I live in an outer ’burb of Melbourne not known for its ethnic diversity. But those with a keen eye will find a small shelf of groceries in the supermarkets with strange names like speculaas, stroopwafel and appelmoes.
Occasionally the same language is heard on the shops and on local radio.You might spot a sign in the main street pointing to the Dutch Over 50s Club, and there’s a weekly paper, a folkdance troupe, and a speedskating club.
But times change — the shelf of Dutch groceries is half the size it was. The Over 50s Club now admits other nationalities too.
The younger generations still retain some Dutchness. They form the backbone of the folkdancing club, and several speedskaters have skated for Dutch teams and represented Australia. Gay culture is evolving too, but the older generation remain deeply conservative about maintaining bars, clubs, and festivals.
When I suggested recently on Facebook that winning equality and acceptance would — and should — lead to the end of specifically ‘gay’ anything, I was attacked for peddling ‘assimilationist claptrap’, ‘internalised homophobia’ and chanting ‘a Cyberman mantra’, among other things.
The angriest (and rudest) reactions came, predictably, from what I might loosely call ‘professional homosexuals’ — people like me who work in and around the gay community. People with a vested interest in the status quo. And overwhelmingly from people in their mid-40s and 50s.
Gotta love my fellow Grumpy Old Poofs.
Younger people don’t give a toss. I asked some of them. “Almost no one under 30 gives a shit about gay politics. It’ll all come right soon, you can’t stop it.”
“Queer Film is probably still relevant. The rest — pfft, who cares? Maybe Mardi Gras once in a while, for the partying.”
“Most guys my age (28) never go to gay bars — except to pick up. Why would you? They’re not very pleasant places.”
Every time I venture into a gay venue it’s Groundhog Day, with the same people behaving in much the same way as they have since I first ventured out.
And how similar they all are, like branches of a franchise. There are a few basic templates, like McDonalds, with minor variations — you might get beetroot in your bun instead of pickle — but the burger’s the same worldwide. And has been since the 1970s.
I got fed up with hamburgers years ago. I look back on the gay culture I grew up in with fond nostalgia, but find myself increasingly impatient with its unwillingness to grow up and move with the times.
The new generations are shaping something quite different. Something I’m really looking forward to. While still making their distinctive contribution.
Just like the Dutch.