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Greg Sargent reminisces on being straight in a gay hood in the 70s

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From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:

I grew up in the far West Village in the 1970s, about seven or eight blocks west of Stonewall Inn, where joyful crowds celebrated the news on Friday night. At the time, even though the Village was supposed to be a leading refuge for gays, the discrimination, hostility and abuse directed at them were everywhere. Even in this neighborhood, gays and lesbians took steps to conceal their sexual orientation. Some of my earliest childhood memories were of young bleary-eyed gay men quietly leaving underground gay clubs in the old Meat Market district in the very early morning — clubs that would be padlocked as public health danger zones when the AIDS crisis hit. Even on these streets, gay couples who openly displayed affection for each other in public were regularly abused in full public view.

It was not uncommon to see vans full of thugs who had driven in from other neighborhoods — for no other reason than to taunt and even beat up gays — screaming “faggots” at groups of young men who congregated along West Street, along the Hudson River. To reveal your sexual orientation in public through even the most basic gestures of affection was to put yourself at risk of mockery, abuse and even violence.

Maybe I lacked the imagination to see it, but that time, the notion that these folks would ever be given the right to legally marry — and have their intimate relationships recognized as equal to those of heterosexual couples — was simply unthinkable. And that was in the West Village.

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