It’s kind of interesting when the people for whom I serve as their “gay friend” forget that I’m gay. Since I came out in mid-life, there’s little about me that obviously proclaims “gay”. I’m an ex-professor of business administration and information systems; I have gray hair; I don’t dress particularly well; I only remember a few show tunes; I’m pretty uncomfortable with PDA (though it’s fine for others, I just can’t do it); etc. I’ve always been out in the sense of not trying to conceal much (except for the details of my sex life, which aren’t all that entertaining anyway), so all my family and friends “know” about my gayness, and most of them know my partner as well (he’s pretty much like me, only more so - he plays golf.) But it’s not something that immediately floats to the surface when people think of me/us (if they do).
The result is that I’m occasionally treated to views of the world that I doubt people would have expressed directly had they remembered or noticed that I am their “gay (whatever)”, not just a “friend” or “acquaintance” or “customer” or “teacher” or “(whatever)”. On such occasions, I feel rather like I’m committing espionage in an alien country, learning the secret language in which the non-gay discuss the gay and how that language is modified when the rainbow becomes apparent. Most of that language isn’t actually hostile. It tends more toward the befudddled and confused, as in “Why do they do that?” Occasionally little glimpses of resentment show through, as though gay people are doing gay things they wouldn’t normally do just to spite the non-gay people. But mostly, the neglect is benign.
Sometimes I wish I knew how to be more obviously gay, so I wouldn’t have to be in this half-world, but it’s a little late to start now. But sometimes I really do enjoy being a spy in a world I used to inhabit before going over to the other side. Sociologists call this state of affairs “partial inclusion”; we all live in multiple worlds at the same time and juggle our various public and private identities. But Lance’s point is well taken. There is something about the gay/non-gay divide that makes living across the divide particularly poignant. I don’t see many signs that this divide is going to close up anytime soon.