I originally started to write a column responding to the Chicago Tribune's horribly misinformed and in some cases homophobic and racist ( note: not all minorities get AIDS from drug use ) editorial marking the 20th anniversary of AIDS. They re-wrote history, and ignored their own complicity in the epidemic ( how many Tribune writers died of AIDS until the paper finally started to acknowledge this fact in obits ) . They basically stated that the gay community did not respond for years to the epidemic-;when parts of the community immediately took up the cause of activism and treating our own.
But this is Pride Week. We'll leave the breaking-down of the Tribune's revisionist history to another day.
Because this week is about celebration, about the history and herstory we know to be true—that LGBTs have overcome an amazing burden thrust upon us by not just society, but by our own families and peers. The community's response to AIDS, hate-crimes, homophobia, and so much more has certainly not been perfect. There have been a great many mis-steps, and it has at times been depressing to see the same few dozen activists willing to march on the frontlines while the majority of the community sits back, hiding behind the protections provided to them by "passing" in a hostile world.
So what is there to celebrate? The future ... the people who are coming up behind us. The youth of today are leapfrogging ahead of previous generations of GLBTs, learning from experience and benefitting from slow but steady progress. It is wonderful to watch 15-, 16- and 17-year-old GLBTs out and proud in school and at GLBT events. They are receiving kudos simply for being who they are-;and fighting for their right to full participation in society, whether at the prom, in the Scouts, in jobs or as part of their own families.
Twenty years ago the battle was for more visibility-;it was Gay 101 on Phil and Oprah. We are now at the stage of Gay 2001, with a complex analysis of our movement's past, present and future. Surely there are those individuals who are riding the wave of gay rights with little of their own activism to add to the equation. But this is true for all civil-rights movements. There are many women and Blacks who have benefitted in huge ways from the battles of previous generations. These individuals are not modern-day activists-;they prefer not to be seen as "radical" or "feminists," but their entire lives and livelihoods would not have been possible without the radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s.
And this is true for the modern GLBT movement. There are many party boys and girls who simply live for the next "event," the next club night. But it is also amazing to see the GLBTS who are now coming up through the ranks. Some are activists or advocates, others are business owners who give back of their time and money, and others are educators. Yes, some rest on the laurels of the movement, but many are not satisfied to wait on the sidelines for the next battle. They are taking pro-active steps in schools and at home, at work or in the streets, to make sure our victories are not overturned. They are also making sure their own lives continue to have meaning-;assuring that we are not all whipped into one large homogenized America. In some ways, because they are free of at least some of the burdens from the past, they are free to be more creative earlier in their lives. Because some are less burdened by internalized homophobia, because some are not fighting their own families for acceptance, they are free to focus outward, trying to help others, trying to change the world.
That fresh idealism is a revitalizing tonic for those of us who at times are jaded on the political battles and infighting of the GLBT movement. I often wonder how it is we can stay focused on the prize when some of our worst enemies are within-;people in the community who would rather play power and political games than actually work on GLBT issues.
But then I witness an amazing act of bravery by a GLBT youth-;and, even more hopeful, an act by a pro-gay straight youth. I see that there is hope for our community because there are so many tens of thousands of activists ready to take their place at the table of our movement. They will not wait for an invitation-;they are already doing their own thing. They will make sure this movement remains vital and diverse. They will work through their own channels to make a difference, and will not wait "their turn" to make things right.
Because the only way this civil-rights movement will work is when we hit a critical mass of GLBT people and our allies, working in thousands of rooms around the city and country, to educate and press for GLBT rights. It won't be about just the backroom negotiations for gay rights, it will be about winning the votes in every boardroom and home across the country.
Happy Pride Week from Windy City Times-;and a special Pride Week to our 30 under 30 honorees. It is an honor to be a part of a movement with so many bright and energetic new activists and leaders.
Tracy Baim, Publisher