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Opinion: When It Comes to Gay Identity, Is the Tail Wagging Our Dog?

Thu, Aug 10, 2017   By Don Kilhefner    4 Comments

A well-known Victorian actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, once famously remarked about homosexuals that she didn’t care what they did as long as they didn’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses. Just when American society is beginning to adjust slowly to the idea of same-sex marriage without stampeding, I would like to introduce another idea that might make the horses restless: it’s true, there are some essential differences between gay and straight people, and those differences might hold the key to the gay future.

For the past 150 years of gay and lesbian intellectual history, the primary split regarding identity has been between the ideas of gay assimilation and gay essentialism.

Gay assimilation says that the only difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals are a few perverse sexual practices, otherwise, homosexuals are just like heterosexuals. There are no other basic differences. Gay assimilationists accept the sexual orientation model of gay identity, an identity based on same-sex sexual behavior.

Gay essentialism says that being gay is important, that gays contribute in a uniquely essential way (to read more, click here).

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Don Kilhefner

About Don Kilhefner

Don Kilhefner, Ph.D., a pioneer Gay Liberationist and community organizer in Los Angeles and nationally for the past 50 years, has played an important role in the political, communal, intellectual and spiritual life of gay people. He is also a Jungian depth psychologist. Currently he is writing “You'll Never Be Alone Again: Gay Liberation, Community, Identity” (Los Angeles, 1969-1979). Contact him at donkilhefner@sbcglobal.net.

View all posts by Don Kilhefner →

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4 Comments

  1. Jack GoelzMon, Aug 28, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks Don! That was very refreshing and thoughtful and interesting. I can’t say that I have thought this through as clearly as I now can after reading your article, but I have been disappointed in the “straightening-out” of gay culture that I have witnessed here in LA. I did have some hope that gay politics might be different in West Hollywood but that was quashed as I saw that my own friends could still be brutalized by West Hollywood sheriffs with impunity. I do remember a gay employer once complaining that in the days before “legalization” there were real queens and real characters that he didn’t see anymore. I think there are some real queens and characters left. But I also think being gay is more than equal rights as important as they are. So yes, put the Gay back in Gay Pride.

  2. SEEKER OF RIGHTEOUSNESSWed, Aug 16, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    There is love within gay couples as well as straight couples. This is essential. I personally don’t need to go into intellectual theories. There is “lack of love” in couples too. The pain that one partner feels for the other, say if he or she dies of a heart attack is the same whether couple is gay or straight.

    I will say this. I believe porn, whether gay or heterosexual should not be viewable to the public. Some parents may not want their children seeing these kinds of images. Say, a family is on vacation from Ohio. Say, they have 3 children 6, 9 and 12. They have a RIGHT “protect” their children from such images. Some billboards in the City, I think, have crossed the line. Whether “we” agree or disagree with the tastes of such people; they too have rights vis-a-vis their children. The same goes for sexually explicit scenes on TV. It must be difficult to “protect” children these days.

    Finally, on gay marriage, no minister should be FORCED to marry a couple that he or she feels uncomfortable about. The same with a bakery that doesn’t want to make a wedding cake for, say, a gay couple. For crying out loud, there are beaucoups bakeries in the world. It is more loving to respect the views of such people rather than sue them out of business. How is this a good thing?

    Instead, let’s focus on lunatics who walk into a certain nightclub because it is known as a “gay nightclub” and then murder 50 innocent people.

    Let’s hope the process of assimilation continues so that gay individuals feel more at ease in society in general.

  3. Jimmy PalmieriSat, Aug 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    I JUST DON’T BUY INTO THIS THEORY. in this day and age it isn’t relevant any longer.

  4. Donald E AzarsThu, Aug 10, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do and think whatever you want to believe, just don’t interfere with my rights to be, do and believe what I want. It’s kind of a “golden rule” don’t you think?

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