I once wrote sometime ago about the topic of Post Gay. It was this concept back in the late 90s and early 2000’s regarding an apathy-like state where folks were expressing ‘fatigue’, for lack of a better descriptor, about the state of affairs as it relates to activism for LGBT causes.
There was a section of our community that was giving a shrug at the idea that activism was even necessary. Many had gone on from their teens, and 20’s into their thirties, with sights changed and moving on with family/partnering and getting on with the business of careers, accumulating material wealth, paying taxes and dying.
I, moving from my 30s into 40s at the time could certainly understand this sentiment, although I cautioned against it during the time during an interview with the media on the topic. At the time, I was the interim Director of the LGBT Resource Center at UC Davis, and the reporter wanted to talk about this idea that simply made her aghast. (To be fair, she was a 20 something, so I could see how this might be perceived).
In our discussions with college students at the time, it sparked heated discussions about what is being resigned, versus moving on to advocacy from an evolved or mature perspective and what is apathy, or just plain “sloth”. These are all intelligent questions for comparison but elicited, from younger members of our group, outrage at the lack of outrage.
We even invited a dignitary from state government to come speak with us on activism and how he assisted our state governor on remaining abreast of issues facing the California citizenry and what he should advocate for.
Now, because most of us don’t have a press secretary, we have to decide on our own on what is pertinent, important and worth leaving the couch for. I would assert that it might be actually harder in the modern age with all manner of media resource. We are bombarded by reputable, and far less reputable outlets of information hitting us with stories from every angle. It used to be that if it were the “Star” or the “Enquirer” you’d likely raise an eyebrow with skepticism about the level of truth in reporting. Now with Fox, and other outlets all putting their less and not so less obvious spins on reporting, it’s hard to garner what is trustworthy information. It becomes even harder so when the old-school traditional sources of NBC, CBS, ABC and to a lesser extent CNN all have news stories that are marked “promoted” right on the same page as the “legitimate” news. Heaven forbid you mis-click and you’ll be reading about why the country has gone crazy for a new anti-wrinkle skin cream written in the style of legitimate breaking-news.
There was a time when advertising was kept completely separate from the news. Having worked in the media (old school newspaper) during the advent of the Internet, that line was becoming blurry. Now, some might argue, it just doesn’t plain exist. The old-school media brands protected their reliability and perception of being trusted purveyors of news with all the fierceness that a dog would protect the proverbial bone. Being a trusted source of information was everything. Now, everything is open to suspicion. Whether because of the corporatization of the media, or the competition to drive people to their sites with clicks, rather than doorstep delivery, the media goes to great lengths to get you to visit their URL.
To our detriment, we are bombarded. Which, could conceivably, exacerbate our fatigue and apathy.
I don’t think this has happened so much in the LGBT community as it might have. We constantly have a flow of energized and outraged community members who keep up the fight, and advocacy on all issues. Our most recent and long-fought for prize being gay marriage, now known in our household simply as “marriage”. In our glee, we paused to catch our breath. We collectively sighed a sigh of relief. We slapped each other on the back, raised our glasses to toast our work – find whatever metaphor works for you, we’ve taken our eye off the underlying oppression that exists in this country and around the world.
There are simply people who don’t accept us, and never will.
That statement might sound defeatist. I assure you, it is the opposite. It is with newfound energy and vigor that I’ve arrived at this newest stage in my association with my role in the community as an activist.
My speaking engagements have dried up. I was afore invited to speak to large groups of young people. Please sir. Tell us of homophobia in your day as a young person? What was it like to be gay BEFORE don’t ask don’t tell? What? You were arrested? For Homosexuality? Is that a thing? And, energize our outrage with your tales of disparage you’ve endured, the discrimination you face every day as a couple together for 20 years (at the time) and unable to enjoy all the benefits associated with being a straight married couple. How can that be?
Truth. Gays now serve. (Out. They’ve always served). Even our neighbors have lost their interest in our novelty of being a gay-married couple on our street. (There are now four other couples, and folks have discovered we’re as boring as they are).
In the interim, Transgender has become the new Gay. In novelty terms, folks want Transgender speakers, or representation of the “T” on their board. What? You’re not intersexed? Um. Never mind.
This is neither a complaint, nor an indictment. It’s actually a wonderful thing. Trans friends certainly are the underrepresented in the group of the underrepresented. Nothing pleases me more than seeing the spotlight shined on their struggle (Well. Except Caitlyn Jenner. You can dim that spotlight. But, let’s not go there).
The events of two days ago in Orlando Florida; the largest mass shooting in America. 49 people killed.
There are folks who will say horrific things coming from a place of hate, which I would argue is fear. Fear of what they don’t understand, fear of the questioning of their role in our society and the challenge of the long-standing perceptions of normal and the perceived question of their self-superiority. Horrible things said.
Even politicians or would be politicians claiming that the true tragedy is that our President won’t say a string of words “Radical Islamic Terrorist”. I have yet to hear one of these folks attempt to call-out our president for not referring to Dylann Roof, perpetrator of the Charleston Church Massacre as a “Radical Christian White-Supremacist Terrorist”. No, their hate (fear) of Islam ranks right up their with their homophobia. So, it’s not likely they’d apply the same argument, which might reflect on a group they’d belong to. So, it’s why I don’t take them seriously.
And, herein lies my point to this writing. Advocacy comes in many forms. Some march, and shout, block traffic, blow whistles and otherwise bring literal attention to a matter. I applaud them. Any manner in which you can constructively argue peacefully your point, I support – even if it’s opposite of mine. The entire cause of dialogue starts with you conveying your point and allowing me to respond. Unfortunately, dialogue in this country doesn’t occur so easily.
The other form is to blow things up, incite riots and violence or otherwise bring harm to people and property. This I can’t support. Even if it’s for a cause I believe in. My fear isn’t as much as the bigoted (fearful) people who are exclaiming queers get what they deserve, it’s that in each instance of rhetoric it seems to escalate.
It’s escalated now to a point that the (by the numbers alone) is the most heinous act of massacre has been committed in America. There. But, I don’t believe it couldn’t become more terrible.
So, I examine my own response. All day I’ve been in conversation with folks and friends here in Texas an all over the country. Some angered. Some saddened. Some vowing to a new found verve for advocacy. Some resigned to stay in bed this Monday and not work, or look outside.
I for one will likely do what I continue to do…
Being an example of what it is to live as an American. To go to work. Go come home and kiss my spouse, and make a cup of tea. To give to causes which are important through monetary resource, or more importantly (and becoming more precious with each passing year) my time and effort. Administering to people who are sick and suffering with the disease of addiction is my passion, I’m not likely to forget they need help even with headlines printed in large print next to the latest celebrity gossip, which may or not be a promoted story on this info-tainment-news site.
As I sit and write this, my dog is snoring next to me, my husband is listening to Captain and Tennille (oldies for most of you) while he clips family photos for a Fathers day collage he’s working on. I’m at my laptop typing away while I let out a yawn at the end of the day. A normal day. An average day – – for me. Not for our friends and family in Orlando Florida. I grieve for them. I was saddened to the point of disgust looking at the photos of lost lives and learning their back-story, but in summary it comes to this.
What I want most from the bigoted (afraid) masses, from those who don’t like me, agree with me, or may even despise me is acceptance. Acceptance for me just the way I am. They don’t have to like me. Sure, it’d be great to be embraced, but I’d settle for tolerance. My experience tells me that there isn’t a way to get much more than that from some of these people.
But here’s the deal. If I want that from them, I’m going to have be willing to provide the same. Otherwise, I’m quite likely the hypocrite and have the same disingenuous motives that I sometimes readily spout that I despise them for. I can’t expect something from them, that I am not ready to deliver myself. That’s just selfish – which is not an attractive human trait no matter how you view the world.
So, while I may not have the power to change the entire view of the world, or even America, or even Texas, or even Austin in the time I have left on earth, I will focus on the neighbors I have right here in Copperfield neighborhood. It starts here by demonstrating to them that I have ideals of what is important in my life and the life of my family – ideals of community, faith, love and support.
It’s been my experience in in this life and my work with sick and suffering addicts and alcoholics that anything I do or demonstration I provide, is far-far more powerful than anything that comes out of my mouth.
So recently another celebrity has said some variation of “I like the gays. I have gay friends. I just don’t “agree” with the gays”.
Reading the commentary on a recent website, I sometimes find it amusing that well-intentioned folks don’t see the problem with that statement.
Much like when you follow any statement that comes after the word “but” negates the first half of the sentence, you essentially diminish the first part of the statement. That is to say, liking gays, and having gay friends does not make you a human rights activist. At most it makes you tolerant. Isn’t that nice? Do they have an award for that? “And, now the recipient who has tolerated more people with all her heart.. the envelope please.”
No. They don’t have an award for that. Nor should they.
What frustrates many of the readers who chose to comment on the story that the speaker is African American. Some had even cried “discrimination” when that point is brought to bear. However, if you took the paraphrase of that statement and assigned the word “black” in place of “gay” you’d think wow — racist. And, what exactly would it mean to say “I don’t agree with the blacks”? Agree with what? And, here’s where the slap in the face comes after the homophobic statement. (Sort of like a cherry on a shit-sundae). I don’t agree with the “lifestyle”.
So here we are again. Likely a full-decade following the last time I wrote on this subject. Can someone explain to me exactly what is the “Lifestyle” that these folks keep referring to? And, what constitutes a “Lifestyle”.
If I told you I hung out in bars where Mexican people were, would that mean I was living the “Mexican Lifestyle”. If I slept with people who were Jewish, would that mean I was living a “Jewish Lifestyle”. Or, if I was born with one limb missing, would that constitute a “Differently-abled lifestyle”. And, if it did, did I choose that?
Much of these controversies come from misunderstanding. An uneducated approach of how to address a community, and then drawing back and saying “what? what? what I said wasn’t offensive”. The fact that you can’t even ‘see’ that it could be construed as offensive is what incenses others. And, yes if you come from a historically oppressed community, like the African American community – sometimes more is expected of you. No, we are not alike in all respects. But, what we do each face within our own celebrated cultures is an understanding of what it is to be the butt of others jokes, to be marginalized at institutional level, to be ignored when we cry out for human decency. So, to deny this, when one would expect you’d be intimately familiar with it smarts harder than if another smacked you that you’d expect a smack from.
So, I’m left to wonder what “Lifestyle” is. I look forward to the explanation.
I have to say, I’ve seen a marked difference in the way I speak but just as importantly, or perhaps unanticipated the way I listen to people.
I originally joined to find an interest outside of my traditional paths to friendship. I wanted to meet/mingle with other LGBT people and we are fortunate to have a chapter that is predominately queer here in Austin. So, with the encouragement of my friend Bart (who is an amazingly accomplished speaker/leader) I went to the inaugural meeting of the AGLCC Toastmaster Meeting.
So far it’s been an interesting journey. There are multiple lessons which spring from different types of speeches one gives to gain confidence and competency in different areas and with different approaches to speech giving. So, in succeeding entries on the subject you likely will find typed versions of the speeches I give so I can record those here for posterity.
The first speech is the Ice-Breaker speech. And, primarily it’s an opportunity to provide an introduction of yourself to the group. It’s only 4 minutes or so long, so not a lot of time (particularly for those of us who’ve been earth more decades than that).
In that time we tell a little bit about ourselves and why we came. I hope to develop and improved sense of self, timing, grammar and all that is on TOP OF meeting some new and interesting folks.
As I was examining my own interests for the upcoming year I thought “What if my resolution is to make a difference”. Now, the idea of making a difference is a broad subject. How exactly one does that or what cause to advocate for is equally diverse. Cancer, hunger, homelessness and the like are all worthwhile causes. Any of those would be a worthy endeavor.
The challenge that I’ve had supporting those in the past is wondering at the end of the campaign or year if I actually did make a difference? – If, my time, money or effort mattered? I would argue that the purpose of giving or being an advocate shouldn’t be inspired or tied to the end result, or the feedback or accolades one received. But, it would be nice to actually ‘see’ my effort making an impact on lives.
Or.. How about one life? What would 2015 look like if I chose one worthwhile selection to choose to be charitable to or support and see the results of that? You know my passion has always been young people and supporting their development and goal attainment. It’s why I’ve dedicated my career to working in higher education, mentoring at risk youth and working with the GSC Center at the University of Texas at Austin to mentor incoming freshmen.
So in my search for worthy causes – and by this I mean cause, one person to make a difference I began to think of a friend of our family. I’d like to introduce you to Evan Fritts. Or, Evan Fritts (Athlete) as his Facebook page says.
Evans’ parents have been long-time friends of Rob and I and we have been pleased to see he and his brother continue to develop their academic and non-academic interests. Evan in particular has had an early expressed passion for racing. Now, that’s exciting. You know I love cars and this seemed like an interest I could identify with. But, unlike some young folks who express a desire to grow up and be a fireman or an astronaut, Evan is actually pursuing his dream. He’s laid out a plan and is actively attempting to become a driver with the ultimate goal to participate in Formula F1 racing. The path to that is to rise through ranks of KART (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kart_racing)
Too often do I read of stories in the paper of young people who are directionless and make bad choices. They involve themselves in crime or drugs. It occurred to me that I might try actually finding a young person who is making a conscious choice to identify a goal and be willing to work towards it. That’s an amazing endeavor!
Like all goals that are worthy of accomplish, it takes work, dedication and training. There is a drawback to choosing this particular path however, and that’s the financial commitment required to accomplish this goal. Even KART racing, without entering the ‘big leagues’ requires a dedication beyond the long hours and travel.
To Evan’s advantage, he has strong family commitment from his parents and brother. They frequently are there on the sidelines cheering Evan on as he circles the track in constant effort to increase his track times and thus improve his overall chances of becoming a professional driver. It’s been exciting to watch this one young man’s efforts and dedication.
That’s why Rob and I invite you to join us in a social experiment for 2015. Let’s see if we can help Evan reach his goals for 2015. It’s possible that if we join together to help just one person develop their interest – we can see where Evan takes his racing career in its earliest stages. How exciting would it be to see Evan circle a Formula F1 track, maybe right here in Austin! (I am after all the self-proclaimed President of the Texas Chapter of the Evan Fritts Fan Club).
Please consider what your own commitments are for 2015. I’d encourage you to maybe pick two New Year’s resolutions. One for yourself. And, one for the betterment of someone else. If you find your ability to support a young person’s dream difficult from a financial standpoint, maybe you can help by passing on this message to others!
I for one will be screaming the loudest (well, except for maybe Karen his Mom), when Evan crosses his first Formula race crossing the checkered flag. I hope you’re excited about his future too.
Here’s your opportunity to help
OR insert the link above into your browser and help Evan’s dreams for 2015 come true.
After a weekend of fun in Houston and going out to several night clubs (I rarely night club any longer. It holds no fascination and unless I’m dancing, or karaoke-ing there’s not much going on for me), it was interesting to see the mix of folks at at least 5 places we hopped to.
These were all ‘gay’ establishments. Places known to be gay bars, or where gay folks predominately mingle.
Except.. where were the gays? They were there to be sure, but hard to pick out among the heterosexual couples and the bride-and-her-maids parties. It sparked a conversation with one of my travel companions about the disparaging state of night club gatherings.
My argument was this. We can’t have it both ways. Sure, we can long for the days when a gay bar, was a gay bar. But, we would be up in arms if a night club labeled itself ‘straight’ and discouraged gay customers from entering. Such is the reciprocity in a post gay world. Bars are just.. bars.
Sure, there will be establishments that cater to a gay clientele but it probably won’t be much bigger a distinction than this one plays hip hop music, and this one plays electronica.
I suppose it will make it more challenging for those who go to bars to make a love connection, but I can assure you – the pickings there have always been slim. Now, they’ll just be slimmer 🙂
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.
For many years, my husband Rob and I have had a running joke. At times – during mock distress – I’ve exclaimed “well, if I had a ringgg, I’d take you seriously” – or something of the ilk.
In years spent together, it’s been our (mostly) private source of a grin as many a picture of us were snapped together with me holding my left hand over his chest. He wondered many years ago, why I often posed that way and I informed him “to mark the years I’m going without this ring – of course”.
We had rings that I purchased for us years ago, as part of our wedding ceremony – but even that I was able to hold over him in a jovial manner, that I had a ring, but that I had to present it to myself.
My time together with Rob has been more valuable than a ring, or even more treasured than any significance that the presentation of a precious metal might bring. As we approach our 25th anniversary I suspected one might be coming because he had begun his annual inquiry about my ring size. This has been the 25-year long game of cat and mouse, I pretend I really want one, when it holds not as much significance as I pretend, and he pretends he’ll get me one, but mostly in a feeble attempt to raise my anticipation for one. Truth be told, we’ve gotten far more fun and mileage out of the joke than the actual ring might have brought.
But this year, our 25th year, I suspected his joke might be backed up with an actual ring. But the surprise truly was on me, when he presented it last night instead of waiting. And, I must say – it is beautiful. It’s particularly special because he designed it and had it custom made when he was staying in New York over the summer. In it he had a triangle cut diamond placed in the center, set into a white gold circle to signify something very important to both of us.
“It truly wasn’t necessary.”
But, that being said, having it is such a treasure. Something I’ll always cherish and will always make me smile and think of Rob whenever I look at it. It’s a wonderful gesture that while may bring this particular joke and banter to an end, I’m sure we’ll find something else to humor ourselves with. Such is the nature of our relationship. I often tell my friends who wonder what characteristics might make a good life partner – at the top of the list, I implore, please find someone who is funny! Someone who is funny can take you through life and walk you through even the darkest times lighting the way with their laughter.
With humor you can reminisce about the worst of times and laugh that they are the past. You can lay in bed and in unison look at the ceiling and giggle when those tough times are something you’re currently experiencing because you know someday (hopefully soon) you’ll have walked through the other side of them. The light heartedness that comes from having a fun or funny disposition is far more valuable than any carat weight, or platinum.
This ring signifies not that we will stand the test of time, but that we already have. And, in that regard, it’s was definitely worth the wait. And, now I suppose I’ll have to continue to pose with one hand over Rob’s heart to show that the ring exists.