Is there really a gay generation gap?

11 Jan

There is definitely a gay generation gap just as there is a generation gap in the heterosexual community or any subset of society you want to talk about for the most part. The generation gap has always existed and always will and that is not a bad thing in the least. I do however believe that right now the generation gap within the LGBTQI community is more pronounced than it has been at any other time.

We are at a point in history where people are living longer. Credit that to better living conditions, chemistry, evolution, or Centrum Silver tablets, but turning seventy isn’t the end of the road anymore. As such we see not just a gap between the young and old, but the young and middle aged, and the middle aged and old as well. It can even be broken down more than that but let’s keep it simple. I appreciate my elders in the gay community and all they went through to pave the way for me, but in all honesty I don’t really understand them anymore than I understand my little sister who is seventeen years my junior.

My younger sister is bisexual and grew up at a time and in a place where being gay was okay. She has never had to entertain the idea of hiding her identity. She has never understood HIV as something that couldn’t be controlled. She has never had to deal with discrimination based on her sexual identity. For her life is open and carefree in these regards and I count my blessings this fortune has been bestowed upon her. I cannot understand what it must have been like to grow up that free and open.

In a likewise manner she cannot understand why it took me so many trips in and out of the closet before I finally stayed out. She doesn’t understand how terrifying something like HIV is to me even though I am in as low a risk category as there is. She doesn’t understand that although I embrace a role in the local LGBTQI community I don’t wear the rainbow colors on my sleeve everyday as easily as she does. I can tell her why I feel and live as I do, but she is just too young to understand the way life was for LGBTQI people of my generation in this country and why it is hard for many of us to trust society to completely embrace us.

I dearly value my elders and some are so close they are like adopted parents or even grandparents. I treasure the wealth of information they share with me and all the stories of how things were in the old days. I can’t imagine life before Gay Pride. The fact that in many major cities like New York an establishment could not just deny service to, but tell a group (Group being three or more) homosexual people seated together to leave their establishment legally is beyond my imagination. This was true until the late 1960’s and in some places the early 1970’s. I was alive but certainly not old enough to understand that. I can’t imagine a time when being gay was treated as a mental illness and “cures” involving drugs, hypnotism, and electroshock were employed liberally as treatment.

While those are examples of some things that are present currently in the generation gap in the gay community, in a century when all of this is likely going to be looked back on as unimaginable, there will still be a generation gap. Then it likely won’t be based so much on discrimination and struggle, but the same things every generation gap is based on, memories, personal generational tastes like music, and in part energy. Like it or not I have to admit that while I adore my little sister and love our bonding nights out together I’m just not so young anymore that I can always keep up with her youthful boundless energy.

The generation gap is a sign of nothing more than the passing of time and the inevitable change that comes with it. Right now that is a good thing as changes are seemingly for the better even if slower arriving than some of us might like. In a way it’s a nice thing, it seems like only yesterday I was the naive young kid feeling my through life and now somehow or another I’ve awoken and found myself in the role of a mentor, an OWL if you will. The generation gap is just a reminder times are changing and that when we notice it we are as well.

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