In many past blog posts the concept of generational differences within the LGBT community have come up. I’ve never delved deeper into it for a lack of a good way to compare and contrast the generations. In a post I wrote about the term Queer, the generational difference came up. If you talk with younger LGBT folks (30 and under), they often use the word queer as a term of empowerment. It is something that they embrace. In conversations with older folks of the LGBT community (60 and up) the word queer was something that was used against them in a derogatory way. I talk about the nuances within the LGBT community and this is a really good example. Using a term like queer as part of your blanket marketing efforts may or may not work depending on who your target market is.
I bring this all up because in a recent conversation with some Canadian colleagues I exclaimed – “Why don’t LGBT youth understand what the older LGBT generation went through?” I’m sure my exclaiming that made me sound like I was in my 60’s or 70’s and reflecting back on when a loaf of bread cost a nickel. I am in a sandwiched generation. As someone in my early 30’s, I respect and honor the LGBT folks who have come before me and their work for the equality I now have because I’m not too far removed from it. Perhaps some of this has to do with the evolution of the Internet and social media. When I was coming out in 1999-2001 time frame we had MySpace which was no where near as powerful as Facebook is today. During that time I was much more aware of what older generations of LGBT folks had gone through. I would encourage you to watch the movie If These Walls Could Talk 2 There is an older lesbian couple, whose story will make you cry. Their story is what is engrained in my brain and why I feel it to be necessary to continue to honor and respect the pioneers of the LGBT rights movement. The younger generation has seemingly lost its connection to what it was like pre-Facebook and pre-Marriage Equality. It’s hard to blame them because they’ve never lived in a time where this wasn’t the case.
So as I was having this conversation with someone, he brought up the Great Depression and potato famines. He asked me when the last time I thought about how lucky I am to not have to worry about where my food is going to come from. I admitted I don’t think about it. I’ve never had to endure the Great Depression and all of the plight it brought about the country. He likened LGBT equality to the Great Depression. Out of sight out of mind. This was such a fascinating comparison for me because it really wraps it all up. It is hard to preserve our history when it is no longer relevant to day-to-day life. The days of the Stonewall Riots are no longer relevant to LGBT youth. Just as the days of the Great Depression are not relevant to me and likely you.
It is the job and duty of LGBT folks across the world to preserve the history of what being gay/LGBT once meant. I hope I am, in some small way, capturing this.