In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Dustin Goltz of DePaul University explains the shifting meaning of “coming out” among different generations within the gay community.
Dustin Goltz is an assistant professor in the College of Communication at DePaul University. His teaching and research interests include queer theory, representations of gender and sexuality in popular culture, homonormativity and heteronormativity, LGBTQ social movements, and queer activism.
Dr. Dustin Goltz – Evolving Gay Culture
When speaking of “the” gay and lesbian community, phrases like “coming out,”"gay pride," “the gay community,” or even “gay identity” are assumed to have a shared meaning for those who identified with and through these words. However, research suggests a range of factors are transforming how different age cohorts understand what it is to be LGBTQ and identify with “the gay community.”
Men who “came out” from pre-stonewall through the early years of the AIDS pandemic articulate “gay culture” through a series of clustered traits: pride; hard won accomplishment, once-hidden and discovered, and a “different world” that was hidden and discovered. “Coming out” was less a public declaration than making one’s identity visible within the gay underground- an initiation into Gay culture, gay sensibility and the strategic navigation of dual worlds.
For gay men who came out after 2000, gay culture/community was no longer a discovery, as it was always there. No longer spatialized as a location or underground sensibility, gayness is a commodified series of values, meanings, and styles. To come out is to publically declare one’s sexual identity (in relation to this ever-present idea of mainstream gayness. Gay culture, rather than a refuge of escape to discover others “like me” was written as vacuous, hollow, and a stumbling block to achieve self-discovery beyond gayness- often “more constricting than liberating.” Success was articulated as growing up and moving beyond the gay community.
These shifting perspectives across age cohorts complicate how we assume shared meanings within “the” gay community, trace important movements in what it means to “come out” and have “gay pride.”