What are we going to work for, after all of us can get married? And what, now that we have DADT repealed? Will they really accept us then? And will we be happy? What about the people who don’t get married? Or who don’t go into the Army? Who don’t want children? What will be our relation to the larger culture? And what should be our culture’s relationship to us? What is going to happen to our gay bars? It’s already happening to our gay bookstores. And do we like that? Many of us know that Provincetown is changing. What will P-town be like when everybody in what used to be called the gay community is married and has children and serves in the Army? Will there be drag queens then?
Our culture will be different, sure, but it will also be poorer, less diverse, less vibrant, less capable of giving its children another way to be different. Right now, being gay means something radically important—the will to assert the right to be different. In huge technological cultures like ours in the US, the right to be different is valuable to the individual and to the culture as a whole. The people who made Apple Computer were different and thought differently and so made a different and surprising and beautiful computer. But in ways even more valuable, we will miss Marcel Proust, E.M.Forster, Christopher Isherwood, Alan Turing, Cole Porter, W. H. Auden, who are what they are, in part because they are gay. What they added to the culture because they were gay was immeasurable.
In 2011, Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher published a study in Pediatrics that asserted that “suicide rates among teenagers are dependent upon which county a teenager lives in.’” Harzenbuehler said “the results show that ‘environments that are good for gay youth are also healthy for heterosexual youth.’” It may be that the mere presence of gay kids is good for straight kids.
This is something that Jane Jacobs, in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1961, understood. A good neighborhood was a neighborhood with a cross-section of different kinds of people. And according to Jill Grant, Jane Jacobs believed that “cities have natural advantages over towns and suburbs because size gives them the diversity that generates vitality.” Generates vitality. It’s a goal for all people who care about our culture. In our cities, there should be space for African-Americans, for Spanish-speaking Americans, for Chinese, for other ethnic minorities from around the world, and for those who are a whole range of sexualities and genders. And these citizens should not be assimilated to be called Americans.
Men and women who are not married and who don’t have children, who read gay books and rent porno videos, who refuse to go into the Army, and who call themselves queers instead of gay people, who are the least assimilated of our tribe, are important to the culture of America and add to the diversity that generates the vitality of this nation. Meddle with us at your peril. Literally.
Reconsidering Jane Jacobs. ed. Max Page and Timothy Mennel, American Planning Association, Chicago: Planners Press, 2011. p. 99