I posted this as a Facebook note the other day; I thought it was interesting and worth preserving here.
I strongly doubt that the advent of same-sex marriage or near-universal social tolerance of gays and lesbians will prompt straight people to seriously examine the experience of being gay any more than racial integration spurred white people to seriously investigate the experience of being black. Although the importance of equality under the law and widespread social tolerance can hardly be overstated, I am concerned that liberalism (in the broad sense) is going to rush to do to homosexuality what it has done to race relations: cover up the continuing tensions, complexities, and difficulties under a gloss of high-sounding rhetoric.
I think gay people’s lives are probably destined to be different — and more difficult — than straight people’s lives, and that there is little that politics can do to change this. Getting the politics right can make our lives a lot less difficult by protecting us from persecution, but the threat of persecution is not and has never been the only difference between being straight and being gay.
At its core, homosexuality seems to me to be a quintessential ‘outsider’ identity trait, by its nature. It is not comparable to race, class, gender, or religion: people who grow up as minorities in those categories are usually surrounded by their own. Black people grow up around black people, Jews grow up around Jews — but gay people usually have to wait until early adulthood to meet more than a couple of other people like them. Moreover, we are not simply informed from birth that we are gay; even in the best-case scenario, it is a years-long process of discovery that involves a lot of serious self-questioning and self-analysis — and this process comes to a head during the already-difficult adolescent years. Moreover, nature, not culture, determines how many of us there are: being a racial or religious minority is relative to where you live, but in every nation on Earth, only about 2-3% of the population is GLBT. So, no matter what, gay people experience at least some sense of isolation while growing up.
In my experience, gay people, considered as a whole, relative to straight people, seem to have a distinct sense of humor — with a greater emphasis on wit and snark — are more world-weary, more aesthetically androgynous, more sexually adventurous, more theatrical, less surprised by people’s idiosyncrasies, more skeptical of convention, and have a deep longing for some ‘je ne sais quoi’ that will make them feel more at home in the world. I do not believe that homosexuality is just a ‘gay version of being straight,’ to put it a certain way — the way liberalism seems to be encouraging people to think of homosexuality: ‘They’re really no different.’ But I think we are different. And I want people to investigate and appreciate those differences — not pretend, in the name of sociopolitical ideology, that they don’t exist.