Life After AIDS, The Next Generation

Maybe the most beautiful essay on being gay I’ve read this year is from Canada’s Walrus magazine on how life looks to the younger gay generation “post-AIDS.” Author Michael Harris shares how his world looks:

For my friends and me, “post-AIDS” refers to more than a disease. It means post-protests, post-outrage, post-victimization. It touches our entire lives and leaves us with a deep-seated and cruel distaste for the sissy boys who have dominated our representation in films and TV (after all, wasn’t it the bottoms who got AIDS?). It means vainly attempting to make up new ways of talking, walking, and loving, because the old ones carry the stain of disaster. We are the first generation of gay men to grow up free of overwhelming oppression and imminent crisis. Growing up after AIDS means profiting from the civil rights battles it occasioned.

But in some ways we are still hopelessly lost. A generation of men who could have been our mentors was decimated.

It is a must read for Harris’s perceptive insights into what the next generation faces:

Like my dad, whose own father was an orphan during the Depression, my friends and I know what it’s like to inherit a wrecked history and build on rubble, to flail around while trying to create our own culture in the wake of events we cannot overcome.

I am thrilled to announce that a new generation of young gay men is arising whose lives were not defined by AIDS. What an incredible blessing for all of us.

Generations Of Equal Rights: Black, and Gay

We learn so much about the struggle for equal rights from the African American community. In The Black Generation Gap, published in The Root, Ellis Cose identifies three generational shifts: Fighters, Dreamers, and Believers.

The first generation fought against intolerance and bigotry for basic recognition. The next generation lived into the dream the previous generation created. The third generation let go of the old fights, not longer letting them define their lives. That doesn’t mean the struggle is over, racism (and sexism, and homophobia, and…) will always be with us, but at some point the younger generation moves past the old arguments and into their own lives, no longer defined by the battles of previous generations.

The gay community is struggling with a similar dynamic. The first generation fought for basic rights and recognition, and then we began to live the dream, proud of our hard-earned successes. Now comes a generation that doesn’t care about all that. They barely call themselves gay. It is not that their nature is any different than my generation’s, it is just that we succeeded. We created a world were they can be themselves without living in reaction to the old norms.

Finally, young gay people can start moving on without the old burdens and tired rhetoric my generation had to face. Good stuff, that.

San Francisco Gay Pride Parade 2011 (Preston Grant)