After graduate school, my friend Bob finally admitted — to select friends — that he was gay. I mean, it was hardly a secret. Not after we went to see the Streetcar revival at the Barrymore and he pulled out his binoculars every time Alec Baldwin pulled off his shirt.
Newly liberated, Bob was eager to introduce me to his new lifestyle. Of course, there is no singular gay lifestyle; just like straight people, gay people enjoy a multiplicity of alternatives. Still, having only one gay friend meant that Bob’s variation was the only option readily available for me to sample.
At the time, my home was in Boston and Bob had moved to DC. So we would meet midway — New York — for the weekend, usually staying with his priceless Aunt Ellie, who would not let us sleep together in the same room. If she only knew!
Inevitably, we would gather with Bob’s friends and go to a club. A gay club. A large vibrating venue with pulsating lights where dancers, packed like sardines, moved rhythmically below massive monitors playing Madonna’s Vogue video or some other gay anthem of the day.
Let me tell you, those clubs provided quite an education. Back then, there was a terrible stigma associated with being gay. AIDS was rampant and gay-bashing was regular. Even in educated, professional circles, many gay people feared revealing themselves would lead to harm and ruin.
We talked a lot about the gay experience. What it was like to lead a masked life, to be constantly vigilant, to be careful of every word. What we never talked about was the notion that gay people would some day be able to marry. It was simply inconceivable.
And in many parts of the country, it remained so, until today, when five US Supreme Court justices held fast to our highest American ideals. Mazel tov!
© 2015 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.