Finding our Stonewall
Published Thursday, 15-Jul-2010 in issue 1177
I can’t tell you how many times in conversation I’ve had another gay person ask me, “What’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?” or better yet, “Wait, I thought that was, like, you know, not law anymore or whatever.”
It requires every ounce of energy in my body to remain calm and understand that while repealing the ban on gays in the military means everything to me personally; everyone has to find their own Stonewall.
The truth is, there has simply been too much bad mouthing, myself included, of our up and coming GLBT youth as having no identity and certainly no community. A generation lost on white parties and Grindr.
But let us put things into perspective and give these young men and women a chance.
You see, unlike the past generation, GLBT youth today have not (thankfully) experienced any one single event like that of the epidemic that started out without a name that mercilessly cut through the gay community in the 1980’s or the routine police brutality that saw men being dragged out of bars in the 50’s and 60’s. The past generation lived in fear, and it was from this fear that they developed their sense of urgency.
It is this since of urgency, not dedication or commitment that our GLBT youth lack, and there is good reason to believe that they are more than capable to find it on their own. We have seen tremendous examples of this in both the Prop 8 equality movement and the DADT repeal effort. In both these cases something snapped within our young men and women that made them say, “Enough!” and mobilized them to act and form our own generational communities.
It took me nearly two years after I was kicked out of the military to get my life together, figure out who I was, learn about the men and women who fought vigorously for our civil rights and gain a sense of belonging in the gay community. We must provide a safe place for our GLBT youth to do the same, free of criticism and of being patronized.
The bonds of each member of this community will be stronger if we allow them to choose their level of involvement on their own, rather than forcing it on them. I assure you, with a little time, everyone will have the “Aha!” moment that will bring them into activism by their own choosing and thus strengthen every aspect of the community as a whole.
Unlike the past generation that all bonded over a single event or two, my generation will have it harder. They will have it harder in the sense that so much more self-initiative is required of them. They will have it harder in the sense that while we are the most technologically connected generation ever to exist, we are the most independent.
Many of the social problems like marriage equality, adoption rights, and DADT are not going to affect every single person the same way as AIDS and police raids did. Instead GLBT youth today are going to have to find it in them to say, “ This does not directly affect me, but it matters.” And rest assured they are.
One of the most important lessons we must take from our civil rights forefathers and mothers is that divisions and infighting will derail the movement towards equality and empower the never resting opposition.
We must stay strong, we must stay united and it is imperative that we remember that our Stonewall does not need to be the same as the next persons. All that matters is that something has inspired us both in our own ways to work toward the common goal of equality and human dignity for all.