Palette Magazine

Has the normalization of gay culture killed the rainbow?

By Justin Trabert

Photo: © huseyintuncer / iStock

As Gay Pride month approaches, I can’t help but think to myself: “What happened to all the glitz and glamour that used to be a hallmark of the gay community?” We were once the beat that gave life to the world of the arts. We were at the forefront of fashion, design, music and parties. But in recent years, it seems as if we’ve hit the snooze button on creativity and assimilated to the norm.

It seems like it was only yesterday that I awakened my inner gay self and flew out of the closet wearing lipgloss and a crop top, rainbow colors dangling all about me. Since I felt I had been oppressed my whole adolescent life, I found that wearing certain clothes and shoes helped embody the life I had been missing. I had given myself license to do and wear what I pleased, and I was sure as hell going to let the world know that I was gay and proud to show it!

A few years later, I found my Emerald City: the circuit party scene. The city doors opened to a world of color, beautiful people, sparkling costumes and themed parties — and I love a good themed event. I bounced around all the great clubs, parties and parades. I created a different masterpiece outfit for each occasion. My apartment became my crafting studio, and I was its celebrity costume designer. I pranced around in my hot pants, go-go boots and theatrical clubbing makeup. I was always drenched in glitter. All the while, I was having a blast and had not a care in the world if people saw me as too gay or too feminine — at least they were looking at me.

This all changed when I moved to New York and stepped onto the dance floor at the infamous Roxy NYC. For the first time since I had come out I felt out of place. You see, the Roxy was a meat buffet and people were there to show it. Gay men were looking for a “masculine man” and dressing up in my usual costumes was almost guaranteed social suicide, or rather, the end of my sex life. So, I boxed up my ensembles and adapted to the new gay uniform of tight jeans and a cheap T-shirt — because lets face it, the shirt was coming off as soon as the dance floor warmed up. It appeared the gay community had forever changed, and we now represented a macho lifestyle that became increasingly less creative.

I have a working theory, and it goes like this: as homosexuality became more accepted by the mainstream, the community no longer felt the need to stand out in rebellion. We all became more “hetero” in our appearance and demeanor, and it worked both ways. Straight men became more comfortable with varying aspects of sexuality and as a result, the dress code became more fluid. The term “metrosexual” was coined, as both gay and straight men began to play on the same field for the first time — one big homogenous mass of people with similar looks and mannerisms. Today, our gaydars spin in circles, and you can no longer distinguish whether the muscular macho man with the trendy haircut, tweezed eyebrows and matching shoes and belt is gay or straight.

The characteristics that often defined the gay community have become blurred. Society seems to be moving toward a genderless or gender-neutral ideology. This concept is most obvious when powerhouse fashion legends, such as the house of Chanel, and mass retailer like Zara create entire product lines with gender fluidity as a central concept. Our own gay superstar, Ellen DeGeneres, has launched a line called ED that promotes the idea that clothes can be styled for a unisex society. I'm afraid it won’t be long before everyone adopts one-piece jumpsuit like something out of a Star Trek movie.

Alas, there is a glimmer of hope out there. Every once in a while, I see the gay youth of today expressing themselves as they see fit, with just a dab of glitz and glamour. It helps remind me of the good old days when parties were filled with fashion, drama and a whole lot of glitter.