In 1972,]ohn Knoebel wrote of his experiences living as part of the 95th Street Collective. This group of five gay men in New York City was, apparently, the first gay male living collective in the United States. The group's decision to experiment with an alternative, communal living arrangement fit well within larger understandings of what it meant to "come out" in the early 1970sindeed, Knoebel's story (titled, after all, "Somewhere in the Right Direction") would almost suggest that, for him, the trajectory from coming out to collective living was inevitable. Knoebel first detailed the individual isolation he experienced growing up in the Midwest and attending religious schools, but then wrote of a transformation that was much more than individual: "I was gay! Gay! With ribbons streaming and bells ringing .... I had come out in the
movement."! For Knoebel and many others at the time, the coming-out experience was fundamentally a collective experience: one came out of the closet, certainly, but even more important, one came out to a community or movement (in Knoebel's case, the Gay Liberation Front, or GLF) involved in the process of reimagining and reshaping the world.2 The burgeoning gay movement made possible the formation of new identities, individual and collective, and because of this, communal living could indeed be seen as a natural part of some people's coming-out process in the early 1970s. Although the standard, bourgeois American dream offered an extremely limited repertoire of identities (the dominant culture's image of success was the white and middle-class heterosexual couple, living a private existence with their children in the suburbs), both coming out and functioning as part of a collective marked a refusal to live according to those terms set by straight society.