Slowly, the need of the LGBT community to define itself as equal is fading. Pride fests are becoming far less an aggressive demonstration of our inherent equality and more a profit-making opportunity for business; designated “safe spaces” are less necessary, as families and friends of younger generations come to acceptance and understanding with ease; even places of worship are more readily opening arms and doors to members of the LGBT community. Throughout all of this, arguments against the “gay lifestyle” are losing ground—even institutions called on for moral guidance (e.g. churches) are publicly confessing that there is nothing immoral about homosexuality.
I won’t win any popularity contests by saying this, but here goes: It’s time to move on.
You see, the gay community is in an awkward stage of transition. Most of us are realizing, along with the rest of society, that being gay is nothing to write home about. It’s part of who we are, and provided that we—along with our LGBT brothers and sisters—can live our lives fully without discrimination or segregation, then we need to let go of the gay movements of yore.
Coming to understand this transition, and what we want it to be, is the crux of the problem. What I see now is a community that clings to its fight for equality because it is what has defined us for so long. The same may be said of any civil rights movement: for Latinos/Latinas, African-Americans, Asians, etc. To this day, pockets of sensitivity still exist for these communities—in part because there still is some racial and cultural prejudice that lingers, and in part because it is the identity they knew for so long. At what point, though, do we collectively move on?
Several months ago, I wrote a column for OutFront Colorado about this very issue. Gently phrased and coyly proffered, I asked the LGBT community a simple question: What will we do when all things are equal? We argue for equality—rights we undeniably deserve—but we spend little time thinking about how securing those rights will ultimately change us. Where are the community gatherings about the future? What public discussions are held about our change in identity, our change in society? What are we saying to ourselves about what’s to come?
Some would opine that when the dust settles, we will simply retreat to the lives we always wanted—lives in relationship, in marriage, in community, as individuals. While I would wish for that, I think things will be more painful. As has often been said of the U.S., we are less a melting pot and more a salad bowl—a haphazard mix of backgrounds that come together fruitfully on the best of days, and simply coexist on others. Our task, it seems to me, is thinking about how we can both coexist peacefully, and offer our unique perspective to a very diverse society.
But before that can happen, we have to know who we are. Is it possible we’ve spent so much time on issues of equality that, by some great irony, we know ourselves first as gay and second as human? It can be argued that this is the unfortunate necessity of any fight for equality, and that may be true, but the burden to self-identify in healthy, holistic terms then becomes even greater, and we can’t rely on society to do that for us.
As a friend and activist once told me, functioning and succeeding as a gay individual in society is a furthering of our community’s goals. Though it is perhaps less dramatic and less pointed than regimented activism, it offers our country—and the world—a clear view of what many would like to deny. That is: we are people first, who just happened to be gay.
Though I advocate for change, I must say that the work of LGBT activists is still needed and always appreciated. Yes, we are reaching an age when homosexuality is not a contentious, moral issue but simply a happy truth, and yet, we have work to do. But let that work be as individuals, as human beings, and not always and only as homosexuals.