ONE OF THE weirdest things about social progress is that it almost immediately gets so normalized that we forget how awful even the recent past could be. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to what used to be called the "love that dare not speak its name." Until recently, being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or anything slightly off the beaten path sexually meant living in silence, if not living a lie.
Back in the day, openly having a kink or being attracted to people of the same sex invited not just physical abuse and forced psychiatric counseling but also the possible loss of your livelihood, family, and friends. Even sympathetic treatments such as The Boys in the Band characterized gays as inherently neurotic and unhappy. Whole sitcoms, such as Three's Company, which bestrode the small screen as a ratings colossus for eight years in the '70s and '80s, trafficked in repetitious, mean-spirited, and comedy-free gags about men who were "light in the loafers," "tinker-bells," or, worse still, florists.
That was then. Somewhere along the line, queers convinced straights of their fundamental humanity, and many of us, in turn, realized that finding love and meaning was hard enough without layering on religious, psychological, and legal guilt trips.
Facebook began offering its users no fewer than 58 gender descriptors, all the way from agender to neither to two-spirit, and Porn Hub, the X-rated website, has more flavors of offerings than Baskin-Robbins and Howard Johnson's combined.