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Sexuality is fluid. It's a spectrum. That was the inspiration for Gilbert Baker when he designed the gay pride flag in 1978. The gay flag was a symbol of diversity in our community, and the intent of this symbol was to unify.
The brouhaha over a recent article of mine published in The Advocate -- "LGBTQIDONTKNOW: The Acronym Struggle Is Real" -- is a clear indication that times have indeed changed.
Unification now feels like Paradise Lost. Perhaps that's the price of losing our societal renegade status.
Partitions in our community are real, especially generational divisions, and the tone from way too many was virulent and ageist. Strangely, many responders implied diversity is a new truth, evidenced by an ever-changing acronym, and the article was an attempt to snatch away these newly discovered liberties. Sheesh.
This piece was written as a mildly sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek reflection on the quest for inclusiveness. I, someone who's personally witnessed the evolving acronym, wrote it with good intention and a smile. But, it created a shit storm. Words like "erased" were tossed about, as if golf ball-size hail in Texas and Oklahoma were raining down and annihilating entire colors of the rainbow.
The majority of negativity seemed to come from bi folk with a millennial perspective. That was especially puzzling.
I wonder, why do the people who seem most comfortable with human sexuality seem the most insecure? Personally, I admire bi folk, and I don't think I'm alone in that. I'm a man who truly loves women. I'm just not sexually attracted. And yes, I know it's not all about sex. Those who lectured that sex is a manifestation of a much higher principle are preaching to the choir. But at the end of the day, it is sexual preference that defines one's sexual orientation.
In my 20s I considered myself bi. But later I knew I preferred men. Period. There was no problem embracing the "G" in the acronym, so I left the "B" to the true bisexuals.
This piece touched nerves and the pervasive word du jour, tweeted incessantly, was "erased." That's simply misguided. Satire and parody is not erasure nor, as many suggested, editorializing. But more to the point, erasure is not a word to be used casually. In fact, it's a terribly inappropriate word to be bandied about by those suffering mere hurt feelings. To use the word so carelessly guts the meaning, reality, and the core of a powerful concept. It diminishes an entire generation: AIDS, 30 years ago, was erasure.
For those too young to remember or who choose not to understand, there was no effective treatment for AIDS. It was a death sentence. The virus caused literal erasure. There was also a time of no effective test, to detect AIDS. From the first reported cases to 1985, no one knew if they carried the virus. We were all time bombs, just waiting to be erased.
Many of us earned our "G" by standing up to a political and medical empire that clearly, didn't care. We made them care though, by making enough noise about being gay. It was called Gay Pride. So I embrace the "G." If you don't, that's OK, but don't judge what you didn't experience. And try, just for a minute, to consider the path my generation cut for present, enchanted generations. Today, you are free to perseverate about proper acronyms and free in a larger sense as well, without fear of breaking a sodomy law.
Will our community ever be satisfied and feel total inclusion? I'm sorry to say this, but probably not. There will always be pockets of intolerance and hate. There will always be North Carolinas. There will always be people in our own community who feel disenfranchised. Racial and sexual divisions will continue to divide the culture at large as long as fundamentalists preach to congregations of high school dropouts. There will always be intolerance if some in our community continue to confuse the instant gratification of faux rage, via social media, with thoughtful, careful analysis and dialogue.
It might be helpful to adjust expectations and rethink the standards that we enchanted humans have created. Every now and then, take a deep breath and try to be grateful for the progress that's been made in just a few decades. I understand urgency, but I also understand well-being and the joy of acknowledging the task and the results.
We've had a two-term president who has been on our side all along. That was unthinkable a very short time ago.
The human race is going in the right direction, and in the big, evolutionary picture, I suspect that humanity is drifting toward androgyny. That may be a more peaceful outcome, but it also seems kind of boring, and no offense to my androgynous friends. You're special now. In that speculative, more sexless future, you're not.
Humor, irony, sarcasm, and the silliness of the human condition are really what it's about, and none are to be taken so seriously. Life is too short, so pick your battles wisely, and choose who you deem the enemy carefully.
But that's not to diminish the seriousness of these times either. There's a lot of work to do, and it's not about stringing the correct order of letters in an acronym.
It's vitally important to understand that parsing these matters is a privilege that's been very recently earned and to remember that this country is still infested with belief systems and individuals who would love to see us lose the privilege of all this navel-gazing. They couldn't care less what we call ourselves, because all they see in our community are godless, child-molesting sodomites, and unfortunately, these people voted in the midterms. They voted, and we suffer the result, daily.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of Circle, a Tufts University-based center that studies civic engagement among young Americans, said the percentage of 18-to-29-year-olds who voted in the 2014 midterm election was 19.9 percent, the lowest ever recorded. The Pew Research Center reports 82 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 who go online use Facebook. This November, it's critical to reverse those numbers. Virtual life must take precedence over the allure of all those bright, glowing screens.
The consequences of not participating could be far worse than a single writer who embraces the term "gay."
KURT NIECE is an artist, jeweler, and author of The Breath of Rapture and Mercury Fields. He and his partner, Gary, live with their beloved feline in the crystal valleys of Hot Springs Village, Ark.