Language changes, and the rate of change has been accelerating ever since the invention of print.
I’m old enough to remember people, even older, saying things like “We had a gay old time,” without any raised eyebrows or eye rolling, , although there may have been someone in the background stifling a giggle even then.
When I joined the YMCA, at about age nine, it still had nude swimming. My Dad warned me to be on the lookout for “queers.” Somehow, I knew what he was talking about although I don’t remember when anyone told me exactly that that meant. Part of the free floating zeitgeist of scary childhood things.
When I lived in San Francisco in the 70s, the straight-gay dichotomy was widely understood, with some of the more militant using the word “breeders” for those who tended to PIV sex. Having sex with women was something I was very much in favor of, and had been from the first time I heard of it, although I didn’t get the connection with reproduction until a bit later.
So, in the late 60s I chose to be not straight, and the hope of bonking women was a major factor in the move.
It may be that the term straight for heterosexual was already current in the time, but among hippies, and various adherents of the counter culture, including hangers on like me, it meant what the Beatniks had called “square.” Those of us who were emphatically not straight called ourselves “heads, as in “Feed your head(with mind-altering substances)” in Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice.” This signifier meant a person likely smoked weed, and maybe did some more interesting chemicals as well, but only psychedelics. Opiates and speed were anathema. It also indicated a general political outlook: anti-Vietnam War, interested in peace initiatives of all sorts, and partial to social legislation that wouldn’t cost us any money, largely because we didn’t have any. Marxism, however, was beyond this pale. Guys quoting Karl and his acolytes and telling us that our partying was counterrevolutionary weren’t heads; they were just crashing bores.
The political side for most was rather marginal. “ Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll.” And sex meant hippie chicks. Their glorious tresses, fresh and unmade up faces, halter tops and tight jeans adorned the happenings, protests, and concerts that were nearly unending, a seamless time of, um, stimulation, for young males.
Well, I read “Rolling Stone, fooled around with stuff that the FDA did not approve, saw Cream, Hendrix and Zeppelin, but hippie chicks…didn’t happen for me.
Back then, straights didn’t enjoy altered consciousness, and quite a few got married before they had sex, or married the girls they had sex with, worked, saved, bought stuff, and had children. Hitchhiking, sometimes you’d be picked up by some poor slob of a straight hoping you had a joint, and who would assure you that he really was a head. And, at times the transaction went the other way.
I wish I could apologize to all those straights I snickered at because, as was inevitable, for me, at any rate, I did cut my hair, work, buy suits, save, marry and have children. And quite liked it.
So, I was straight, both ways, all along.
In view of the current furor of same sex marriage, or marriage equality, one could also say that a lot of gays, too are straight.