Why We Need The "Gay Culture Is" Meme Now More Than Ever

by Eliza Castile

Gay culture is far more than glitter, parades, and the Babadook. It's lonely teenage nights and infinitely explaining that no, you and your girlfriend aren't sisters. It's making Ken dolls kiss and weighing the costs of coming out of the closet. Most of all, it's difficult to define, but the "gay culture is" meme can give you a good idea of what it's like to be LGBT in the modern day — the ups, downs, and Grindr mishaps.

The LGBT community has been at the center of more than a few memes over the years, but in the past few weeks, the culture itself has become the meme. On Twitter, LGBT users have been trying to answer a simple question: What is gay culture? Considering Twitter's 140 character limit, the answers have managed to be surprisingly complex, ranging from the lighthearted to the oh-god-where's-the-tissue-box. The meme covers so much ground that any given LGBT reader is pretty much guaranteed to find at least one ever so #relatable.

Queerty traced the meme's origins to early September, when one man's tweet about delayed exploration went viral. (There may have been other, similar tweets around then, but his was the most popular.) "Gay culture is being a teenager when you're 30 because your teenage years were not yours to live," he wrote.

Clearly striking a chord with other users, the tweet went viral, with nearly 15,000 retweets. Within a few days, it sparked a discussion about the difficulties of being an LGBT teenager; many people said they missed out on important milestones in adolescence thanks to their sexuality or gender identity. Meanwhile, it appears to have inspired other users to tweet about what gay culture means — and so the "gay culture is" meme was born.

Many of the tweets tackled issues straight people may never notice: subtle (and not-so-subtle) homophobia, struggling to fit in with your peers, and the irritation of having to explain to total strangers that your sexuality is not a phase.

Then there's the loneliness of living in an area where LGBT relationships take place behind closed doors. Attitudes toward the LGBT community may be changing, but that certainly doesn't mean prejudice has been wiped out. According to a Pew Research Center survey published in June, for example, nearly one in three Americans oppose same-sex marriage. Hostility toward LGBT people is still a widespread problem, and it can contribute to mental health concerns like depression and loneliness.

It may be a simple meme, but the "gay culture is" tweets may change the perspective of straight readers by giving them a glimpse into a different world, where being LGBT totally changes your experience. It also gives LGBT users the chance to commiserate — to feel less alone, knowing that other people have similar problems.

Other memes, though, took a more lighthearted approach, and the results were too real for anyone who's been part of the LGBT dating scene.

Oh, look, someone made a relatable meme about the meme being relatable. My head is spinning.

This isn't the first time gay culture and memes have gone hand in hand. In June, the titular character of The Babadook, an Australian horror film, became a gay icon through an inexplicable series of events. For a few weeks, the Gay Babadook was everywhere online. Now, following the release of the remake of Stephen King's IT, the Babadook is back... and dating Pennywise the clown, according to some corners of the Internet.

Don't ask me to explain this one. I don't make the memes; I just report them.

Meanwhile, another LGBT-themed meme is in full swing on Twitter: Fellas, Is It Gay? As Know Your Meme explains, the meme "refers to a series of parody tweets that mock the idea of fragile masculinity and homophobia in which users ask if non-sexual or homoerotic things make one a homosexual."

Gay culture is something different to everyone, but one thing is clear: It has the Internet's sense of humor down pat.