I remember back in the early '90s, when I was coming out of the closet, it was the era of Bush I and AIDS was a very politically charged topic. Protease inhibitors were still years away and people were dying of AIDS in large numbers. Back then, being gay was not about consumerism, circuit parties, twinks, or Will & Grace, and our collective pursuit was not about becoming like everyone else—normal. Gay parades did not have many corporate sponsorships and most political figures would not be caught dead at the head of any gay parade waiving to constituencies. Being gay and lesbian meant that you took on society, and we did. I remember the plethora of slogans, catch phrases and mantras that went with the times. My favorite was: every kiss is a revolution.
To me, it symbolized the times we were living in best. I was finally out of the closet and I had a wonderful boyfriend who was just coming out of the closet, too. There was this sense in the air that we were defying authority; defying our Latino identities and families; defying our straight friends in an effort to be true to ourselves. Every kiss was a revolution! With every hug and every caress we were saying to the world that we were who we were—too bad if you did not agree.
We didn't care.
With every kiss we further galvanized our identities as gay and lesbian people. We changed our lives forever. We refused to deny who we were any longer, who we were supposed to love, and began to find strength, empowerment in these beliefs.
I often tell queer youth nowadays that they have it easy. Yes, I know I sound like an old person telling the youth of today how hard it was back in the day. I am also sure there are elders before me who would tell me the same thing, too. Gays and lesbians coming out today have it easier. Society as a whole has grown more tolerant of homosexuality and queer lives can be seen in just about every aspect of our culture. There now exist an abundance of books, movies, culture, history and community that gay and lesbian people coming out today can latch on to.
In the past, there was no Queer as Folk, there were no representations of ourselves in the media and there were laws on the books that made who we were illegal in some states. In those days, every kiss was a revolution because it was hidden. Our kisses occurred at gay nightclubs, in the privacy of our homes, in places not public and certainly not in straight society's presence. I remember reading in gay papers how people were getting gay bashed for holding hands or kissing in public. Even the mere perception of queerness could garner you a beating.
Nowadays, every kiss has truly become a revolution in that more and more gay people have been expressing themselves in public settings. To give an example of this:
I was at my local mall here in Boston called the Prudential. While shopping I saw this male couple in their mid 30s walking together hand-in-hand. It was a nice sight. It certainly was not something you would have seen 15 years ago. The couple seemed comfortable and not scared as they walked by us.
Queer displays of affection are not limited to gay neighborhoods either, they are expressing themselves at airports, train stations, public parks, restaurants and anywhere were people meet and greet. Albeit, this phenomenon is more prevalent in progressive cities and suburbs, but I see it not far off for small-town America, too.
I believe we are at the genesis of gay and lesbian people expressing themselves publicly—like everyone else and living to talk about it. There will come a time when it will be common place and, dare I say it, normal for gays and lesbians to express themselves intimately in public, and no one will care or shout out some disparaging remarks.
This is not to say that gay bashings do not occur anymore, certainly they still do, but I argue that we are at a moment in time when we in the ( hopefully ) not-so-distant future will not be beaten for expressing our same-gender love for one another in the public arena. Within the last three months I can count eight times I have witnessed gay people here in Boston expressing an intimate hug, kiss or holding hands in public. It is not only the young, mind you, but the middle-aged couples and even the elderly that I have witnessed sharing public displays of affection.
Nineteen ninety-two now seems like a distant memory—when I first ventured to find true love and my identity. While sitting in a late-model black Honda Civic at 5 a.m., in front of my best friend's house, under the cover of darkness, I kissed a man for the first time, starting my own revolution. A day will come when same-gender kisses in public, in the middle of the day, will go unnoticed and unstopped—and that in itself will be truly revolutionary.