Same-Sex Solstice

ImageIt isn’t just the times that have changed. What we can do with our time has rapidly evolved. Call it a same-sex solstice!

It’s easy to get caught up in the political narrative over gay rights. In a conflict-driven world, LGBT struggles are often defined by “battles” over legislation repealing the ban on gays in the military or as “showdowns” at the polls over gay marriage referendums. In January of 2011, though, Out magazine released results of a study that included an interesting window into a very personal turning point. Their survey found that 80% of LGBT people between the ages of 18 and 25 plan to marry; 70% say they want to have kids. By contrast, only half of their older peers in the 36-45 range want to marry, and just over a quarter want to raise children. The younger one is, the more optimistic they tend to be that they can claim the same kind of life that their heterosexual peers take for granted.

Not long ago, this boundless frontier was illusive. That fact has lasting effects the further one is from the budding of young adulthood.

When I came out of the closet, I had to accept the fact that I would never have a family of my own.  That was in 1998. Matthew Shepard’s violent murder and the cancellation of ABC’s Ellen were hot topics in LGBT current events. The U.S. was at a turbulent crossroad with sexual orientation, and many of us who were grappling with burgeoning identities got caught in the crossfire of a culture war. My fifteen-year old self couldn’t fathom that a little over a decade later, states would be legalizing same-sex marriage and gay teens would be prancing in primetime on Fox’s Glee.

A quiet turning point has lead to the acceptance of a new reality. I’m not alone in being on the frayed edge of that promise, though. It’s easy to be cynical about something you believe you’ll never get to have. Odd as it might sound today, coming out in yesteryears meant embracing the truth of who you are while simultaneously acknowledging that society wasn’t quite ready to make room for you.  Many of us have developed hard shells and postured masterful defense mechanisms as a result. Ever wonder why gays are prone to higher rates of drug use, eating disorders, smoking, and alcoholism?  It’s not because we’ve been lacking a moral compass; it’s because this mortal world has been lacking a place for us.

Today, coming out of the closet means coming in to a new world of possibility. Even in places like Kansas, where gay rights remain elusive, there’s room for we homos on this range. Go to the Riverside Perk on any weekend night and you’ll see a familiar site—giddy teenagers on double dates listening to live music  at their favorite local coffee shop. Except now, it’s pretty commonplace to see a doe-eyed male-female couple accompanied by a buoyant boy-boy date, listening to a just-out-of-high school lesbian strum her guitar, singing sugary ballads about her girlfriend. The heated rhetoric and bombastic politics boil down to something so innocent and so simple.

There’s something therapeutic about being in the company of such unfettered optimism. Life is far from unproblematic for the gay youth of today, but it’s also not unpromising. And those promises that this quiet revolution has delivered aren’t out of grasp for those of us who are older. The shadows of our tattered past don’t have to dictate the realities of our lives today. We paved this road. This is our solstice. Now let’s walk on it and enjoy the view!