When we began the lesbian/gay liberation movement shortly after Stonewall, I was in it with both feet. I stomped around in my shit-kicker lace-up boots being a revolutionary dyke in the company of others like me. We had been through hell before the movement started, just for loving. I had been in love with a woman in high school and after two years of being together, we were caught, separated forever, and punished harshly.
The new concept of being “out” was one of the greatest thrills of my life and I was damned if I was going to be anything but out in my studded leather cap and jacket ala Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Those were also the early days of my training as a martial artist, and I was a bad girl on the streets. Very bad, if revengeful is bad. Those were kick-ass days indeed.
When I left the States for Israel in 1977, I suddenly had to go back into the closet. I knew how to do it having lived as a closeted lesbian from about 1963 to 1969. My youth was spent in that small dim place. I knew how to do it. I had the skills. I knew how to switch pronouns when I was being overheard on the phone. I used the closet language: “friend of Dorothy” or “part of the family.” I survived the mafia bars. I published my gay writing under a pen name when I had a job I could lose.
One of the joys of moving from Israel to England, where I lived throughout the 90s, was the ability to be 100% out there. At work, on the streets, in social settings. 100%. It was exhilarating.
So as I watch one devoted homophobe after another become part of Trump’s administration, I feel like it won’t be long before those discarded closets are going to be re-established. People may well have to be careful at work; be secretive in their houses of worship; misrepresent their relationships when they’re trying to rent an apartment. I’m not sure how safe it’s going to be to cuddle on the street or stroll along the river hand-in-hand. Kids could become an issue – getting them and keeping them.
I think of the few young gay friends I have. These folks weren’t even born when Stonewall came down. They never existed in a world where being queer meant having a mental disorder that required hideous therapies. Where you could be arrested for failing to wear three “sex appropriate” pieces of clothing. Where your sexual acts themselves were illegal.
I worry that we elders will have to run how-to workshops on self-loathing, cringing, pretending, avoiding, and self-defense. And all while the real perverts – the racist, woman-hating, queer-baiting assholes – drag this country into its darkest, dankest corner yet.