Fighting Internalize Homophobia

I have a young kid coming into the studio this afternoon who I am really looking forward to working with. I met with him last week and did my regular interview kind of screening process. He is 19 years old and I was completely blown away by his comfort level and openness. He seems to have an amazing boyfriend whom he totally adores and whom I met briefly and is as adorable. I totally related to this kid instantly and I felt a strong bond after the first meeting. It’s got me thinking this morning how much the world has changed since my early days of being gay and entry into this sort of lifestyle. It amazes me how easy it has become to connect to this younger generation. Most of the barriers that once divided us are now open. Back when I was first coming out you didn’t dare talk to older people, and people of my current age were referred to as trolls, often to be avoided. Viewed as lonely old men who lead desperate lives of isolation, becoming lecherous old men who only wanted to seduce you and use you for sex. I really don’t know if that is true or not, because I never gave it the opportunity. But, being of that age myself now doesn’t seem true at all as I am the exact opposite. Perhaps just an old gay urban myth, perhaps based in somewhat in truth. I pretty much stuck with, dated and had sex with people my own age and looking back now that was pretty lecherous in and of itself. You see, I was coming out in the early eighties when it seemed American culture was just coming into its sexual revolution. Sex was in many ways our liberation. Hook-ups were common and bars, even straight ones for straight people in Montana were known as meat markets. We really didn’t have to communicate with others, it was all about exploring a deeper connection that transcended language. It seemed to become about feeling and satisfaction and comfort and pushing the boundaries. It kind of felt like everyone was willing to explore some side of themselves just for the openness of the experience. Gaydar ruled supreme and you could connect with any one at any time in super market checkout stands, bookstores and public parks. There was an instant attraction to others, all recognizable in a fleeting glance. It seems it was a period of extreme impulse and openness, our own homophobias were more internalized because we had been hidden for so long and didn’t really remember any discrimination from others who were not gay. It was like an era when the world was accepting of each other and we were maturing as a culture. Perhaps this was only in Missoula, because Missoula was the liberal Mecca of Montana. Once I began to meet friends, they become a regular group of guys I could hang with and we were very social. There was one particular house in Missoula that we all could hang and just be ourselves and our bonds were so strong. We didn’t really do drugs so it wasn’t the binding factor like today. There was just solidarity and comfort in hanging with like minded people. We planned all sorts of events, picnics in the park, outdoor events, opened an office in Missoula in the Wilma under an organizational name of “Out in Montana”. It was an amazing time for being young and open about who you where. It was a time to fall in love for the first time and I followed my passion, which took me to central Illinois and then to Dallas, had my heart ripped out, and returned to Montana a couple of years later. When I had returned things had changed. Much of that older crowd was suddenly gone. The beautiful bubble had burst as AIDS was beginning to devastate and swallow up the entire community: lost, disjointed, fractured. Of course at that time we didn’t even know what it was, people just began to disappear never to be heard of again, the silent epidemic creeping at the fringe.

So today I am excited to meet and photograph a young kid who still has the idealism I had in my youth and ignites the enthusiasm for a culture I think is emerging into a healthy social network. Where we can communicate with each other and we are not afraid to meet and share a common understanding. To me gay culture is still fractures in so many ways, but with this kid I see a hope. So today’s image is going to be a exploration of the beautiful nature of his enthusiasm. Perhaps art can transcend those old barriers as we create a new role model and strengthen ourselves as a community once again.

One thought on “Fighting Internalize Homophobia

  1. Chantz Thilmony

    >The stereotypes and ageism in the gay community are still alive and well. As a young gay man who works with young gay men I can tell you that most are just as hesitant as their predecessors about befriending or approaching older gay men for fear of being sexually used or initiating unwanted sexual advances. One of the most frequent comments I hear from older gay men about the younger generation is that we are foolish and we will never understand the consequences of risky sexual behaviors because we didn't witness the epidemic. Although their are certainly grains of truth to both generalizations I feel the different generations are still unreasonably pitted against eachother.

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