I hope many of you are already reading The Gay Men Project. If you aren’t I’m glad to introduce you to it. It is, I suppose, something like Humans of New York, but both larger and more narrow. I love reading the first person accounts of these men’s lives. How diverse their experiences are, how different. Seeing the older men talk about the times they came out, how they came out, how being gay affected their lives. And the younger men, not all, but so many saying how being gay is such a small part of their identity, just a thing, nothing to make a big deal about.
I think about this a lot, this split. I am so grateful, so thankful, that simply being gay is slowly becoming meaningless. Just an aspect of a person, not their entire identity. This is hugely important and the kind of acceptance we’ve been fighting for all these years. And I feel a little loss in the face of it. ‘Gay’ has never been a homogenous (heh) culture but a mass of connected subcultures and it’s hard to see those dissapear. Yes, the terrible sterotypes, the negative judgements are washing away with them and good riddance. But there was once a narrative that we are losing. An oral tradition of sorts, codes of conduct, akin to secret handshakes, passed down from generation to generation. And even the stereotypes weren’t all bad, many existed and allowed you to find your own, even when outsiders couldn’t quite see what was going on.
Truly the need for secrecy was awful. It existed to keep gay people safe. That there was so much threat, to their jobs, lives, and persons, that it required being hidden was terrible. Being 40, I lived only on the very far edges of that, heard about, passed down verbally to me, as the history of a subculture. I’m glad the threat is lessening, dissipating. But the stories, the transfer of information from person to person is disappearing too. Becoming ancient lore, mythology, something barely seen. Subtext in old books and movies is lost, without this code and key to understand it. And that part I’m going to miss when it’s gone. It’s becoming a humorous stereotype of all it’s own, gay movies now filled with a greek chorus of older gay men shaking their heads at the youth of today for not knowing the great gay icons, not knowing the struggle.
The Gay Men Project preserves some of this passed on history. You can see bits and pieces of it in older men’s stories, still being shared, in a different way to the next generation.
I also love the diversity of pictures, of people. In an era when gay men’s bodies are becoming as scrutinized and modified as women’s have long been, it’s nice to have a break from the sculpted abs and designer clothes. To see real people shouldn’t be be so refreshing, but it is and it’s a great reminder that being out is what gives us all freedom. When you can see that these are simply your neighbors, your friends, your family, integral parts of your community. Not monsters or perverts, but average people, it’s so very important to the cause, to equality, to freedom.
So thanks, Kevin Truong, for the work you’re doing to relay this these beautiful stories and pictures.