Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Generational Evolution Of Gay,Lesbian & Transgendere'd Individuals

               As many Americans are now aware the month of June is LGBTQ Pride month. Five months later is a far lesser known celebration of LGBTQ history in October. This difference in knowledge in fact points to part of the topic of this blog. With the great emphasis modern American society puts on media/celebrity focus over the more human experience of social consciousness, its only natural that a level of celebration involving a great deal of newsworthy events such as Pride month would take presidents over another month celebrating knowledge and education. On the other hand I do consider myself a very hopeful person, even though some see me as the opposite when I point out what should be an obvious truth. Without sounding the least bit cynical,however its likely there is a way (for me anyway) to combine the two very different ethics here,anyway.

                 One of the main inspirations in my even writing internet blogs in order to enrich the minds of those who read them-friends,acquaintances or otherwise came from a very unique history book that changed my life. Still amazes me how certain levels of literature can do that. This book is William Strauss and Neil Howe's Generations. Its referred to it very often in the blogs I've written. Mr. Strauss and Mr. Howe have actually named and cataloged every American generation from the 16th century and even dared to anticipate the future-making it a very unique and mentally stimulating text. In the context of the levels of generational categorization language these two authors have used in the text, I believe it will help to understand the generation evolution of the LGBTQ community in the last century.

                 To begin with there are the Lost Generation,the last to be born in the 19th century and the GI Generation-spanning from about 1901 through 1922. During this time anyone who was a homosexual,male or female,were considered in American to be mentally ill and had no rights whatsoever in society. These generations also saw combat in two world wars. After the first there was the roaring 20's, a time when some American cities began to develop a homosexual underground in bohemian communities. While amass in the first major wave of homosexual literature/plays from Radcliffe Hall,Tennessee Williams,Langston Hughes and Gertrude Stein this generation of homosexuals largely saw themselves as living a specific lifestyle. They generally had no sense of person or pride in who they were-behaving much like secretive criminals as society demanded of them.

               Probably the most interesting of generations in any context is the Silent Generation,born between 1925 and 1942 primarily. This was the generation of the early rock n roll musicians. Not to mention that of the major political icons of the 1960's counter culture such as Martin Luther King Jr,Robert Kennedy,Malcolm X,Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman.  It was also after the post WW2 years that homosexual activism,a then radically new concept was born. Members of the GI Generation such as Harry Hay and Bayard Rustin began new forms of social activism such as the former individual forming the Mattachine Society,publishers of the very first American gay/lesbian magazines One and Mattachine Review. As exemplified in the work of a very prominent Silent Generation literary figure Allen Ginsberg in a McCarthy-era trial regarding his famous poem Howl,filled with openly homosexual imagery this era saw the very first stirrings of what we now know as gay pride.

               The well documented baby boomers were of course the first generation to bring the idea of gay pride into the open. After the infamous Stonewall Riots in NYC in 1969, this was a generation of homosexuals that were tired of being seen as an embarrassment to society. They were strongly allied to those of the Silent Generation before them, who started gay activism going a decade earlier. In 1974 it was the assertion of this generation through early Pride organizations such as Gay Liberation Front that homosexuality was not a sickness and,as illustrated in the previous generations Kinsey report, represented an enormous part of the American population. This generation saw the emergence of the first out homosexual politician in Harvey Milk,city supervisor of San Francisco whose assassination actually made him into a martyr for the burgeoning gay pride movement. 

             What is now referred to as Generation X had to contend with something of a retreat from gay pride during the early 1980s with the frightening emergence of HIV/AIDS in society. This of course was at first touted by the Christian right wing,emerging in the late 70's in Harvey Milk's time,as being somehow a punishment by "God" for the "perverted lifestyle choice" of homosexuals. The modern day conception of homophobia as being based in the Christian right wing began most strong during this era.  Towards the end of the decade,however the activist culture of the previous two decades re-emerged as younger baby boomers and first generation X'rs mobilized themselves in vocal AIDS activist groups such as Act Up and by the early 90's Queer Nation. Gradually over the course of the 1990's celebrities such as Elton John,Ellen DeGeneres,KD Lang and Rose O'Donnell trickled out of the closet as the AIDS tragedy made homosexuals take a longer look at themselves.

             That brings us up to today,still very much in the early years of the new millennium.  Now the generation born in the late 80's and early 90's called the Millennial generation are facing a very technologically inclined age-where the internet,cellular telephones and microchip based devices are the mainstream. In their  rising adulthood they faced something Generation X didn't have to:a highly controversial "war on terror" that drained resources and created a very dismal career prospect for them. For the first time in decades,more young people have been returning home to live with family. And with modern science people are living longer. So while same sex marriage is finally becoming the law of the land Millennial,X,boomer,Silent and some centenarian GI's are still very much alive in life and politics-bringing many contradictory arguments on same sex relationships and many other things to the table-to such an enormous degree that many people are turning completely off to social activism amid the overwhelming amount of information now available.

               All American generations have their own cycles. This involves people from each individual generation behaving rather differently in their childhood,adolescence,rising adulthood, middle age and finally elder-hood. In today's highly conflicted sociopolitical atmosphere, those with an open mind are beginning to see that while LGBTQ Pride as its now called is widely celebrated and accepted often as a part of nature as opposed to a deviant subculture of ones choosing, the way in which it is often celebrated is antithetical to the concept of pride itself. Because such celebrations are often run by people belonging to generations who are still used to being "closeted" as the saying goes, Pride festivals and parades still often consist of young and flamboyant homosexuals who naively assume being who they are means they are more like the opposite sex,and an older homosexuals who converse with others of their age group in shadowy corners.  In my own personal opinion, the future of the LGBTQ generation cycle will need to be about resolving these social conflicts to create a totally functional sense of community.






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