The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis both did it intentionally in the ’50s, and it was probably the most aggressive option to say “we are normal, just like you” at a time when police were encouraged to raid gay bars, arrest patrons and publish their names and faces in the newspaper the following day. However, “just like you” literally bleached queer people of color from the movement and rendered trans people invisible, because “just like you” referred to white men in power and their wives who had the sway to validate any queer identity legally. Assimilation was successful in that discrimination against LGBT people is now illegal in many forms, but it also created an “acceptable gay man,” and he was white and masculine and certainly did not say “darling.” It also created and validated a favorite excuse for anti-gay bigotry, “I’m fine with gay people as long as they don’t flaunt it,” because suddenly there were gay people who were not “normal.” “Normal” gay men today ape that heterosexual excuse for bigotry by blaming “abnormal” gays for the the maltreatment of gays as a whole.
And although the ’50s were over 60 years ago, that attitude remains pervasive: Look at any on gay dating website or smartphone app and you’ll see our twisted heritage as “preferences” based on a hierarchy of who can pass as a successful straight man: “Looking for masc, musc, no femmes, white only.” Though the irony that none of us is straight does not escape me, I’d like to focus more on how regressive this is; we are literally contributing to our own oppression by upholding this bizarre heritage of misogyny created in the ’50s.
So let’s make life easier on all queer people and stop mimicking the worst parts of heterosexism.