From: KEVXU 
Newsgroups: soc.motss
Subject: Re: Homophobia and Self-Hatred
Date: 21 Mar 1996 05:44:33 GMT

In article <4ijm16$>, Ayana Craven  wrote:
>It's not at all uncommon among working-class circles in the US for
>someone who goes on to college to become ostracized, or simply
>cease to be regarded as part of the group.  It's part of the stress
>that a lot of working-class kids experience while they're in
>college -- they lose their old friends, and they still don't fit in
>at school.  I don't believe there's anything comparable among
>middle-class kids.

The knife can cut another way too.

In my life the conflicts over social class which I encountered in a gay 
context were one of the strongest shaping influences in my life.  I grew 
up in a very poor working class family and we lived in a working class 
neighborhood, and blacks also lived in the same neighborhood.  However, 
it was a very small industrial village with a tiny Catholic elementary 
school and one public school, and it also took in many rural kids.  Thus, 
social class divisions were really low-keyed as regarded dating, what 
church you belonged to, socializing, etc. -- and there was plenty of 
*very* big money in town.

I went to a large urban university and though it was intimidating in many 
respects, I really didn't grasp what social class differences meant to a 
lot of the other students -- it just went over my head.  I was that 
naive.  When I came out into the clandestine gay life of the campus (this 
was late 1950's) I had the misfortune to find myself in with a group of 
rich guys and a couple of girls from East Coast suburbs.  I ended up 
being the goat of the group, and gay life being seriously underground 
then on the campus I didn't identify other gay students with different 
backgrounds.  I had never been ridiculed and looked down on before for my 
social class and cultural background; coupled with the horrible public 
attitude toward gay people in that era it made coming out into gay life a 
hell.  I finally found a couple of sleazy gay bars in the city and 
started hanging out with "townies" who worked for a living in factories, 
stores, etc.  On campus I started hanging out only with working class 
straight guys.

When I came to NYC to live two years later I found there was a lot more 
mixing of people from different backgrounds, but still many gay men were 
incredibly dicty about social class even if you did have a college 
education and a better one than they did.  

During a brief stint of unemployment early on I had to live on $27.00 a 
week, so I ended up first in a hotel for hookers, then a flophouse cum 
SRO, then finally selling my ass for small bills.  Needless to say, any 
contacts I had made at the upper level of the gay upper crust vanished, 
but I got through with the help of other working class guys and 

From that point on I think social class for me was the prime issue in gay 
life.  I had an excellent education, was intelligent and made a decent 
living in white collar enviroments after that, but I never trusted any 
gay guy who came from a solidly middle class background or better.  I 
spent a lot of my adult gay life on the Fire Island Pines/club circuit 
but my contacts and associates were always with the soft underbelly of 
the scene: the dope dealers, the kept boys, the mistresses of straight 
men who were deposited in the gay world for safekeeping, etc.

I found when Gay Lib had it's brief place in the sun, from 1969 to about 
'75 at the latest, that my view of it was that many of the leaders were 
middle class whites who were big into ideology and saw things in 
political terms.  On the other hand, many gay men and women were working 
stiffs for whom liberation meant something more like having public space 
to be gay in.  I've always suspected that the reason that Gay Lib 
politics crumped so quickly was that the would-be leaders' backgrounds 
and life experience were too removed from that of a lot of the rank and 

Jack Carroll
Return to Gay:Stories:Gay Life
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