Saturday, July 11, 2009

What were once vices are now habits

The 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots provides an occasion to quote from this Time magazine piece from 1966 back when the world was, by repute, swinging.
[homosexuality] is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste—and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.
In the 60s the only homosexual I was aware of was our local butcher and that was because he was said to be in court from time to time. On the bigger stage there were certainly no openly homosexual actors or musicians, let alone politicians. Stonewall triggered a movement which eventually arrived here as the Gay Liberation Front. At the beginning of the 70s I was in a scummy flat in Turnpike Lane with a number of flatmates, one of whom had come out in a most flamboyant way. Our flat became a meeting place and crashpad for members of the GLF Youth Group, a movement which combined self-righteousness with copping-off opportunities that guaranteed its success. Within six months I graduated from not knowing a single homosexual to knowing hundreds of them, their language, their hang-outs, their mating habits and quite a bit about the mechanics of sexual congress. Had any of those people at the time been told that the first wedding my youngest daughter would be invited to on her own would be the civil partnership of a gay couple, I suspect they would have been amazed, as much by the fact that the couple were women as anything else.

This is the odd thing about change. It's deucedly unpredictable. We don't march in lock step towards the light. There are all sorts of curious mis-steps and wrong turnings. Gay Liberation was triggered by Stonewall. It might never have happened. Actually, the group who appeared ripest for liberation at the time were schoolkids who were loudly demanding the right to ruin their own lives, marching in the streets and waving the Little Red School Book. That's one emancipation movement that's gone backwards if anything. In the last forty years the argument that children should be shielded from real life has prevailed, often with the happy support of the children themselves who have benefited materially just as their own independence has been reduced.

When I read pieces like the Time editorial above I can't help thinking that some of the opinions held by people who think of themselves as moderate and liberal will appear equally ludicrous in ten years time.

1 comment:

  1. For some time I've shared your fascination with our changing social morés and shifting standards of what is acceptable and what beyond the pale.

    My prediction: within 30 years such expressions as "What a dog you ended up with last night, mate" will be considered to be not only sexist but also speciesist. Teachers telling their pupils to stop "monkeying around" will be reported and sanctioned. A licence will be required to keep any kind of pet, and the screening process will be almost as stringent as the one for human adoptions.

    Oh, and meat will be taxed as highly as tobacco and alcohol.