Flux of a Movement

There’s a moment captured on film that simply, yet perfectly shows the flux of shifting attitudes about gays and lesbians. This summer’s much-hyped The Kids are Alright showcases the joys, trials, complexities, and simplicities of raising a family in modern America. When the family’s teenage son realizes his moms are going to stay together despite a rocky period in their relationship, he cracks a satisfied smile. Nodding with approval over their decision to remain a couple, MGMT’s “The Youth” is queued. Audiences understand that the kids of same-sex couples ARE alright.

Gay/Straight Alliance-me with ICT musician Justin France (photo by David Quick)

The youth, indeed, are starting to change! But that change is recent, and the future is still very much in flux.

It’s no secret that over the past decade, a cultural shift has taken place among the millennium generation that has lead to an overall change in attitudes toward gay people.  Most under the age of 35 view their LGBT peers as equals. They see their same sex relationships as being on par with their own hetero-romances.  Polling data shows that nearly 2/3 of young adults support gay marriage, but this social transition is much deeper than any poll could ever pronounce.  At the time of this writing, the U.S. Senate has failed to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Proposition 8 remains on stay in California; gays remain barred from both military and matrimony.  Yet, something progressive is afoot in the culture. As I write, I wait for musician Justin France to join me for dinner. He’s a 26 year old straight man, and fast becoming one of my closest personal friends.  This gay/straight alliance is a pairing that is not so uncommon anymore.

It turns out that social barriers, not legal hurdles, were the most significant change to unfold for gay people during the 2000’s. No longer relegated to socializing solely in bars with other gays, we were able to form real friendships with straight men and women, integrating into the culture at-large.  That’s what happens when closet doors open. We end up in a post-Will & Grace world where we can be whole people instead of just gay people. How many of you who are heterosexual have a dear friend of another orientation whom you can’t imagine not having in your life? Your life, too, would be different without this social flux!

A flux is a precursor to change, and while socially we’ve made progress, legally we lag behind.  The kids are alright until tragedy puts their family in limbo. With most states not giving any legal recognition to same-sex couples, the death of one mom doesn’t always mean the surviving parent will get custody. The youth have to make change happen. Telling a pollster you support gay marriage and then going to get a drink with your gay best friend is great, but it’s not enough to ensure that this flux gives way to a permanent state of fairness.

You have to vote, advocate, and demand. And then vote again! If we do, this generation can finish the change!

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