Times, they are a-changin’

When I was still active in the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Chorus, we would occasionally have group discussions about non-musical topics. Since the chorus was a non-profit organization with a mission affirm the positive aspects of lesbian, gay, and bisexual experience and unite communities1, we would sometimes talk about some serious topics about outreach, and making the world a better place. Many times in those discussions, people would talk about their dream of a day sometime in the future when it really wouldn’t matter to anyone whether you were queer or straight.

While I longed for that day myself, I wasn’t at all confident it would happen in my lifetime. Now, I’m not so sure…

Back then, most people didn’t come out of the closet until adulthood. We all knew someone who was caught fooling around in their teens, and very occasionally you would meet someone who said they came out then, but it was very rare. A recent study claims that the average age of coming out during the 1980s and ’90s was mid-twenties, but now it’s 16 years old. Because that’s a median, there will be a lot of people coming out at a younger age, which is why you can find a few parents blogging about what it’s like to have their 6-, 7-, or 8-year-old child announce that they’re gay.

We’ve also had an incredible few years on the marriage equality front. Not to mention the polling showing ever increasing percentages of the country in favor of gay rights, marriage equality, gay adoption, and so on. It’s been changing so fast, that a lot of people have begun to declare victory.

I wasn’t surprised when the anti-gay bigots (and their allies among the pundit-class) started whining about us being “sore winners” just because some businesses have run afoul of non-discrimination laws. Those particularly crack me up because they keep insisting we’re being sore winners about gay marriage, but the most publicized cases have happened in states that don’t have marriage equality, and in several cases the issue has been pursued by local authorities, not the gay or lesbian couple who were turned away. Anyway, I wasn’t surprised because they have always thought of themselves as victims. The very thought of our existence threatens them in ill-defined ways. So, of course, now that we have begun, in some areas of public life, in some parts of the country, to be treated nearly equally before the law, that freaks them out.

But now, some of our side have begun to declare victory. “Now that the gays have won, what’s next?” a headline on a gay-friendly news site asked recently. Yet scroll back only a little ways down the screen on the same site and one finds headlines about a transwoman being fired from her job, a lesbian couple being violently murdered (by the father of one of the women!), and the plight of thousands of teens kicked out of their homes by homophobic parents. And I have to ask, “We’ve won what, now?”

If this were football, it might be fair to say that we’ve finally started scoring touchdowns, but the game his far from won.

I understand that there will always be bigoted people. Heck, there’s a not-so-tiny group of people out there campaigning to take the vote away from women, for instance. But we can do better, especially when it comes to the children. If parents kicked their adolescent kid out on the street because the kid was friends with a member of another race, the parents would be reviled and ostracized by their own community. Child neglect charges might even be filed. We haven’t reached that point in society as a whole with queer kids.

We can do better. And we’re headed in the right direction. All of the polls and statistics show that opinion and acceptance are moving in the right direction. But they’re moving because we refuse to be invisible. True, we change those hearts and minds slowly during the normal ins and outs of our lives. Co-workers, neighbors, and cashiers at stores where we do business see us, interact with us, and realize that we aren’t monsters.

Which isn’t to say that we’re “just like everyone else” because we are a little different. Just as all of them are a little bit different, too.

Pride is about visibility, yes. But much more important than that, it’s about refusing to be invisible, and refusing to repress ourselves or our queer brothers, sisters, and zisters. The times are changing, and maybe the parade and the festival is less about protest and more about partying, but that’s okay. One hundred years ago, a parade of irish people in Boston was about politics, demanding equal rights, and refusing to be stay down after being beaten. And now, it’s a big party. One day, gay pride parades will be the same way.

But not yet.

Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God web site, every year explains why he thinks the parade is important, which he sums up by quoting the old Jewish joke about the true meaning of every Jewish holiday: “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.” Joe then gives his Gay version of the meaning of Gay Pride: “They wish we were invisible. We aren’t. Let’s dance!”

Care to join me?


1. It was during my time in leadership positions in the chorus that I came to understand the important of a concise and not-too-abstract mission statement.

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