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Some of our favorite thinkers look ahead and tell us what tomorrow may bring.

Deepak Chopra, teacher On healing the world

The greatest challenge is to get over our habits of prejudice and tribalism. We have to go beyond racism, bigotry, prejudice, sexism, and homophobia. Our future depends on our critical-mass intentionality. We have the collective intelligence and the collective creativity to solve all of our problems. Now we need to harness the collective caring and compassion to get rid of poverty, find a creative solution to war and terrorism, reverse global warming, and bring social justice to the world.

Linda Loudermilk, designer On going green

Over the next decade, I think more people will get involved in what we call "style activism." They'll still choose what's trendy, but the green movement has helped them understand that you can follow trends and still do something good for the planet. The aspirational products will be clean and pure, fashion that can feed your ego and your soul at the same time. It'll be about natural fibers, the purity of nature, getting back to the basics -- but in a very self-expressive way.

Joan Roughgarden, biologist On the evolution of gender

A glorious yet ominous and strange future glimmers in my crystal ball. Someday soon the wider gay and lesbian community will completely assimilate transgender people. The need for gender conformity in the gay community will ease, and transgender people will associate romantically as well as politically with their kindred spirits. This melting pot of queer expressions will flow throughout American culture, changing its aesthetics just as jazz, blues, and reggae did before.

The science of gender and sexuality -- as it impacts evolutionary biology, genetics, physiology, and medicine -- will be framed anew, and the gender and sexuality therapy that has oppressed us for many decades will become as medically obsolete as drilling the skull to cure headaches.

Yet even as the grounds for the discrimination against us dissolves, new lines of demarcation will arise, because humans need to discriminate, and we must guard that discrimination against us is not replaced by some other equally groundless discrimination against other groups.

Bishop John Shelby Spong, religious leader On the end of homophobia

I think the LGBT community will be completely mainstream in the next decade. In 40 years, people will wonder how their parents and grandparents could have been so insensitive as to have been homophobic. In 40 years, Alabama and Mississippi will recognize gay marriage. The battle has been decided. All that is needed now is for people to walk into it and claim victory. We are in the last stages of the darkness before the dawn. With George Bush in the White House and Benedict XVI in the Vatican, we have the last gasp of negativity.

Jeff Whitty, playwright On the power of theater

Let's begin with the fact that theater will never die, no matter what people may say about the fabulousness of technology. If we enter a post-Armageddon society and have nothing to power our DVD players and movie theaters and Xboxes, theater will persist like a fabulous cockroach.

As movies become dulled by the endless possibilities of CGI, I think the public will increasingly crave an art form that permits them to use their imaginations. And as technology allows for more "interactivity," I predict that people will hunger for the brutality of theater. (I'm not immune to the siren song of technology, speaking as an unrepentant video-game nerd.) More and more, I detect a yearning for the handmade in entertainment, which only theater provides.

In the next 10 years, I expect New York City to become less of a theater mecca. As young artists are further priced out of the city, and as New York continues to destroy its smaller theaters, I expect the already vibrant regional theaters to flourish and take an assertive lead as the foundries of new work.

Theater has always been ahead of the curve in its portrayal of gay and lesbian characters. I have no doubt this will continue, and that Hollywood and their lot will follow theater's lead, depicting gay characters who aren't necessarily the best-dressed and wittiest. O muses of theater, bring on the gay nerds!

Amy Bloom, authorOn fighting for democracy

As a mother and an American, I think the greatest challenge facing us is getting democracy -- civil rights, privacy, individualism, and the Constitution -- back up on its feet after the attack by the Bush administration. What do we do? Vote. Work for Democrats. Drive folks to the polls and, as Churchill said, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."

Larry Kramer, activist On pessimism

I'm not so hot at predicting futures, at least so far into the future. I'm too much of an (optimistic) pessimist, not good for crystal balling. I don't see as if we've come all that far in the last forty years, which leads me to believe that we won't be getting so much further in the next forty. "How can you say such things!" is usually everyone's response when I say stuff like this. But I'm a half-empty kind of guy and I don't see progress filling up our cups of life to the level where I think they should be, the levels where they should have been years ago. I remember the old issues of The Advocate, when David Goodstein owned it. They were filled with news not all that different from today. Small little baby-steps announced with too much self-congratulation; much bad news interlarded with not enough self-criticism. I guess today's Advocate fills the same bill, although now there are color photos.

I wish I could see us living with the things I wish we could have, true equality, marriage, taxation the same as straights, tons of out men and women in positions of power and importance. I wish I could see us with real power, with organizations that truly fight for us with success and are respected in the corridors of power themselves. I wish I could see laws that prevent the kind of hate that gays seem particularly prone to receiving deemed illegal, utterly, with enforcement procedures to punish the haters. I wish I could see a Supreme Court that will grant us all of this, which they will not.

Gays have traditionally been a weak and passive population. For understandable reasons, of course. But we simply cannot continue to use the excuses of our battered history to hide behind. There are enough of us now to stand tall, taller, tallest. I wish I could see that happen. I wish I didn't have to continue to be the cranky old pessimist cursed with calling things as I see them.

Barney Frank, congressman On winning equality

I think 40 years from now we will have achieved complete legal equality -- probably shorter than that. Certainly, if the pace of progress over the next 40 years is anything like it has been in the last 40 years, we will have achieved complete legal equality and seen personal prejudice diminish very substantially. The best analogy in social terms to my mind is what's happened to anti-Semitism in the last 60 years. Anti-Semitism was a serious problem in America up through World War II. Today, it has disappeared except as an expression of emotion from some fringe people.

I think back to 35 years ago, when I filed a gay rights bill in 1972. At any point in the last 35 years, if you had asked me to predict the progress we would have made in the ensuing three years, I would have been too pessimistic. I think there are two keys to this. First of all, millions of us have decided to be fully honest about who we are. The fact is, we are no longer the hidden minority. And whenever we have won a gay rights victory, it has helped demonstrate to people that opposition was based on inaccuracy. Of course, Massachusetts [same-sex] marriage is the most recent example of this. But it's true. You go back to all the states where we won antidiscrimination laws, particularly in the early years -- Wisconsin, Massachusetts, etc. -- there were all these predictions of chaos, and none of them came true. And it's generational. Twenty-year-olds today just aren't very prejudiced. There are few issues -- maybe the environment but probably not even that -- where the generational differences are so pronounced.

This year the House, for the first time in American history, passed as a stand-alone bill legislation aimed at helping LGBT people. I believe we're going to do that again in September or October on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It's never happened before.

Armistead Maupin, author On getting tough

For the past 40 years we've wasted too much energy on our intractable enemies -- the Jerry Falwells and the Jesse Helmses. It's time to turn the heat up on our "friends" -- the politicians who court our votes but still regard our full citizenship as expendable in a pinch. When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offer us civil unions in lieu of same-sex marriage they're just reworking the ancient segregationist argument of "separate but equal." I'm also fed up with the way the American press tiptoes around the homosexuality of celebrities. Why, for instance, did the public have to wait for the death of Susan Sontag to learn what the New York media had known for years: that she and Annie Leibovitz were a couple. A straight partnership of that magnitude (and openness) would most certainly have been reported on. If we really want equal treatment, the press has to abandon the worn-out notion that same-sex love is inherently scandalous.

Billie Jean King, sports legend On opportunity

My prayer is that in 40 years, being part of the LGBT community in this country will be a nonissue; it will be the same as being part of mainstream America. If we continue to make progress, as we have done in the past, we will be recognized first and foremost by our achievements and contributions and not by our sexuality. Since I was 12 years old, I have always wanted one thing: equal rights and opportunities for all.

Gore Vidal, historian On restoring civil liberties

I recall that the original Advocate's advocacy was un-earmarked civil liberties for all of those who have been marginalized in their roles as citizens by a nation as deeply bigoted today, alas, as it was 40 years ago.

Solution: The real work has still not been done as the Democratic presidential candidate has recently reminded us why the Republicans are, happily, headed for oblivion and need only to be blocked in the name of a restored Constitution. So for the next 40 years we must advocate the restoration/installation of Jeffersonian republic, so busily denied to us by corporate America and made barely audible thanks to the warnings of the homeland dictatorship.

"Buona fortuna!"

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