I had no clue Silver was gay. He's got a nice, interchangeably Jewish name, which, in the context of politics and journalism, just seemed normal. Therefore, I assumed he was "normal" for that job in most other ways: mid-50s, white, heterosexual.
But he's not. He's 34 and gay, which is awesome. The "Out 100" has, for most of its history, been dominated by performers (most of whom came out well into their careers) and activists working to promote gay rights -- professional gays or folks in gay professons. So now, at long last, we have a dude who's doing something unrelated to homosexuality who killed it this year. Good for us, no?
Well, no, actually. "To my friends, I'm kind of sexually gay but ethnically straight," Silver says in the Out feature. He is also said to consider "gay conformity as perfidious as straight conformity."
So why the refusal by many, gay and straight, to define gay men and women as a culture or subculture?
When I was 17, like a good, politically minded Jewish boy, I read Benjamin Netanyahu's book A Place Among the Nations. In it he explained that the Palestinians were not a people, just Jordanian tenant farmers with no distinct culture. I believed him. Then, a few years later, I was reading an article from Germany in the 19th century that explained that Yiddish wasn't a real language, just corrupted German, a jargon. I started to realize that denying the existence of a culture is a really great way of denying the needs of that culture. Yiddish isn't the language of a people, just bad German. Palestinians aren't a distinct culture, just some people who should move out of Israel. Gay bars and Grindr aren't the cultural tools of a people, just trashy behavior.
Keeping gays from identifying as a group is a great way of keeping us from supporting each other and our rights. But even the people who would deny our rights still acknowledge that we have shared culture. Any schoolyard bully or gender policing frat boy knows what a fag is. We have litanies of stereotypes for "fags" and "dykes," and they're just all kinda bad. So we want to define homosexuality as an act, define a culture associated with homosexuality, but insist upon the right of people committing homosexual acts to distance themselves from that culture.