Homotopia

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photo courtesy of NakedCityWichita.com.

Nutopia is a state of mind. When John Lennon and Yoko Ono announced the birth of their conceptual country in 1973, they were essentially envisioning a world where brands and boundaries bounded no one. Their April Fool’s stunt didn’t gain this peacenik nation sovereignty. It did, however, galvanize a mantra for solidarity; who you are and where you come from should have no credence on where you can go.

Thirty-eight years later this simple idea remains compellingly relevant. Isn’t it hypocritical, though, for a column with a moniker based largely on identity politics to champion the idea of a label-free world?  Sometimes associations have to be deconstructed before they can be set free.

The same month that Nutopia was conceived, homosexuality remained classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Often times, “coming out” to family meant you would be “going in” to a mental institution. Consensual intercourse between adults of the same-sex was a statutory crime in most states.  Gay bars, many of which existed elusively and informally, were frequently raided by the police. The names of those arrested were often published in the paper the next day—a deterrent for “deviant behavior”.  Gay circumstance circa-1973 was anything but happy!

In an age where gay marriage is available two states away in Iowa, it may seem like I’m describing a different world. There’s a reason for that. Nearly four decades of dialogue about homosexuality has given rise to unprecedented freedoms and boundless possibilities for the future. That only happened, though, because people were willing to associate themselves with the labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. If you aren’t willing to tell someone what a word means to you, they’ll fill in the meaning with their own understandings. Often, those assumptions will get codified into laws that govern how much freedom you can enjoy!

It seems that many LGBTs in Wichita want to live in their own sovereign nation—one where only a select few know who they truly are. I know plenty of prominent people in The ICT whose closeted existence is rationalized on their abhorrence of group association. What is the consequence of such sentiment? Statutorily, this city’s laws regarding gays haven’t changed much since 1973. The social scene has only recently began to progress. Smaller cities than ours have thriving communities full of out, gay individuals whose talents and dollars contribute to the overall vitality of businesses and neighborhoods. The subtle message this silence sends is that if you want to be yourself, you best go somewhere else.

I say let’s dig in our heels and establish our own country, “Homotopia”! Anyone who dares speak their own truth gains instant citizenship. Closets bound you tighter than any association ever could. If we want to live in a boundary-free world, we need to start by tearing down our own walls.

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