A young writer working on project about gay life in the mid-1990s recently turned to Reddit for help with his research, and the responses have been surprisingly interesting.
Here’s what the original post says:
I’m a writer and I was curious about this. There’s a lot of information about the 80s (for obvious reasons) but not a ton about the 90s. I’m pretty young so I don’t remember much about the 90s, so I’d appreciate the help.
The story is set in 1995, in LA. It would help a lot to know stuff specifically about LA, but if you just have information about what it was like in the mid 90s that’s good, too.
Things like how and where gay guys met, the after-effects and continuation of the AIDs crisis, political climate, any of that stuff is good. I’ve done some reading but I feel like it’s not enough.
Thank you so much for your time and responses.
Now, check out some of the replies…
Several people mention the homophobic social and political atmosphere in the country at the time.
“The Religious Right was still very powerful at that point,” one person writes. “Look up how Bill Clinton’s sex scandal nearly brought down his presidency. Look at the discussions around DADT and DOMA.”
“I remember being scared to come out because my parents (or at least my mom) openly used anti-gay language, would listen to Dr. Laura in the car when we went somewhere, and would openly comment against pro-gay causes,” another person adds.
“Los Angeles in general was kind of liberal, but not so liberal as it’s become over the last 20 years,” a third person chimes in. “CA was still electing Republican governors. The anti-gay marriage Prop. 22 passed in 2000, including being voted for by a majority of people in Los Angeles.”
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They also mention how gay men started fleeing en masse from small towns and rural areas to bigger cities where they could live their lives more openly.
“In the mid-90s, many gay men left rural areas if they could and went to places like New Orleans, Atlanta, D.C., etc.,” one person recalls, “so the gay people left behind were even more isolated, especially if they were poor or uneducated and couldn’t easily get out.”
“People fleeing other parts of the country would move to WeHo and try to fit in by quickly adopting all the dress styles, manners, and other habits of those who lived there,” another person adds. “Lots of Mormons fleeing Utah.”
HIV/AIDS is also brought up.
“1994-1995 was pretty much the peak of deaths from AIDS in the United States because the peak of infections had been in the early 80s,” one person says. “The natural course of the progression of the disease caught up with many people at around the same time. The death rate dropped sharply in the later 90s.”
He continues: “The depth and breadth of that grief left its mark on all of us who lived through that period. I was young enough to have known what safe sex was before becoming sexually active, but the age group just a few years older was decimated.”
Another person writes: “[Safe sex] was indoctrinated into us because of the AIDS crisis, and since anti-retroviral drugs were still in their infancy HIV was still very feared. There was actually a kid in my class who was born with a heart condition and he ended up getting HIV from a blood transfusion when he was an infant. Poor kid was out sick all the time and died when I was in third grade.”
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And, not surprisingly, Madonna gets a little shout out.
“The only person whom I read publicly defending the rights of gays and lesbians was Madonna,” one man explains. “So I always looked up to her in some ways. I remembered watching Truth Or Dare in the cinema, and her acceptance and embrace of her gay dancers–whom she had referred to as her ‘family.'”
Then, of course, there was the social scene, which primarily included clubs and chatrooms.
“Club culture was really big because it was what you had to do to meet other gay guys,” one guy says. “Gay dot com came online sometime around the late nineties and provided an alternative. Back then it was this awful Java-based chat client.”
He continues: “At the time chat rooms were still social spaces, so you’d have people who would be there just to hook up who might spam out ads in the main chat, but you’d also have people actively engaging in group conversations. It’s something I really miss from back then, as I made a lot of good friends that way and nowadays everything is catered toward people who are just looking for sex.”
Do you have any memories of being gay in the ’90s? Share them in the comments below…
It was a time of AOL chat rooms, the IRC, and learning how to use the web to hookup. At the University of Florida we had several computer labs and they’d be occupied like 24/7 with guys trying to meet each other. Fun times!
I didn’t visit LA very much during the 1990s; but the times that I went, it’s gay bars were lots of fun and great places to just meet people.
London turned very gay in the nineties. If you didn’t know a gay person – you wern’t worth knowing. Also the ascendancy of Old Compton Street worked – a street full of gay bars. Pars and Madrid were not far behind
I spent the nineties down Old Compton Street – from 1992 to 1999
I was a young guy newly out still trying to figure things out. Seems like yesterday. It was a beautiful magical time. It was also a hellish time because people were dying of Aids.
Your options for hooking up were still centered around the bars and clubs. That or the parks. I was young though so it was no big deal.
I remember the AOL chat lines and of coarse the dial up. Did we even use the computer for anything else at the time. Lol Still dial up sound chiming in my brain.
“Dr” Laura or turkey neck went on far too long.
During 94-95 I was still in college in upstate NY, but would go down to NYC every chance I could to partake in the huge club scene back then. As stated in the article, it was all about the big clubs and there were a lot back then. Also, back at school my friends and I would log onto AOL chat on our Mac SEs and PowerMacs to meet guys in our area. LOL. It was a fun time. I hooked up with several “Townies” who were happy to show us college boys a good time. Safe Sex was indeed instilled in us via the media and school so I we were always protected. I did know of a few guys who were in their late 20s, early 30s who had complications from AIDS and one guy I had a huge crush on died. That showed me that I must never have unprotected sex no matter how hot the guy is. Finally, Truth or Dare really did solidify Madonna as a true ally to the Gays for me. To me that movie was her best one.
During the early years of the 90’s, LA was our playground. Home was an hour north, Ventura. Studio City was where my gay brother lived, with his partner, who had a salon on Ventura Blvd. Whether it was WeHo for shopping, dancing, drinking, and socializing, or merely visiting a restaurant, or bar nearby on Ventura Blvd, this was the center of my world to explore my sexuality, and for my younger brother to extol the virtues of being gay in LA. He was absolutely thrilled his older brother was finally coming out. Occasionally, my bother would take us to downtown LA, or Santa Monica, even Silverlake to visit friends. We even got to meet Madonna out front of one of the gay clubs. These experiences and many others were the hot spots for us. Occasionally, my brother and his partner would have White Parties at their house in Studio City to help various organizations on the battlefront of the Aids crisis. Celebrities would join us at these party’s, for many were clients of my brothers partner. While all this was happening, my bother and his partner were fighting Aids. In late 1992, I had to fly back to LA. In May of that year, I had joined the Peace Corps and was stationed in Kenya. Peace Corps was gracious to fly me back to be with my brother during his final time on earth. He died about a week after my return. I stayed home for a month, then returned to Kenya. Six months later my mom died (she was living with my brother in Studio City). Again, I had to return to LA while on my Peace Corps tour. My brothers partner died a few years later. LA never had the same attraction for me. All our friends were gone, my brother and his partner were gone, but I could not leave the area. SoCal was where I was born and raised.
I’m feeling nostalgic for the 90s when a phone was just clam shell thing you opened up and and you could only talk on it. Well, barely anyways. Service was crap back in those days. Anything else you had to actually meet people.
@2inaz: Wow. So sorry to hear that. If they had just lived a few more years. Wish I had that kind of relationship with my brother.
NEW YORK, LA, WASHINGTON DC, ATLANTA, MIAMI AND MONTREAL!!! The 90’s was before my career so the funds where low. Travel was group trips with 2 or 3 roommates in the hotel with you. International travel wasn’t on the radar at that time. Best time of my life… PARTY, PARTY, PARTY.. MEN, MEN, MEN!!
Gay was a whole lot more accepted than just a few years earlier, but it still had a little bit of mystery and “edge” left to it. By then we could see that the worst of the AIDS crisis and the demonization was over and that big changes were going to happen within a few years. My guess is that the later Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were coming into the majority in politics, business, media, etc. and that they had far differing opinions than the earlier Boomers and even older generations.
@gjg64: Plus, I think technology has helped. Our world keeps getting smaller. In the 80’s you just didn’t know anyone that was gay and it was easy to demonize them or just believe whatever you heard. That started to change in the 90’s to what we have now which is most everyone at least knows someone gay.
The 90’s and the 80’s were still a lot about the AIDS crisis. People, were dying …all the time,especially in the big cities. But like today people were out,there were gay characters on tv ,just less. It was similar to just b4 the marriages laws changed. People lived and loved and owned property together.
The religious right had different evil people who wanted a theocracy like today, politics and the congress was healthier by a long shot. The evolution had begun o some acceptance,because AIDS reveled a plethora of closeted people,famous,married,everyone knew someone,,moms,dads,brothers,sisters,doctor,lawyer,bus dresser,plumber,, all of a,sudden realsomalble people realized that were were here,there,everywhere and in in every culture and country,
AND if…a POTUS got a blowjob in the Oval Office today and some idiot went to the media about it,they’d try to impeach him…It has gotten worse in Washington.
President Clinton was fighting with the right about gay rights,but had to acquiesce to don’t tell because the right promised to make it hell for us regarding AIDS. They had a lot of easy amo with all the lies and pretending LGBT people deserved all that horror. People were afraid and that is all it takes. Quarantine and all kinds of horrors were promised if he didn’t sign don’t ask don’t tell. It was a compromise.
So he gave in. People forget the hows and whys of things like that because few pay real attention to politics and the nuances.
There will likely be this rabid religious response to us because we are scapegoats for them. It will take along time. As long as religion exists and has political power,any power,they will have scapegoats..it is part of the essentials of how religion works. Spirituality is another thing, it is pure and only about love and enlighten knowledge. They are opposites.
The youngest today are extremely lucky to have missed the real horror of the AIDS crisis….PUT ON A GOD DAMN CONDOM! Porn is fantasy.
And let’s not get married because we can. The Str8’s have nearly a 50% divorce rate becaus people forget relationships are work. Monogamy is a set up for failure for most people whatever their sexuality. Wait until the pink cloud disapates. You will save yourselves a lot of time,grief and $$ if you do. Marriage is about living a “life” together and if right for the couple,giving children a safe,secure loving place to grow up. Divorce takes that all away,,,and brings nothing but terrible grief. Children deserve mature responsible parents. Way too many marry and have children selfishly. I want ,I want me,me,me,me…WAIT!
And monogamy has to work for both. Usually an “indiscretion” isn’t about love,it is about biology. We aren’t built for monogamy. Some don’t,well,most don’t even really believe they can …
Be greatful your were born into a world that has evolved to where it has. Still a whole lot of work to be done. In schools and church and in places where bubbles of conservatism exist. Things take time,lots of time! One day,hopelfully being LGBT will be something that children knows about without all the lies from day one. So coming out won’t be something that is a trama,but just about the the many possibilities of life and love.
We have a lot to celebrate .. but we are jus out of the gate. For so long crossing the starting line wasn’t even an option. Let’s not fall on our faces before we get round the 1st bend. Good love and luck!!!
Los Angeles may be considered ‘liberal’, but I’ve found it to be more anti-gay than the media seems to believe. The not thought out point of view is to assume that if a major city is liberal, well then it must be gay friendly. Not true. And the majority of the gays congregate in West Hollywood, a tiny bubble of a city in L.A. that gives them all the illusion that Los Angeles is super gay friendly. In the 1990’s, yeah Madonna was pretty much the only entertainer that was out spokenly gay friendly when no one else would dare. It’s ironic that so many people bash Madonna today, especially gays, considering that they wouldn’t have a voice if it weren’t for her publicly pushing the gay life in people’s faces. There would be no Lady Gaga who also would not have had any kind of career were it not for what Madonna was doing. Lady Gaga may be gay friendly, but so are most entertainers now. Madonna was doing it during a time you would be ostracized. Now that was brave doing it all by yourself.
I apologized for the typos. Why can’t we edit on this site????
My post just disappeared. You pour out your heart and soul on this site and get treated like dirt.
I spent the 90s working outside of the country, but I travelled home frequently. I’m from a medium sized southern city. There were 2 gay bars that that catered to everyone in a 100 mile radius or more. You met guys online, at the bar, or cruising spots. By 2000 the state and local police had shut down every cruising area very quietly.
Another thing we are still recovering from is the death from AIDS of many, many creative people in Hollywood and Broadway. The arts and entertainment fields were hit hard.
We couldn’t take anything for granted back then as we basically had no rights. Which is why I get angry with so many of the youth today who dismiss anytime before 9/11 as “ancient history” and not worth their time, forgetting we aren’t “there” yet, and our continued freedoms and rights are at the whim of right wing politicians who have vowed to overturn every protection we have gained. How many of today’s gay youth know about, let alone remember, when “gay panic” was a legitimate defense for beating and/or killing a gay person who made a pass at you? I remember a guy at some university took a baseball to his roommate when he found out the guy was gay and got off because the judge felt it was justified. Many “kids” see AIDS and fighting for our rights as an old person problem and many don’t bother to vote. The kids in the 80s and 90s had problems understanding the issues of the 60s, so todays kids have issues understanding the 80s and 90s. So it has been through out history.
@He BGB: No one’s taking it out. The commenting system has some kind of bug in it.
@baggins435: Most young people have the attitude that voting is for old people. Something Republicans hope never changes. I can’t judge them to hard because I was the same way in my twenties.
I graduated high school in 1992. There were no cell phones, there was no internet and there was no where for a gay kid in the closet to go explore his sexuality really. Luckily, I lived outside of San Francisco so I ventured to the Castro. I got denied entrance into clubs b/c of course I didn’t have a fake ID. In my secret lust, I had been reading ads for The Nob Hill Theatre for years in the back of the newspaper. One day I got up the courage to go. That’s where I started having my first sexual experiences and it was literally the one-and-only place I could explore who I was. Seeing naked porn stars on the mainstage was like looking at God himself. I met a few guys here and there and by the time I was 20 met a bouncer at a club who let me in.
You had to GO OUT to meet guys! You couldn’t be shady A.F. like people now days behind the screen of a damn phone and just ask for a million pictures. If you wanted to get laid — you had to have the balls to go out – SPEAK TO SOMEONE (what a concept!) – and go from there. If you sat at home…you were watching TV, not being a keyboard warrior on your laptop or smartphone.
Dying of AIDS was still a VERY real thing! I didn’t know anyone who went bareback at all. If someone got infected, there was almost an unspoken slut shaming. Now, kids think Prep is their best friend and that all the other STD’s just don’t really matter. Chlamydia? Gonorrhea? Who cares…I won’t get HIV.
I’m definitely not saying it was a “better” time…but people seemed to utilize common sense and common respect a bit more. Coming out was still a very big deal. I joined the USAF in 1996 and had to go back into the closet (for the most part, or officially speaking), but even then I made gay friends in the military. I look back on the 90’s and realize in a lot of ways it had a lot more going for it than we have today, but everything is a give and take and I wouldn’t wish the loss of social progress that people have now for some of the more interpersonal manners people had then.
@batesnight: great points – and very true, on all of it.
no not no dont´s no ….
year´s the 90 next the next is year´s 2000 .
I remember cocaine…. I think and some other stuff…I think… /s
It was bittersweet. Lot of great people dying alongside a fantastic atmosphere of freedom and acceptance. Sure there was some racism and homophobia but on the whole everyone just got along. I think the Escatcy helped! London had the best clubs in the world so there was always somewhere cool to go. And it was cheap £3 to get in £15 for an e and water all night.
The club owners went mad at all that money lost as you don’t drink on e and turned off the water taps in the bathroom! We used to refill our bottles and they were not having it! That’s when Coke took hold around 1997 dealers were pushing that like ther was no tomorrow and I hate it that’s when I noticed there were Less smiles, more attitude and terrible music.
We were ground breaking then we started to follow trend not make them. The assimilators wanted us to be mirror images of straight people, respectable with kids and stuff. I reckon AIDS took some of the best and left a vacuum that was once filled with inclusive left leaning gay men, now it’s right wing semi fascist gay men who crave masculinity and hate the effeminate men who did the hard work.
I’ll never get used to that
I have two strong memories of the mid 90’s living in Chicago. First, there really wasn;t much internet porn so you had to go to adult bookstores with the little booths to watch porn and usually have sex. Especially in Chicago it was easy, frequent and abundant. The other memory is not so pleasant- every weekend you would have 2-3 ambulances show up outside the big clubs because someone would do a little too much G and would crash. It got to the point that people waiting in line didn’t even move when the ambulance would show up, they just stepped over the body so they wouldn’t lose their spot in line.
The 90’s were OK. We were all younger, and so life felt more innocent. We didn’t know as much as what we know now.
The AIDS hysteria was starting to die down but you knew that, when you went into a venue containing concentrated sexual activity, you had to be careful. Abstinence was not uncommon.
There was definitely more of an air of subversiveness back then. You felt as if you were making a change. Today, it feels dull and boring. The music on the charts is awful and dance clubs play dumb machine-generated songs with vocals that are highly manufactured. There’s definitely a lack of soul.
There’s definitely less soul – in every sense of the word – today.
I had my coming out early january 1997, met my first boyfriend in march 1997 and…. we’ve been together ever since ! I never experienced the gay scene or all the dating apps. I was too busy being happy 🙂
It wasn’t until 1999 (16 y/o) that I was telling myself I must be bisexual and I didn’t come out as gay until September 2000 (17 y/o). So I missed out on all of the 90’s fun.
I lived in Roanoke, Virginia in the 90’s. It was a time of emotional extremes. I was newly out and had 2 kids. Children were being taken from their gay parents in Virginia at the time (anyone remember the Sharon Bottoms case?) and while it felt very liberating to be true to myself, I was terrified of losing my kids. I met the man of my dreams (still together 23 years later), but we had to ultimately move away from Virginia due to the hateful laws that were being passed against gays.The 90’s were a decade of personal and community growing pains. It’s hard to believe how far we have come in so short a time!
There was also The Real World San Francisco (Third season, aired from June to November in 1994) which featured Pedro Zamora a Cuban American man who was HIV+ and was a safe sex activist who traveled the country lecturing on HIV prevention and who was also a great surrogate for gay rights. In my opinion, Pedro’s presence on that show was a seminole moment in media for the LGBT community, he spoke before congress and was acknowledged by President Bill Clinton. He was truly inspiring and beautiful.
@mediajky: Sorry, it’s seminal moment…:)
I can’t figure out for the life of me what it is that Queerty is not letting me post. Arrgg.
I’ve enjoyed each of these comments, especially yours, ChrisK.
@ChrisK: It’s often impossible to work out, it’s even sometimes a combination of letters within a word that makes it fail. The simplest workaround I’ve found is to do multiple posts, a paragraph at a time which lets you see roughly where the issue is.
Far too many funerals and tragically far too many times the families wouldn’t allow gay friends or partners of the deceased to attend those funerals. Those are very painful memories.
@tomk1of1: You make some very good observations. Apparently you are very thoughtful about the culture, the politics and the emotions of gay culture. May I caution you that your view is too narrow. It’s the Islamic culture which is going to interrupt our otherwise pleasant slow, peaceful progression to complete equality. They are going to confront us in all settings, in every way, at every opportunity. Get ready for it.
I was a teenager in the 90s and bought hidden many hot naked men magazines.
hey guys, I’m new to this site I don’t know why I wasn’t notified when it was created when me where are the chat rooms like Datacom had where you go into a room and chat with other people instead of posting things this is ridiculous I download deleted my email service deleted my checking account credit card account off my cell phone to post comments this is ridiculous where are the chat rooms at DJ needs this new Cherry that I obtained over the last 9 years of no sex I need i popped before I head to my mother’s basement prison, my mother is homophobic so this is the only opportunity I got get some fun and action going on hey baby I can’t load my picture up cuz it doesn’t tell me how to and I tried but if you want to see my pic send me an email I send it to you but again if my mother finds out I’m doing this I’ll be homeless
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