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Straight people's Pre-AIDS attitudes toward gay people

I'm referring to late '70s/early '80s (1980-81-82) era.

Was there a growing acceptance of gay people in mainstream America?

Was the homophobia of the pre-Stonewall period washing away or were people still leery of gay people and thought of them as "freaks?" Were things "getting better" right before AIDS hit or was it still a grim time to be gay?

by Anonymousreply 3911/01/2013

I told my parents I was gay in 1978 and at the time it was the absolute worst news I could have given them. I don't think there was too much acceptance in this period of time. Granted I was from Texas so they were clearly behind the times.

by Anonymousreply 110/29/2013

R1, my story is the same, except it takes place a year earlier in New Jersey.

by Anonymousreply 210/29/2013

OP is this really a question you dont know the answer to?

by Anonymousreply 310/29/2013

I wonder what Janet Jackson has to say about this. She is an advocate for gays and her song Together Again was about people with AIDS or something like that. Missing people and stuff. The single had a red ribbon on it. She is such an inspiration.

by Anonymousreply 410/29/2013

R4, what's wrong with OP wanting to hear actual life experiences from guys who were adults at that time?

by Anonymousreply 510/29/2013

This pretty much sums it up.

by Anonymousreply 610/29/2013

Many people SEEMED to be more accepting of gays in the late '70s, it seemed. Not everywhere, but homophobia seemed to be slowly fading away in many places. That all changed. People that I knew began to show their true colors with the emergence of AIDS. Some of the most "liberal" and "open-minded" people I knew suddenly began making homophobic jokes and making snide remarks about AIDS being God's punishment for that "lifestyle of abomination."

I had been out of the closet since I was 14, but I saw the ugly side of people I cared for (even family members) when AIDS hit the news media, circa 1982-83 (especially '83). Straight people were convinced that every gay man (or suspected gay man) had AIDS and was a ticking time bomb, ready to explode and give their AIDS to unsuspecting straights.

One of my aunts began to snub me (and actually never spoke to me again) because of my "abhorrent lifestyle" and she even told one of my cousins that I was a "vile faggot fudge-packer who was destined to die of AIDS." She had never shown a sign of being homophobic before 1983 or 1984. She thought homophobia was justified because it (AIDS) was "God's punishment." I guess the cancer she died of in 1990 was God's punishment for her years of smoking cigarettes?

Circa 1983, I had quite a few straight "friends" that would not even shake my hand or hug me because of fear. I DID NOT EVEN HAVE AIDS!!! I was gay, so that made me one of "The Infected." I wonder what some of them think now. I am still alive, happy and healthy 30+ years later, and never caught "the AIDS." I wonder what their justification is for ME not being punished for MY abominable sins.

It was a very scary and stressful time. I made a lot of good memories back then, but I was always VERY, VERY careful.

by Anonymousreply 710/29/2013

I was closeted when AIDS hit. I was "straight acting" and I easily fooled people. I was on the verge of coming out in the early '80s but AIDS fueled homophobia pushed me back into the closet and slammed the door shut.

Since people assumed I was straight, I heard the most horrible things straights were saying about homosexuals, drug abusers, and those at higher risk. Things like "God's punishment", "the right ones are dying", "I have no sympathy for them. They brought this on themselves", etc.

I lost a lot of respect for a lot of people that I loved (including my own parents, who said some ghastly things). I acted on my homosexuality in private, behind closed doors (and safely), but I remained in the closet until 2001 (at the age of 38). This was a result of AIDS-fueled hysteria and homophobia.

by Anonymousreply 810/29/2013

I believe a very large part of how things were or how bad they were had much to do with where you lived. My parents were very open minded and liberal democrats etc almost before their time yet it was incredibly common to hear straight men say faggot whenever pissed off about anything or speaking negatively about someone. I think things were significantly worse and also within the gay community much much better than today. The cohesion the live and kindness shown from one gay or lesbian to another which I feel grew during the aids epidemic. The worst if times unimaginably horrific, but to be completely honest I also miss that closeness within our community. Roger is what some call homo homophobia where so many men particularly are so incredibly cruel to others in our community. I was a kud in the 70's my parents had gay friends that they genuinely cared about but I believe most gags were seen in a negative light which helped establish gay areas of town and a seperate inclusion.

by Anonymousreply 910/29/2013

Straight people were always dicks to "obvious" or "out" gays and lesbians but it did get much, much worse after AIDS hit. People told horrific jokes and were very insensitive.

I remember sitting in the TV room in the dorms in my first year of college ('83-'84). There was some news show on and it was showing these extremely ill men with AIDS in their hospital beds, close to death. The remarks, jokes and laughter from those cruel, unfeeling students in that TV room made me physically ill. I got up and left the room. I remember getting in my car, going for a long drive, listening to U2's "War" cassette on the stereo and crying for those poor souls I had just seen on TV wasting away. Like the earlier poster said, people were showing their true colors.

R11, Ironically, the '80s were the best decade of my life. I loved my friends, the movies, the literature, the music, the fashions, the vibe of the era. On the negative side, I was terrified of AIDS and went to extreme lengths to avoid getting it, but I had the time of my life in that decade. I did lose a few close friends but that's been true of every decade of my life.

by Anonymousreply 1010/29/2013

I was a 10 year old kid in 1985 and we had some next door neighbors whose 30-something son was extremely gay. The guy was always over at his parent's house, mowing the lawn, working on their cars, etc. He was a really nice and friendly guy. My parents always warned me to keep my distance from him since "we don't really know all that much about that AIDS stuff." My dad thought all gay men were infected and he also believed that all gay men were pedophiles.

Unfortunately, age did not bring enlightenment for him. He's still very homophobic, as is my mom to a lesser extent. I live many miles away from them and, needless to say, I never came out to them.

by Anonymousreply 1110/29/2013

Grew up in suburban boston in the 70s. An art teacher of mine was a lesbian. Nobody really cared. I had a gay uncle. My friend across the street also had a gay uncle. Some neighbors down the road who bought a house were 'confirmed bachelors' ie everyone knew they were a couple and it was not a big deal. I remember 70s sitcoms (Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family) that had gay characters/subplots.

When Reagan was elected, and then AIDS hit, everything seemed to change, like all of a sudden there was this cultural pressure to hate and denounce the gays.

It wasn't always like that. RIght before then, things were actually pretty cool, at least in the boston area.

by Anonymousreply 1210/29/2013

My otherwise lovely medieval history professor, whom I adored, made a homophobic joke during his lecture on feudal aids. I was shocked at him, and so disappointed.

This was in spring semester 1984. I still remember it like it was an hour ago. Remember where I was sitting, remember how his face looked, so pleased with his own joke. I think it hurt more because he was my idol.

He later divorced his wife (after their two sons finished high school) and became a beloved Catholic priest. He died last year. He officiated at the funerals of many persons who died of AIDS. I always wondered if he remembered his cruel joke, if he regretted those words.

by Anonymousreply 1310/29/2013

"Was there a growing acceptance of gay people in mainstream America?"

No. And as others have said, AIDS made it worse. It was still relatively early days in the 70's for gay "liberation" and we were basically just becoming visible. The emphasis was on coming out because it is a first step. This is why I have nothing but contempt for closet cases who use other gay people for sex but cower in the closet.

Fuck them and NOT in a good way.

by Anonymousreply 1410/29/2013

They didn't know who the gays were.

Peter Allen is such a ladykiller!!! He was fabulous with those Rockettes! So flirty!

by Anonymousreply 1510/30/2013

[quote] Was there a growing acceptance of gay people in mainstream America?

I don't know about mainstream America but in places like New York & SF gays were pretty strident - what was different pre-AIDS was that gays, especially due to the clones, were generally known for being extremely and overtly sexual. The clone uniforms and the keys (or handkerchiefs?) in the back pockets showing their sexual preferences to the world. The clones marched about in their very sexualized clone outfits and heavy moustaches. Of course, this was just an element of the gay community but a very visible element. The clone look quickly died when AIDS arrived. It was associated with extreme promiscuity and people didn't want to be so easily identified. The clone look looked archaic once AIDS arrived.

But, as someone who lived in NY through the 80s I still found people to be very accepting of gays and horrified by what was happening. A lot of straight people lost friends and found the whole thing very sad and depressing. But I lived in a rarified artistic world mostly. But even so, after coming from much more homophobic London, NY was a relief. It seemed so sad that in NY where so much progress had been made and gays had become very accepted and tolerated that this should happen.

by Anonymousreply 1610/30/2013

The sexual revolution had been in full tilt and in many quarters there was a very open attitude about sex. Bisexuality was fairly rampant among many people. Of course there was conservative reaction to this. But it was a time when gay was more widely thought of as cutting edge than uncool.

by Anonymousreply 1710/30/2013

There was always homophobia but it became much more vicious once AIDS hit. There was a "See? I told you so!" kind of attitude. The haters felt justified.

The objections towards homosexuality pre-AIDS were mostly rooted in religion, tradition, ignorance and fear (like most bigotry). After AIDS even those straight people we thought were allies became fearful and showed us their true ] I think AIDS made gay people much more compassionate towards each other. Many of us had been abandoned and rejected by our natural families so we took care of each other. It also made us much more politically aware and active.

And I have to mention that even though many lesbians really stepped up to the plate in those days and took care of sick and dying gay men, not all of them had such a compassionate attitude. Some of the most vicious jokes and cruel comments I heard came out of the mouths of lesbians who I thought were my sisters. Among some of them there was a sort of glee that WE were dying and they weren't. They were the chosen ones. Isn't that so funny?

by Anonymousreply 1810/30/2013

There was increasing acceptance of gays in 1970-1976, but the backlash started in 1977. Young people continued to get more gay friendly up until the advent of AIDS in 1983, but a lot of adults had become virulently antigay even before that.

by Anonymousreply 1910/30/2013

It was horrible. There were bigoted Christian assholes like Anita Bryant who were out to fuck every one of us over. They wanted us dead or in institutions. We were branded as perverts and sickos. When AIDS came along, it got even worse for a decade or so. Those smug assholes claimed it was punishment from the imaginary ghost in the sky.

by Anonymousreply 2010/31/2013

Out in the rural Midwest, the answer is no and just about everyone was closeted during that time. Then AIDS came and attitudes got even worse.

by Anonymousreply 2110/31/2013

No, not really. I was 16 in 1972, it was still a time when you could be put the a mental facilty...or lose your job.

However, Stonewall had happened,so maybe yes, in places things were getting better, but it general. No.

by Anonymousreply 2210/31/2013

Film, fashion and music people, as well as their sophisticated friends, were accepting of gays in the years 1976-80. Gay-themed books were bestsellers, including Dancer from the Dance, Kinflicks, and the Anais Nin canon. The Village People and bisexual-seeming acts like Patti Smith scored hits. Ordinary people were cautious but intrigued.

We saw backtracking in the 80s, including from gays like Elton John and Calvin Klein who "married" women.

by Anonymousreply 2310/31/2013

'70s bump.

by Anonymousreply 2411/01/2013

[quote]And I have to mention that even though many lesbians really stepped up to the plate in those days and took care of sick and dying gay men, not all of them had such a compassionate attitude.

Where does this myth come from, that lesbians were "on the front line" or "in the trenches" at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic? I worked as a volunteer early on at the Whitman Walker Clinic, and except for one woman, all the lesbians I encountered were paid staff members and consultants. The volunteers were almost all men.

by Anonymousreply 2511/01/2013

Homosexuality was on the books as a mental illness on my childhood. Gays were perverted freaks.

But not to my mom. :)

by Anonymousreply 2611/01/2013

The "myth" comes from assholes like you, 29.

I was there. Nobody would touch gay men. Our lesbian sisters did.

by Anonymousreply 2711/01/2013

You weren't in my "there," R31. And there were a lot of lesbians in Washington, DC.

by Anonymousreply 2811/01/2013

Looking back, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" in terms of acceptance of gay people. Maybe it was because so many straight people, many for the first time, finding themselves having to face and reject their own, sometimes subtle, homophobic demons when the pandemic entered their personal inner-circle of family, friends, etc.

by Anonymousreply 2911/01/2013

You are either full of shit, R29, or you know nothing about how many lesbians were among the first to "step up to the plate" for PWAs, especially in cities like San Francisco, Boston and New York.

by Anonymousreply 3011/01/2013

I remember there being an attitude that AIDS was about 'pricks' and an inference that it was linked with rape and abuse in that it was 'because' of men. I recall a series of posters by a group that hated bi women to the point of seeing themselves as holders of the true flame and bi women infecting the chosen. There was plenty of community of gays irrespective of gender, but there were plenty who replicated prejudice believing they were being radical.

by Anonymousreply 3111/01/2013

Look at the various news report videos of the day. The so-called enlightened newscasters would refer to people who acquired the virus through a blood transfusion as "the innocent victims of AIDS," leaving everyone to silently acknowledge what their choice of words was saying without spelling it out: that men who had sex with men were deserving of this disease.

You had churches who refused to serve us communion, schools who refused to teach our kids, and otherwise previously rational neighbors spraypainting "go away, aids faggots" on our homes. This disease brought out monsters, and in force.

But there were angels too. Here's to the ignoramuses who dare to cast aspersions against the lesbians at that time: Stop the fucking shit stirring about lesbians not helping us. You are an idiot, and worse: you are dangerously close to being just like the people who hated us then. Our lesbian sisters might not always have liked us (and hearing the crazy shit comiong from some of you, that is really easy to understand), but they sure as fuck DID stand up to the plate and help us out, and rarely was their service and compassion even noticed by the straight world. So you revisionist historians can shut the fuck up.

by Anonymousreply 3211/01/2013

[quote]Our lesbian sisters ... sure as fuck DID stand up to the plate and help us out, and rarely was their service and compassion even noticed by the straight world. So you revisionist historians can shut the fuck up.

Bravo, R36!

(Gay male HIV/AIDS advocate who will forever honor the lesbian communities remarkable generosity-of-spirit at our times of need and darkest hours.)

by Anonymousreply 3311/01/2013

I volunteered as much as a person could volunteer at the Whitman-Walker Clinic from 1984-1989, and I can count the lesbians I encountered on one hand. There's nothing more I can say that won't make me sound like a dick.

by Anonymousreply 3411/01/2013

[quote]There's nothing more I can say that won't make me sound like a dick.

And we shall enjoy your further silence on the matter.

by Anonymousreply 3511/01/2013
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