A GAY MAN wins half a million dollars on ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and embraces his boyfriend on national television. Vermont creates "civil unions" for same-sex couples. NBC moves Will & Grace (and Jack & Karen) to its "must-see" Thursday night lineup. George W. Bush meets with gay and lesbian Republicans. The Central Intelligence Agency hosts its second annual gay pride party for queer employees. The Wall Street Journal publishes a thoughtful piece on pre-Stonewall anti-gay harassment. The Texas Supreme Court overturns that state's discriminatory, gay-specific sodomy law. A Los Angeles Times poll shows that three out of four Americans are "comfortable around" gays and lesbians, and three out of five Americans support marriage-like benefits (though not marriage itself) for gay and lesbian couples.
Of course, the news hasn't all been good. Two states--Utah and Mississippi--passed laws banning adoptions by gay and lesbian couples this year; Lon Mabon and the Oregon Citizens Alliance are baaaack; and the same Los Angeles Times poll that showed straight Americans increasingly comfortable with gays and lesbians also showed that two-thirds of straight Americans view gay relationships as "morally repugnant."
But despite a few setbacks and contradictions, it's clear that we are living in a time of unprecedented social change. Gays and lesbians are being so rapidly assimilated into the mainstream of American life that it sometimes feels as if we may drown. Much of what we think of as gay culture--the attitudes, hairstyles, sex, and lefty politics that set us apart--is being rapidly undermined by a mainstream culture that wants to see us assimilated, as well as by gays and lesbians who want to assimilate.
In the coming post-assimilation era, will young gay men still engage in diva worship? Will the gay lefties still run the show? Will lesbian self-righteousness and gay anger always be with us? What about the organic kale boycott? Will a day come when gays and lesbians no longer drink in gay bars, get gay haircuts, and wave rainbow flags? For our annual Queer Issue, we asked gay and lesbian writers to take a look at manifestations of gay culture--the gay left, gay hair, gay ghettos--and make some predictions about what will and will not survive assimilation. Their conclusions may surprise you.--Dan Savage