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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Past and Future Tense

Lest weekend, I went to the West Hollywood book fair with friends. One of the panels we listened to was Legacies: Words from Legendary LGBT Authors Malcolm Boyd, Katherine Forrest, Mark Thompson, Stuart Timmons, Terry Wolverton, and Reva Solomon.

Mark Thompson pleaded for unity in the gay community, words that were echoed by the rest of the panel. They wanted to know where the leaders of this generation are. I want to know what the unifying cry will be. In the 70's, it was liberation, but that common cause soon splintered. In the 80's, AIDS destroyed the community, but it also built it. Most of the enduring strides, visibility and institutions came out of that time. Now the issue seems to be marriage, but that subject divides more than it unifies. So what's it going to be? Before someone can charge to the forefront with a banner and say "follow me," there's got to be a banner to pick up. I think it has to be a look into the past, with an eye on the future.

While I was at the Saints and Sinners Literary Conference in New Orleans last year, I spent a long evening talking with writer/bear/ green activist Ron Suresha about past and future. We talked about the need to make queer history relevant to (god this makes me sound old) today's youth. We also talked about mentoring. We're not sure how to go about it, but we feel the need to reach out and help shepherd the next generation along. But to give them the future, we have to educate them about their past. And that's the definition of a community, isn't it? A culture that survives generations.


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