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.
Alright. The title is a little dramatic. I get it.
However, there are moments in life when the passing of somethinggg can hit you hard. Perhaps, albeit, not as hard as the loss of a pet or person – and rightfully so – because it’s just a thing.
But it hurts nonetheless.
I got sober in 1988. My whole attitude and outlook upon life was changing. A transformation was taking place. I was mostly discovering happiness and I’ll never forget the meeting I was sitting out front with friends in San Jose, California. They smoked, I chatted. Rick Cornelia pulled up in a brand new-for-1989 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible Pick up Truck. It was red.
Now, I’d already long since started my love affair with convertibles. I was currently still driving my first one. America stopped making convertibles in 1976, when the “last” Cadillac Eldorado rolled off the assembly line. Auto makers thought the convertible was doomed because of high insurance rates, poor safety perception and declining interest. When Chrysler reintroduced the convertible in 1982 with the K Car. Not long after that I was in the Navy stationed in Detroit, Michigan.
While driving through Detroit, these Chrysler convertibles were new! And precisely, just like this white one you see above, with red interior, white walls and hood ornament is exactly what was sitting on the lawn of a dealership. They had placed sand around it and umbrella. The mannequins around it made it appear that they were having a lovely day at the beach. This was Detroit. I looked left – I looked right. No beach here. But it reminded me how homesick I was for California and I drove right up, practically on the sand next to it and asked the salesman how much. $6,200. “I’ll take it!”.
It was that car I was driving when Rick pulled up in that convertible truck that spring day in 1988. I loved my Dodge 400 and had no desire to part with it. But, I remembered that truck, such an oddity – a convertible truck! And, I vowed I’d get one someday.
What I didn’t know was how rare those trucks were to become. Chrysler only made about 3,000+ of them. And, many years later, when I tried to search for one – it was difficult to find. You never saw them on the used car lots and so I mostly let it go. I drove other Chrysler convertibles instead.
I’d been searching on and off for years when just down the street, a neighbor pulled one out of his garage! It was beat up for sure, but there it was! This was 2006 and I squealed when I got home and said I’d found “it”.
My husband, bless his patient heart, has heard one form or another of finding “it” for many years. He has learned to grunt from behind a book, maybe roll his eyes, maybe pat my hand, but I have helped him over the years become the master of patient patronization. We were preparing for our move to Texas. I had my Chrysler convertible, a VW Bug convertible, and a 1979 Chevrolet Camaro (another story entirely – that Camaro)
The neighbor placed a for sale sign on the truck. I had driven by it for months wondering why it merely sat in the driveway and now here it was for sale! I gave it half as much thought as I’d given that first convertible on that sandy dealership lot. Which is to say NONE. “I’ll take it!”.
To say Rob was perplexed when I brought the truck home is a kind way of saying… he was mad as *#@!. My direct assignment from Rob was to get rid of all the cars (I could keep one).
Rob declared it one of the ugliest trucks ever. How could you say that about anyones baby? Truth was it was somewhat worse for wear. Bad paint, and original wheels that were pitted, and overall worn out look.
But like any crazed-convertible lover, I saw potential. I declared in a month, when we were scheduled to depart for Texas, he’d not recognize it. We started with new wheels, and a stereo upgrade. It was going to need new paint too.
I brought it home and parked it next to my other Chrysler convertible. They were beautiful together. I wanted to keep them both, but Rob said one, and the Truck wins. The truck always wins.
We set out for Texas on a late May-day. We loaded what we could in the truck (way more than we’d ever fit into that Bug Convertible), and set out for our new life in Tejas. There were some delays. Our first introduction to the Lone Star constabulary was less than an hour into our Texas adventure. Rob was driving 90 miles an hour on Interstate 10. During the only hour I’d not drive on that trip. I was so mad when I found out how fast he was pushing my baby, I had no sympathy for him. I looked around for my own book to throw at him! I texted his photo to all our friends back home as retribution instead.
It was the perfect vehicle for Texas! Many didn’t know Dodge ever made such a contraption. Of the 3k or so made, hardly any were sold in the Lone Star state. Most of them were in California, and Florida the rest spread throughout the south. Rob even grew to appreciate the practicality of something you could take to home depot and load with sod, and then put the top down and drive by Lake Travis and through the Hill Country on a lovely spring day. Although, admittedly, it was somewhat hot in Texas for top down driving as he illustrated for me once with a picture he doodled in a meeting.
My introductions to my fellow Texans, in the beginning, until I started purchasing additional cars was me and my truck. While retrospectively somewhat dangerous to allow a thing come to define you or be so closely associated with your personality, this truck fit me perfectly. A little bit butch a little bit.. me.
And, I drove it everywhere, El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but it was the classiest – in my mind – of all the cars I’ve driven (35+ at last count). I drove it to car shows and gatherings of gear heads through out the area and state. And it made me so mad that the Dodge never got the respect it deserved. This was primarily because most folks just presumed I’d pulled a ‘bubba’ and taken a chain saw to a random old Dakota. They hadn’t realized that this car was manufactured at an odd time in Chrysler history, when they were trying to follow GM’s model of brand-marketing-manufacturing. The circumstances that led to the creation of this unique truck, were not likely to be repeated again (well, until Bob Lutz when from Chrysler to GM and tried to recreate this formula with the Chevy SSR the only other truck, post Model-T to be a factory convertible).
The truck had its shortcomings. It’s the first classic car I’ve held on to and you can see how repair bills can start to mount (easily). It needed a new transmission. It needed new wheel bearings. It needed engine mounts, it needed, it needed, you get the idea. But through all that, I recognized how much joy it brought to have an interest and to go out and live life doing fun things in fun places. Isn’t this why I got sober in the first place? To insist on enjoying life. This truck represented my independence and I loved that it was around as long as my first recovery chip was.
You couldn’t help just feel like a celebrity driving the truck. It garnered comments wherever I went. It became annoying to Rob, because when he’d borrow it, he’d have to memorize the script.
” Yes, it’s a Dodge Dakota. No, I didn’t chop it. Yes, they really did make them. I know you’ve never seen one. I don’t know why they didn’t sell many in Texas. No, I think they should have made a lot more of them too. Yes, it is pretty isn’t it. No, I’m not interested in selling it today. No, I’m not interested in selling it tomorrow. No, I’m pretty sure I’m not interested in selling it.. ever. Yes sir. Thank you”.
In our time on earth we have milestones which remind us we’re finite, not infinite. Now that I’m in my 50’s I feel pains that I didn’t feel before. My neck aches. My ankles swell. and all these serve as a reminder that time is passing. I’ve seen my friends pass off the seen. Sometimes their life comes to an end, or sometimes a friendship just runs its course. But material possessions, in theory, continue on. It’s not like I’d ever ‘break up’ with this truck. Rob and I often jested that the order in the event of a fire was Rob you grab the dogs, the photo albums, the wedding silver, the wallets and phones and I’ll meet you at the corner, because I’ll be headed for the garage to move that truck!
But the constancy of material possessions aren’t permanent. Even friends in the form of familiar surroundings change. Going home I see how the neighborhoods have evolved. And in AUSTIN – buildings that were once there, the Alamo Drafthouse South, the Trailers on South Congress, the numerous places to park downtown are all disappeared. And, so why wouldn’t something such as a truck be spared the ever evolution of change. But the familiar brings a sense of happy. Of continuity. Of permanence. And, change is an unknown thing. Change is .. scary.
But not necessarily hard. Only resistance to change is. Every time I’ve walked through change, hand in hand with God, I’ve been spared the difficulty of fighting against it, the inevitable. In the end the Truck doesn’t always win. — Time does. Change does. Life does.
The Diamond Dog Dodge is so named because it’s everything I love wrapped into metal. The preciousness of diamonds. The hugability of a dog and it is a Dodge, a Chrysler product – a brand I’ve always found a fondness for. It’s also, for reasons known to me and my husband and we smile when we think about how much joy this thing has brought me, and by extension us.
I knew someday I’d have to let the Dodge go. But in my minds eye – it was when I was simultaneously handing over my drivers license from old age and infirmity. I didn’t know it would be just a month after I mused, “I think I should get special insurance for it.” It’s far more valuable than the number displayed on paper in a blue-book.
So last week, when I had that slow-motion moment, I hit the brake so hard I may have fractured my ankle, and I saw the metal of my truck hit that car, I knew it was not a good thing. I didn’t know to what extent it was a bad thing. From outward appearances I had hope. A slightly bent fender. I little crush on the bumper. And a flat tire. I didn’t know that much like internal organ damage that the wheel had been pushed back into the frame and there may be frame damage. Short of the synonym of rust and cancer, there’s no more fatal diagnosis for a car than frame damage. Even an engine is more easily replaceable.
So perhaps it may be time for it to pass of the scene and out of my life. And, maybe I’ll be ok. Maybe I’ll find a new interest and maybe these photos will serve as a reminder of fond days past, but not to the exclusion of fond days present or future. I’ll always remember my excitement the day I found “It”. And how it bridged my California life and love of convertibles, to my Texas life and love of Trucks.
It really was the perfect Texas truck. I hope some part of it is salvageable. But, I’ll survive if it’s not. But, for my heart, the Truck always wins.
Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible Pick Up Trucks, a group on Flickr.
This is a group on Flickr. It is a place where you’ll find pictures of the rare Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible Pick Up Truck. I encourage you to join and place your own photos! Most of them now are mine but I suspect there’ll be a greater diversity of pictures once more folks join the group. Enjoy.
I ran the Diamond Dog Dodge down to to Buda for a showing in the car cruise this Saturday night. Here’s some pics I snapped after. I didn’t get to join the group in Buda, but I’m not too concerned. The truck isn’t old enough, since it’s an 89 and they only have pre 1975 cars. So, no worries. In all seriousness & without malice, who wants to belong to a group in Buda anyway!? Really. It’s the other side of the earth from where I live in North Austin so I should probably find a group closer to my home.
This picture was taken under some blue LED lighting. I wished I’d had a better camera. I think I could have caught the effect cooler than shows up here.
So we didn’t get into see the waxed Rhett Butler. But, who cares. Look at this old Dodge Truck.
We checked into the haunted Jefferson Hotel and walked around town. We found that Jefferson has an antique car museum! Gone with the whattt? Woo Hoo. Sign me up. We had a great time. I just love small car museums. This one had a grand total of like 16 cars or so. But, all beautiful.
It has taken 2 months thus far and the repairs are still in the works. Damn Farmers Insurance. And, curses to Rebreu Body Shop here in Austin. The truck is not restored to what it was – but it’s sufficient. It’s really hard to get the parts for these trucks, so the dash is mangled and the faceplate on the dash is all chipped up, but those were the best parts they could find. Ugh.
Cadillac problems of course when you consider I HAVE a truck to get broken into. So, no loud complaints here, just lots of grumbling. Although, I’ll likely change insurance companies. (Again).
Below is the second phase of the repairs. Sean, at the stereo place is busy as we speak putting the music back in my life. A Sony Explod receiver/CD/Ipod unit, with Rockford Fosgate Speakers, and what I should have had all along – a Viper alarm system.
So, while spring seems far away on a cold and overcast day like today – it will come again – before we know it. And, I’ll be READY.
Besides, I get to watch “Sean” install it. Sigh. I hope he needs help. 🙂