Growing Up Stonewall

In Nardi’s Growing Up Stonewall: Life Stories of Some Gay Men he begins the book by giving a brief synopsis of the evolution of homosexuality as perceived by the American public and as felt by the queer community. This helps to provide a sense of context for the various interviews that follow, chronicling the experiences of 4 different men: Danny, Ed, and George & Harold (whom the author notes are the only couple interviewed in the study). It seems that each of these men is really only bound together by the simple fact that they are gay men. For instance, there is Danny who is really the all-American boy type and right after him, the author puts Ed who is an immigrant from Norway. However, it’s interesting to see how drastically this affects the similarity of their stories. For instance, as in the example of Danny and Ed, both felt a certain disconnectedness with their fathers. Yet each of these interviews illustrates just how different these people are as well. In the previous example of Danny and Ed, Danny is unable to really explain the lack of connection with his father, whereas Ed explains that it was somewhat characteristic of his culture and more than likely, a result of his father’s death at age 14. Some of the concepts that the interviewees addressed are incredibly difficult to describe in this response but also as a gay man, I felt a certain strength and almost camaraderie in being able to identify with each of these men in one way or another. It’s somehow comforting knowing that although being the only openly gay kid in my high school at the time, it was (as cheesy as it sounds) almost like knowing that I wasn’t alone, that these men that were bleeding their hearts on the pages that lay before me, they knew exactly where I was.
At the same time, as I described before, it’s so confusing to read about something as personal as sexual orientation because I was unable to remove myself from the situation, which might very well be the author’s intention. I read each one of these various accounts and I know for a fact that I was comparing myself to these men. Not in like a traditional comparative sense like “Ha! My coming out story is better than yours!” but seeing just how much the very fact that we are gay men and how it defined us or even if it did define us at all. I think that concept is most interesting to me and definitely something that I hope to continue to explore throughout this semester. Although I don’t define myself as a gay man, how much does being a gay man define me?

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