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Andrew Sullivan On The Assimilation of America's Gay Community

Andrew Sullivan has a nice column, "Assimilation and Its Meaning," in the New Republic in which he presents a brief history of the self-conscious, culturally distinct, gay community that emerged in major urban centers over the course of the past three decades. What is striking is that history, as he tells it, closely parallels the trajectory of immigrant groups; from shared experience, to institution building, to cultural definition complete with foundation myths, to organized political participation with limited success, to cultural diffusion, to institutional fragmentation, to full assimilation. Sullivan sees the gay community entering the latter stages of diffusion, fragmentation and assimilation. His concluding paragraph articulates themes that are familiar to any student of ethnic or immigrant communities.

The tiny, rich space that gay men and women once created for themselves was, after all, the best they could do. In a metaphor coined by the philosopher Michael Walzer, they gilded a cage of exclusion with magnificent ornaments; they spoke to its isolation and pain; they described and maintained it with dignity and considerable beauty. But it was still a cage. And the thing that kept gay people together, that unified them into one homogeneous unit, and that defined the parameters of their culture and the limits of their dreams, were the bars on that cage. Past the ashes of thousands and through the courage of those who came before the plague and those who survived it, those bars are now slowly but inexorably being pried apart. The next generation may well be as free of that cage as any minority ever can be; and they will redefine gayness on its own terms and not on the terms of hostile outsiders. Nothing will stop this, since it is occurring in the psyches and souls of a new generation: a new consciousness that is immune to any law and propelled by the momentum of human freedom itself. While we should treasure the past, there is no recovering it. The futures--and they will be multiple--are just beginning.
Read the whole thing here. [subscription required]

It will probably appear eventually on his website [here]

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