Jan 142022

This post is snippets of an informal conversation with Mr K, which I’m posting while on vacation. I don’t necessarily endorse any of these views, and may oppose some of them. I won’t be around to respond to comments for a couple weeks.


The queer counterculture that manifested for example as the house ballroom culture of 90s New York or as the disco movement in the 70s barely exists anymore, with LGBT spaces having been filled largely by young trans women, most of whom are headed towards university degrees, often in STEM, which is an enormously unrealistic path in life for most people of the original gay counterculture.

As for gay men, what we have instead looks a lot more like assimilation to a normative way of living than it looks like genuine acceptance. Consider for example how flamboyance and to an extent male femininity continues being stigmatised.

I’m just pointing out that the history of the gay counterculture does not look at all like a great victory for the counterculture

it looks more like a crushing defeat, largely from the AIDS epidemic, and then the establishment turning out to be somewhat merciful and allowing us to assimilate if we can. Not all of us can, and then the situation really does look rather damning.

Gay people can assimilate to be accepted, adopting a mainstream lifestyle only differing with regards to the sex of their long term partner, whom they may marry and, in USA probably even adopt children with

pursuing some white collar job like accounting or journalism or another of the jobs mentioned in Scott Alexander’s blogpost there

I would say they ([most aspects of gay counterculture]) have become more stigmatised over the past few decades

the modern concept of homosexuality as being just sexual attraction isolated from any other aspects of personality is a recent invention and has no basis in fact

expecting a gay man to act as a straight man except for dating is pretty darn repressive

it perpetuates a pressure of conformity, because the fervent denial of stereotypes beyond all reason serves to perpetuate a stigma on stereotypical behaviour

so like I was, lots of gay men are desperate to disprove the stereotypes by being very much just regular guys. It’s a burdensome performance in the long run

this kind of stigma is widely recognised in the gay community, sometimes discussed as a kind of internalised homophobia. What’s less openly discussed is how the opportunity and pressure to assimilate has resulted in fewer “inner victories” against societal pressure, removing the counterculture that built confidence and toughness through hardship and substituting it for having gay people repress themselves into conformity.

fiery support provided a counterpoint to the societal pressure, but the current form that LGBT advocacy takes is predominantly not a fiery support for countercultural living, but a fiery support for the right to assimilate into normality. It does not have the same effect at bolstering people’s conviction in their right to live as they want.

I guess the post-AIDS gay movement could be said to have won, but that is an entirely different movement from the one we think of when we think of historical gay movement (eg. stonewall riots, harvey milk, gay liberation front, first pride parades, etc). The gay counterculture died to AIDS in the 80s.

  2 Responses to “Mr K – Did Gays Lose?”

  1. There is surely a Venn diagram of ( attracted to same-sex partners ( ) enthusiastic member of queer counterculture ). The relevant info to have here would be the relative sizes, then and now, of the different partitions of this Venn diagram. Mr K speaks anecdotally about people in the overlap section, but if there are many more people on the left lobe than previously, that explains the observed phenomenon. This seems like a case that would be rife with Generalizing From One Example, wherein every queer individual tacitly assumes that everyone falls in the same section of the VD that they do.

  2. I think you are probably right about how mainstream culture only endorced ‘normalness’. But that’s kind of what mainstream culture is, isn’t it? The worship if being ‘normal’?

    So there are some gay people who stick to gay culture, some who left it for ‘normality’ once it became an option, some who felt forced out of gay culture, and probably some who joined a different subculture that they felt fit them better.

    As some subcultures become more accepted, they get more members as little who were reluctant to join before feel free to do so. (See gaming\anime). That didn’t happen to gay culture because it’s gay’s only. It wasn’t accepting new straight members to replace the gay ones leaving, even if straight people might have wanted to. (If you’ve ever heard jokes about ‘breeders invading our spaces.)

    I think there might be a general trend lately that all subcultures end up getting either normalized or seen as increasing unacceptable. With the internet it’s easier to give that you’ve joined a subculture, so they all less popular and their less acceptable.

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