09 April 2009

Second Generation Faggot

I've been kicking around this theory lately that being queer today is a little bit like being a child of immigrant parents.  The way that immigration often plays out in America is that the first generation gets here and does an unbelievable amount of grunt work. They scrimp, save, and work two jobs, often  while facing considerable racial, ethnic or religious bigotry while they're at it.  They are the first generation in America and they do all of this because they believe it will create greater opportunities and better lives for their children.  Often these children are supported by not only their nuclear family in achieving their dreams but an entire generation of immigrants who are looking after one another as a sort of extended family.

Gay men and women who came out in the 70s and 80s (ie those old enough, largely, to be my biological parents) are not unlike those first generation immigrants.  This summer will mark the 40th anniversary of the riots at Stonewall and the birth of the modern gay rights movement.  Many steps forward were met with violent pushes back.  Harvey Milk was murdered and justice was not carried out in the ensuing trial.  Silence = death and the Regan administration allowed the laissez-faire genocide of queer men.  In spite of these individual and collective tragedies (and often because of them) we are lucky today to have a community that are unbelievable advocates  for our safety, well being, happiness and success.

40 and 50 something gay men and women often take me under their wing in a way that is so unconditionally loving and supportive that to think of the enormity of it is almost overwhelming. I simply put it out to my Twitter community that I'd really like to learn about photography and there was a Radical Faerie asking me what weekend works for me.  I told a producer about my work with Project Twenty1 and he told me wants my help run a film project that he's starting.  Today I was scheduling a lesbian patient for surgery and when I told her I intended to study American Sign Language this summer at Philly Community she gave me the name and phone number of the exact person I should get in touch with.  She gave me her business card, invited me to the Equality Forum and made a point of teaching me a few signs as well before she left.  I have an entire extended family rooting for my success because they have worked so hard to gain dignity and rights in their lifetime and they want it to be even better for me.  This is just one reason that every day I am thankful not just for having friends and a job  and a dog but also for being born queer and thus into this unbelievable community of surrogate moms and dads, aunts, uncles and advocates.