One of the things about the whole argument that discrimination against gays is comparable to discrimination against blacks is that a lot of gays cannot be identified by appearance, and would not suffer discrimination in all cases unless they self-identified - hence an intrinsic difficulty in discriminating between them and anyone else. Blacks have never had the option of anonymity.
That's true up to a point. Certainly, there are a variety of characteristics that are commonly associated with homosexuals in this society, whether it is the stereotypical lisping speech and mincing walk of the male homosexual or the butch demeanor of the lesbian. These characteristics, to be sure, are not shared by all homosexuals, nor are they exclusive to homosexuals, but bigots rarely bother to request the bona fides
of the targets of their bigotry, and these characteristics are more than sufficient for those who prefer to discriminate based solely on appearances and who are not overly concerned by the occasional false-positive result.
Likewise, there are some blacks who cannot readily be identified as black. I'm not sure if most people would necessarily identify Derek Jeter or Halle Berry, for instance, as black. It should be remembered that Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson
, was only one-eighth black (an octoroon, in the quaint terminology of institutionalized racism), and normally "passed" as white.
But then the question remains: why does this matter? Although the authors of the original article seemed to think that there was some kind of substantive
distinction between the movements for gay and black civil rights, I fail to see it. Just because gays are not as easily identified as blacks does not obviate the fact that gays, in this society, are the subjects of discrimination. Do they need to distinguish themselves somehow -- say, by wearing a pink triangle -- just to make it easier for people to discriminate against them on sight?