The city’s changed. Most have. Gay ghettos aren’t what they used to be. I can’t walk down Davie or Denman Street and awkwardly attempt to make eye contact with a stream of gay men going to and from the gym. There are still plenty of people, but the gays are gone. They no longer travel in packs in the West End.
And, yes, I know that’s a good thing. Generally speaking, it’s awesome. We can feel comfortable living anywhere in Vancouver or in the suburbs. We are accepted. Hurrah.
It’s funny though. A loss comes with the gains. Gays are not an inherently visible minority. As we pushed for rights and protested discrimination, we strove to make ourselves visible. I remember joining in the chant “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” Twenty-some years ago, I had an earring in my left ear and a pink triangle on my car bumper. See me. See my gayness.
And now, as I walk, I wonder, Where have all the gays gone?
Are we invisible again? Is that progress?
I think I’m supposed to say I’m more evolved. Don’t see my gayness. See me as a whole person. I’m a writer, a vegetarian, something of a fitness fanatic (maybe without the results for you to see that!). I’m an educator, a solo traveler, a literacy advocate, a quirky dreamer who gets lost in nature (figuratively and, unfortunately, literally).
But I am still gay. And it still matters. Try to make a list of what you are in terms of roles, not characteristics. Notice how gay keeps popping up even as you try to prove how you are so much more than that. Gay still defines us, at least in part. For those of us who grew up before society’s enlightenment, our gayness may define us more than it should have. We often fought our gayness before we fought for it. We weren’t instantly accepted or even tolerated. The gayness created a divide as well as a uniting force. (Hello, ghetto.) It weighed on us more. And despite the radical differences between then and now, our past doesn’t just fade away.
So as I walk the streets of Vancouver—I do everything I can to keep the car in park—I don’t see people like me. Not in that way. In some respects, that brings relief. I don’t have to look good when I go to the grocery store. I can wear the t-shirt I should have tossed five years ago. (Okay, ten.) But there are days when I miss it. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the glances or, more accurately in my case, the missed glances. I miss the hope that I might run into my future longtime companion (yes, it’s “husband” now) while trying to decide between Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s.
Let's talk ice cream. Let's talk "Mindy".
We’ve gained acceptance and then dispersed. We’ve abandoned the bars and taken to Grindr. Yes, the app can tell us we’re not alone as we walk the streets. But, as I understand things, it simply announces who’s horny. This is what we fought for?
Perhaps because I am single and because I don’t shop on Grindr, I still would like to know I’m not alone in the Vancouver crowds. Show yourselves, guys. A simple nod will do, a sign that says, “Me, too.” And if you’re single and you see me in the frozen foods aisle, let’s talk—and eat—ice cream. I’d love the company.