Sometimes, we are ahead of our time.
I’m revisiting a topic that first came up over a decade ago. While researching this subject, I was surprised when I entered in the term Post Gay into the google machine, one of the items that came up was a quote from me in the media. That always trips one out, and it would appear that it was a topic that told of a future of living a life beyond the definition of sexuality. I would now argue 12 years after that quote we have caught up to that foretelling and are entering a new era in the evolution of civil rights for the LGBTQIA Community.
Here’s the link to that original story from my days living with Rob, in Citrus Heights, CA when I was the Director of the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California Davis. A lifetime ago!
If you don’t have time to read through the whole article, here was the part that was attributed to me:
“Eagan and Kennedy are openly gay. But must all gays be committed to changing the views of others, to contributing to progress, as defined by the gay activist community? Yes, said Christopher Solis, coordinator of the LGBT resource center at UC Davis. He’s currently organizing a leadership retreat focusing on the topic of apathy in activism. He’s heard of the post-gay movement, and views it as a symptom of the very apathy he’s trying to fight.
“It sort of describes their emotions, that gays are tired,” he said. “They’re tired of being in the LGBT community. They want to blend into mainstream society.”
Solis admitted that the LGBT community has become, by definition, fragmented. “Allowing people to self-identify has benefits and drawbacks,” he said. “We could get to the point where we have letters for everyone.” He also identified with the post-gay notion of not being defined by sexual preference alone.
“I’m not just about sexual orientation,” he said. “I have a career, cats, a family, religion. To be constantly bombarded by the sex thing is challenging at times.” For instance, he and his partner of 12 years are thinking about adopting children, but Solis has gay friends who say such family values are incompatible with homosexuality.”
What’s most fascinating about revisiting a topic is the hindsight of how much one changes over the years and evolves. Even though I wouldn’t go far as to slap 1999 Solis (I was Christopher Solis then), I wouldn’t have said this quote today.
To be fair, at that time I was surrounded by a demographic half my age, and my struggle was to infuse in them the reason to care about the civil rights movement. To those who know me personally, you might guess, that apathy as defined by inaction is an affront to my personal values. Much of my life has been defined as being a ‘do-er’, and so those who choose to sit on the sidelines and reap the benefits of others struggles and efforts have always offended me. Oh, I agree with their right to do so – I just suspect we have little in common. (ß Insert shrug here).
But in my memory when this reporter had called me that day, I couldn’t even really envision the idea of Post Gay. For clarity let me define what I mean, when I speak of Post Gay:
Post-Gay: The era where LGBTQIA community members are predominately viewed or identify by affiliations other than their sexual identity.
So, the reason I view us entering into this new phase of the civil rights evolution is the personal reaction I and Rob receive as a couple, or the reaction I get when the topic of family comes up in introductions or among newly introduced folks.
The proliferation of Gay marriage in the U.S. across the country has given the general population a sense of lessened anxiety about the subject – about living alongside LGBT people in general.
All of a sudden, I find my role as a member of the community being more of providing educational moments when they arise, or continued efforts at dispelling stereo types, but this is far from issues of basic human dignity and acknowledgement.
Certainly there will be ongoing education.
If I were to take an informal poll of my co-workers at the University of Texas, a group I consider to be highly intelligent and educated, many would still assert that because Rob and I are married in New York, certainly Texas recognizes that marriage, right? Wrong. But that’s because it’s common sense that we would. But because they are not confronted with these legal obstacles and it’s not in their direct vision but rather on the periphery, they can be forgiven for such naivety.
It’s been a while now since someone cocked their head at my use of an unexpected pronoun, or correcting someone when they ask if I’m married and they ask me a simple question about what is my Wife’s name and I respond my Husband’s name is Rob.
Basically the idea of Post Gay is an idea that we live in a time that topics that were such a big deal for such a long time, just aren’t as big a deal any longer.
I for one – am THRILLED with this evolution.
However I see others in my community who struggle with this new found identity – the identity of freedom.
It would be natural to think that after years and for some, a lifetime, of struggle for simple acknowledgement should be happy that in many ways we’ve achieved that. Now the challenge is to self-determine what now defines us. That is the identity of freedom I speak of.
The drawbacks I spoke of in 2002 were the fracturing of our society by the freedom to self-identify into sub-segments of one large community. Are you an L? G? B? T? I? Or an A? The benefits I spoke of are the acknowledgement that I fit somewhere in that community and thus can cross-advocate for others.
Certainly the aforementioned strides do not include the same degree of progress in areas such as Transgender freedoms, which means there’s plenty of work to do. But the idea that I can now focus my energies and efforts on advocating for animal rights, lower taxes, improved government, solving homelessness and other social ills and just being plain free (mostly) from harm and bullying is by itself cause for celebration.
So, while this transition that lies out before us seems daunting and scary. The principles behind self-identification still apply. Now I get to self-identify what matters to me beyond the boundaries of sexual identity.
I’m not advocating anytime soon the dismantling the acronyms we use or the term queer as an umbrella term, but maybe I’ve evolved to be just an “H” – for Human. I’ve never felt like such a smaller part of a larger whole.