Out in Time: From Stonewall to Queer, How Gay Men Came of Age Across the Generations

Image of Out in Time: The Public Lives of Gay Men from Stonewall to the Queer Generation
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
June 3, 2019
Publisher/Imprint: 
Oxford University Press
Pages: 
192
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“The stories presented here constitute a further step in dispelling negative stereotypes and in enabling gay men of these three generations to own their dignity.”

Out in Time: from Stonewall to Queer, How Gay Men Came of Age Across the Generations documents the “coming out” stories of 15 gay men from three different phases in the evolution of gay rights in the US; the milestone of the riots at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1969; the AIDS generation (“1981 was the year when the viral enemy was first encountered”); and the current Queer Generation with a “progressive attitude toward gender fluidity.”

All the men interviewed, five from each phase, are gay and cisgender i.e. identifying with the masculine gender identity that has been theirs from birth. They also reflect a diversity of racial, ethnicity, nationality and socio-economic backgrounds.

Halkitis considers that while coming out in each evolutionary phase has its special characteristics both in terms of familial and larger societal acceptance, as well as rights gained, there are consistencies in experience across the generations, and there is a need for greater solidarity and communication of the gay experience between generations.

The analytical commentary is interspaced with boxed passages of quotation from interviewees. This format works rather well, though only in the first chapter do we hear from the full range of 15 men, and not all of those interviewed are able in this format to establish a distinctive voice.

Exceptions to the rule for this reviewer are Tom (a financier turned social worker, with a psychiatrist partner of 35 years) from the Stonewall generation; Huang from the AIDS generation (“a 42 year-old, HIV-negative man of Chinese descent . . . raised in a Catholic family”); and Yasar, a Ghanaian-American who “describes the complex synergies of sexual identity, race, ethnicity, culture and class that defines one’s identity.” Yasar also draws distinctions between LGBTQ and QTPOC (Queer, Transgender, and People of Color).

After a promisingly detailed start the subsequent chapters Being, Telling, and Otherness are rather shapeless and repetitive. Several different schema for the coming out process (e.g. “interpretation, internalization, and reconciliation”) are introduced without being thoroughly compared or explored.

One of the most successful chapters is (Hyper)Masculinity, which discusses how the norms of “toxic masculinity” are inculcated from an early age” reinforcing binary gender norms and hegemonic masculinity” in both gay and straight boys. Halkitis points out that “Homophobia is a key element of masculinity . . . and that . . . internalized homophobia is a psychosocial state with which many gay men grapple . . . our inability to effectively confront this state keeps us closeted, or even if out, to adopt the personality of a ‘macho man’ as characterized by the Village People’s 1978 disco hit.” The internalization of narrow conceptions of masculinity and its conflation with sexuality creates hierarchies within the gay community “resulting in the shaming of sissy boys, girly men, and/or sexual bottoms (i.e. receptive partners).”

Although referencing LGBTQ throughout it is only in the final chapter that we find any reference to others than G and Q, or indeed to that other notable minority, women. African Americans are also highlighted as a significant minority which the US Constitution is “not designed to protect.”

Halkitis sees the struggles in which all of these constituencies have been and are engaged “as necessary to uncover and own their dignity” and to defend themselves against the macro- and micro-aggressions that they face on a daily basis. The stories presented here constitute a further step in dispelling negative stereotypes and in enabling gay men of these three generations to own their dignity.

“The stories presented here constitute a further step in dispelling negative stereotypes and in enabling gay men of these three generations to own their dignity.”

Out in Time: from Stonewall to Queer, How Gay Men Came of Age Across the Generations documents the “coming out” stories of 15 gay men from three different phases in the evolution of gay rights in the US; the milestone of the riots at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1969; the AIDS generation (“1981 was the year when the viral enemy was first encountered”); and the current Queer Generation with a “progressive attitude toward gender fluidity.”

All the men interviewed, five from each phase, are gay and cisgender i.e. identifying with the masculine gender identity that has been theirs from birth. They also reflect a diversity of racial, ethnicity, nationality and socio-economic backgrounds.

Halkitis considers that while coming out in each evolutionary phase has its special characteristics both in terms of familial and larger societal acceptance, as well as rights gained, there are consistencies in experience across the generations, and there is a need for greater solidarity and communication of the gay experience between generations.

The analytical commentary is interspaced with boxed passages of quotation from interviewees. This format works rather well, though only in the first chapter do we hear from the full range of 15 men, and not all of those interviewed are able in this format to establish a distinctive voice.

Exceptions to the rule for this reviewer are Tom (a financier turned social worker, with a psychiatrist partner of 35 years) from the Stonewall generation; Huang from the AIDS generation (“a 42 year-old, HIV-negative man of Chinese descent . . . raised in a Catholic family”); and Yasar, a Ghanaian-American who “describes the complex synergies of sexual identity, race, ethnicity, culture and class that defines one’s identity.” Yasar also draws distinctions between LGBTQ and QTPOC (Queer, Transgender, and People of Color).

After a promisingly detailed start the subsequent chapters Being, Telling, and Otherness are rather shapeless and repetitive. Several different schema for the coming out process (e.g. “interpretation, internalization, and reconciliation”) are introduced without being thoroughly compared or explored.

One of the most successful chapters is (Hyper)Masculinity, which discusses how the norms of “toxic masculinity” are inculcated from an early age” reinforcing binary gender norms and hegemonic masculinity” in both gay and straight boys. Halkitis points out that “Homophobia is a key element of masculinity . . . and that . . . internalized homophobia is a psychosocial state with which many gay men grapple . . . our inability to effectively confront this state keeps us closeted, or even if out, to adopt the personality of a ‘macho man’ as characterized by the Village People’s 1978 disco hit.” The internalization of narrow conceptions of masculinity and its conflation with sexuality creates hierarchies within the gay community “resulting in the shaming of sissy boys, girly men, and/or sexual bottoms (i.e. receptive partners).”

Although referencing LGBTQ throughout it is only in the final chapter that we find any reference to others than G and Q, or indeed to that other notable minority, women. African Americans are also highlighted as a significant minority which the US Constitution is “not designed to protect.”

Halkitis sees the struggles in which all of these constituencies have been and are engaged “as necessary to uncover and own their dignity” and to defend themselves against the macro- and micro-aggressions that they face on a daily basis. The stories presented here constitute a further step in dispelling negative stereotypes and in enabling gay men of these three generations to own their dignity.