Page 257 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
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Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer                237
                In its whole history, San Francisco had never let “a stranger wait out-
             side its Golden Gate,” and especially not outside its Golden Gate YMCA.
             In the 1970s, San Francisco was suddenly teeming with thousands of gay
             refugees fleeing sexual, religious, and legal persecution. Other thousands
             arrived to carry on the 1960s hippie party of sex, drugs, and rock. Immi-
             gration’s linguistic issues are often difficult, but, in the case of homosexu-
             als, how were media to frame “sexual outlaws”? Even as San Francisco
             became gay Mecca, when the Ritch Street Baths caught fire very late
             one night in 1972, the morning Chronicle tapped code about the safe
             evacuation of hundreds of “slender young men in towels,” because gay and
             homosexual were not fully “out” from the penumbra of libel.
                Sex itself made the gay migration different from previous immigrants
             whose identity was keyed in race, nationality, and language. Sex and law
             and morality collided around labeling gay immigrants in ways that other
             immigrants, say, Irish or Jewish, defused alienation with cooking, music,
             and universal images of burgeoning pregnant family life — a trope now
             become a latter-day essential in the gay marriage crusade.
                Language also relates, if anything can, the Black experience with the
             gay experience. Queer speak is as essential to gay identity as rap is to Black
             culture. Aside from all the controversies over “Ebonics” and Polari, the
             bilingual truth is that Blacks and gays both understand standard Ameri-
             can English while speaking their own dialects not reciprocally understood
             by standard Americans. Actually, straight readers of gay fiction and non-
             fiction frequently mention that gay speak so eludes them they need a
             glossary or a gay interpreter named Bruce. Farther afield, fundamentalists
             see gays not as immigrants, but as colonists, whom they further reframe
             as terrorists, threatening their “family values” and their revenue source
             in the tax base for income and inheritance skewed against unmarried
             people. 1
                In  the  American  culture  war,  eschatological  TV  preacher  Jerry
             Falwell on September 14, 2001, blamed the events of 9/11 on his key
             litany of “homosexuals, abortionists, and the ACLU.” (But, of course!
             Gays had practiced by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, even as they
             gentrify all other cities.) The word homophobia had only climbed into the
             dictionary in 1972 with George Weinberg’s book, Society and the Healthy
             Homosexual. In 1977, fundamentalist David A. Noebel wrote the book,
             The Homosexual Revolution: End-Time Abomination, which describes gay
             speak as “not in most people’s frames of reference . . . . Who would suspect
             that the homosexual sub-culture language contains over 12,000 terms
             used by homosexuals to identify themselves and their needs.” Noebel fails
             to credit the value of his source, The Queen’s Vernacular, even as he spins
             that jolly glossary against itself as if it were some evil Masonic incantation.

           ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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