Not So Long Ago

Hendrick Hertzberg has a good piece on the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In it, he quotes a 1966 article from Time called “The Homosexual in America“. It’s worth reading as a stunning reminder of exactly how far we’ve come in the last forty three years. For instance:

“Both [male homosexuality and lesbianism] are essentially a case of arrested development, a failure of learning, a refusal to accept the full responsibilities of life. This is nowhere more apparent than in the pathetic pseudo marriages in which many homosexuals act out conventional roles — wearing wedding rings, calling themselves “he” and “she.”


“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.”

For some reason, the tone in which this is written bothers me almost as much as the content: it’s somehow curdled. The condescension, the fake knowingness, the pervasive underlying “heh heh heh” — it sets my teeth on edge.

As long as one gay man or lesbian is denied the right to marry, or legally discriminated against because of his or her sexual orientation, or asked to leave the military after honorable service, we haven’t come far enough. But we have come a long, long way.