The University of Michigan has a new course on how to be gay.
Are certain types of movies, music, and books that gay men enjoy? I could see how gay men would prefer movies or books that feature gay characters, but why would a gay man be more likely to like opera, camp, or musicals? What would be the relation between same sex attraction and certain types of entertainment?
I think that parts of that class description are poorly written (or based on false assumptions), but yes, certainly there is a gay culture.
As to why should there be, well, I don’t know if culture is a matter of should or should not. I might argue that football is a part of male culture in America, but I wouldn’t know where to begin arguing about whether it’s justified in being so.
Whenever there are groups of people with things in common, cultures develop. So while not every gay guy is probably into whatever can be termed “gay culture,” I’m sure there is one and there is no reason there shouldn’t be.
Let me put this on a personal level. I knew I was attracted to other boys at the age of 5, but didn’t act on those feelings until I was in college. In the intervening years I didn’t know any openly-gay kids (nobody was openly-gay back then) and I didn’t know that there was such a thing as gay culture.
Yet . . . I developed, totally on my own, an appreciation of opera (including operetta), broadway musicals, certain female actresses and singers. I couldn’t get enough of the movies of Bette, Joan, Judy and Marilyn. I also had a natural flair for design, both interior and fashion.
Now I didn’t learn any of this from anyone, but these interests just grew in me spontaneously. I had no idea that they were part of any gay culture, and when I finally came out in college, was quite surprised that other gay guys had the same interests. There have been many, many books written about this subject, each with its own theories. All I know is that it is a commonality that crosses generations and geography. And I’ve known gay men who came out later in life, who are trying their darnedest to get caught up with the cultural references.
And by the way, there are several gay sub-cultures, e.g. leather culture, “boi” culture, etc.
And why should there be gay cultures? For the simple reason that there are gay people, and our life experiences aren’t always the same as yours. For the same reasons that there should be Black cultures, Jewish cultures, Asian cultures, teen cultures, etc. And of course there are Black gay culture, Jewish gay culture, etc.
Human beings pile many layers of learned behavior on top of our natural impulses. There have always been men who were attracted to other men, but this attraction has played out in differently in different cultures and different times.
Almost nothing about modern gay culture is a biological necessity. Most of its elements are completely arbitrary. But most elements of most cultural practices are arbitrary. Trying to find a causal link between Judy Garland and homosexual identity is like trying to find a causal link between John Wayne and heterosexual identity. But the arbitrary nature of culture doesn’t mean that it’s not worth studying. “Gay Culture” is a thing just a much as “The Protestant Reformation” is a thing.
I guess I didn’t mean why should there be a gay culture (even thought that is what I wrote), but why should there a gay culture that includes so many things that do not appear to have any connection to being gay? Why is gay men liking opera or camp any different from people who prefer redheads liking detective novels (as an example)? Why is about having same sex attraction that would make someone like certain entertainment? You stated that you were not involved in any sort of cultural learning you just liked these things. I really do not see any connection. What are some of the theories?
Statistically, lesbians/gays tend to like entertainment that tends to be favored by the opposite gender more than the other members of their gender does. It does make sense I think, since both sexual attraction and entertainment involve one’s taste in beauty, aesthetics, whatever term you want to use.
Uh … gay culture has been major artistic and political force over the last 50 years. Plus this course seems to be doing a good job of exploring how people construct their cultural identities, something that’s applicable to many groups beyond homosexuals. What does it mean to be black? What does it mean to be a nerd? What does it mean to be Jewish?
The name is, of course, a joke. It’s a play off the old slur that homosexuals are on the prowl to recruit innocent boys and “initiate” them into the homosexual lifestyle. But its also an acknowledgement that modern gayness is a cultural construct and “presenting” as gay often goes beyond acknowledging your attraction towards men. It involves adopting certain cultural and aesthetic values as well.