Who’s that gay person in the mirror?
It’s not who you might think — and that is likely to mean a whole lot for the community’s future view from within, as well as seen from the outside.
The so-called headline news in recent reports on the economic demography of lesbian and gay Americans is that we’re not all upper-income or financially secure. In other words, we really are like most everyone else.
The “myth of gay affluence” — as it’s being called — is partly a creation at our own hands. Alongside marketing agencies and consumer evaluators, the gay community was all too eager and pleased to have its self-worth portrayed in the context of economic power. In the days preceding the advent of rapid advancement and expansion in the geographic breadth of LGBT civil equality and breakthroughs on the right to marry, a marginalized market segment could take comfort in the fact that our measure mattered to someone.
Our business profile trumped our political clout.
The notion that the gay community differs significantly in economic condition from the general population, however, is also likely overstated. In fact, education, economic background, locale, coupled status and occupational choices, among other divergent factors, tend to be of more importance. In other words, gays living in poverty are generally not poor because they are gay.
Even the recent report by the LGBT-focused Williams Institute think tank at the UCLA law school trumpeting top-line assertions of a higher poverty level among gays and lesbians than heterosexual counterparts actually said as much.
Buried in the detail was an acknowledgment that the conclusions came with the caveat of statistical uncertainty and are reflective of a complex subset of circumstances. Some of the primary observations indicated relatively marginal comparative variation and were admittedly subject to the vagaries of a dearth of relevant or broad-based data. In other words, while a differential may well exist, it may not be substantial nor either attributable or unique to sexual orientation.
As broad nationwide shifts in attitude accelerate causing more gay people in less accommodating areas to find the courage to openly identify as gay, the diversity of our community becomes more evident. This both better reveals the range of who we are while simultaneously reflecting the multiplicity of our economic conditions. In other words, we become visible as more like the rest of America.
That is not to suggest that there are no real generational, situational or policy factors that impact the economics of those who are gay. However, the bewildering notion that any class distinctions are exclusively or even mostly due to discrimination based on sexual orientation is, at best, an oversimplification and, at worst, essentially false. In other words, replacing one myth with another is ridiculous.
Yet LGBT leftists would have us believe otherwise. The clarion call by some activists to sound the alarm of victimization is a transparent attempt to prevent any further weakening in the already diminishing prevalence of cultural thought-uniformity within the ranks. They suggest the solution to this purported intrinsic inequality is adoption of, and adherence to, a particular political perspective and ballot box agenda as obligatory simply because of being lesbian or gay.
Suddenly it starts to feel like being gay is akin to being trapped inside a 1960s episode of old-fashioned television’s “The Patty Duke Show” — where those gays, well, you know, “they laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike.”
The irony, of course, is that as the LGBT community is recognized from both inside and out as being as diverse as the rest of society, the closet door flings open to reveal that we, in fact, are. Attempts at enforcing a freedom-less communal hegemony in order to demand a collectivized political viewpoint within a community increasingly assimilated as the achievement of equality are ultimately doomed.
In other words, we aren’t all the same.