Twenty-five years ago this past fall I moved to Berkeley to attend college. Around the same time, I came out of the closet. At the 1991 San Francisco gay pride parade I held the banner for the UC Berkeley Lesbian and Gay Alliance. During that parade, I swore to myself that I would never again miss the parade. I reveled in gay pride, politics, and history. I felt part of a cutting-edge civil rights movement.
Well, that was 25 years ago. I am now middle-aged community college professor. If you had told me in 1990 what I would be doing 25 years later I would have been horrified at how middle-class and boring it all was.
Like most people, what was important to me in my 20s is not so important to me in my 40s. Additionally, my personal journey in many ways mirrors the journey of the gay community in America. The gay community has gone from being an isolated urban minority group into a much more assimilated group of people who make up communities around the United States. While being gay is still very difficult in many parts of the world, being gay in the Bay Area is not nearly as unique or as different as it used to be. I remember the thrill I felt when I first visited San Francisco’s Castro Street in 1990. Today, because of assimilation the Castro feels like many other San Francisco neighborhoods
Overall this is progress. Over the past 25 years, growing acceptance has allowed gay people to live openly in many places. When my husband and I moved to San Jose in 2005 we were pleasantly surprised to find a large gay community and that being gay in San Jose is no big deal. I have found that my students don’t care about my sexual orientation. Being gay is now just one more form of diversity that one finds in the Bay area.
I sometimes miss my 20s and how special and unique I used to feel being gay. While I do miss those years, I’m happy with the way things have turned out for the community and for myself.