[Cross-posted on The Gay Place, Austin Chronicle's LGBT blog.]
It's kinda funny, except for the fact that it's not.
What's unsettling to me is how much this video gets right, if I can extrapolate from my experiences as a teenager in small-town Indiana in the 70s. (This video was made in the 50s, but small-town Indiana in the 70s is roughly equivalent to the 50s.) There actually were homosexuals driving around looking for action. But they weren't looking for unsuspecting straight boys, they were looking for others like themselves. I would have been ecstatic if one of them had pulled up and offered me a ride, listened to me, touched my shoulder, showed me porn. Ecstatic. As a teenager, I used to spend hours walking around town, hoping. I never did get picked up by the man in a car -- but I did, at 16, have my first sexual experience with a man much like the one in the video.
My puberty -- this fundamental human experience of becoming a sexual person -- was saturated, marinated, stewed in ideas of crime, pathology, risk, and shame. I don't say this in an effort to get sympathy. (Yes, I'm a victim of a horrendous injustice. Don't try to tell me I'm not. But, at the same time, there's no need to dwell on it.) I go back to this story because I want to bring some kind of understanding or perspective to this conversation we're having about whether or not homosexuals are just like heterosexuals except for their erotic orientation. Does my status as a survivor of trauma set me apart in a meaningful way?
And, here's the big question: even though the culture, at least in the West, is obviously much much better for queer kids growing up now, they are still, and I imagine always will be, disproportionately raised by heterosexuals. Is this experience of being aliens in their own families built into human biology? Is it just a failure of my imagination, the fact that I think we will always be different?
(This post was inspired by a wonderful essay by Dave White on Advocate.com and the accompanying CBS News video from 1967.)