Generational difference is a themed topic in the world today. Of recent, I have found the universe hurling the topic at me on almost a daily basis; from language, thinking, health and education to politics, art (in all its manifestations) and particularly, the approach to life. So I thought why not pride? Over the last month I’ve interviewed queer people from across three unique generations, asking them about
what Gay Pride means, their unique perceptions of Pride, and I have discovered some very major differences, as well as some strong similarities among the Millennial, Gen-X, and Baby Boomer generations. We hear the words such as inter-generational, cross generational, multi-generational a lot in the queer community, so rather than combining all I discovered in my interviewing process into one long column, I’ve decided each generation needs it own unique spotlight. I’ve also chosen to present the combined interviews generation by generation so you can taste and savor each, much like a fabulous fruit salad in a bowl, contrasted to throwing all of them into one huge column like a fruit smoothie in a blender, where all become a conglomeration of one another and the defining differences around generational Pride may be lost. After all, we are about celebrating the differences above all else. So, the following is something new — three nonfictional compilation monologues, derived from individual generational interviews, combined into one representative interview. I asked about the meaning, purpose and perceptions of Pride.
Millennial Pride (born 1981-2000)
Pride is a party! For me, it’s a time to … like … plan special outfits, decide your party list, what you’ll wear at different times of the day and into the late of night. I love that we can be open without anybody in our faces judging us. I love the colors during Pride, the music, the men. Everybody goes all out, bars, clubs, restaurants, some churches even. Guess it’s about extreme fun, doing and experiencing new things, fucking exploring! I think the Millennials have tons of street smarts; we are the savvy generation about being queer. I think our self confidence and social ability make us unique. Pride has changed, it’s not what it used to be, not that my generation doesn’t respect how things have changed and shit, how things are better now, but we are also not about hanging on to all the traditions and stuff. We know what we are proud of, what we stand for; things like diversity, civic duty when it’s needed, and no, Pride is not civic duty, it’s our time to roar. Pride is also about gender fucking and not having to conform to a binary norm. If anything, normal is something we outright reject. Pride, above all else, is about being fiercely independent.
Gen-X Pride (born 1965-1980)
Pride for me isn’t as important as it once was, which could be part of growing up and other things taking priority. I like to go to individual Pride parties, where I can spend an evening or an afternoon talking to friends and meeting new ones. The big Pride events have to really draw me in or I usually don’t attend — sort of a been there, done that attitude. I feel LGBT people have come a long way, and having been in the midst of those civil rights battles, they define what Pride means to me. My generation wasn’t the first to fight for these rights, but we were fortunate to be adults when the battles were being forged and fought.
I take great pride in being able to be exactly who I am, defined by me, living the life that works for me. I would really like to find that one particular guy and settle down for a long time. I find this to be one of the most challenging things of my generation. Not everyone wants that, but I do, and at this time in my life I’m really ready to settle down and settle in, and live life to the fullest with a life companion. I still think support for LGBT issues is vital, and I find that I am into politics a lot more now than at earlier times in my life. I am also less involved or enticed by the party life/bar scene that once captivated me; it’s rare that I find myself not saying in my head this is so predictable, so non-creative, so boring. Pride, my freedoms means balance to me at this time in my life, and I really have to find value in something, to give it my time, energy or money. I have lived long enough to be pretty skeptical of organizations having sustainable solutions for me and the LGBT community at large. I have to admit that possessing pride in aging is also something that I am having a difficult time with. I want to stay vibrant, young and young at heart, but I also want the wisdom that comes with maturity. I still focus on staying healthy in all aspects, and my friendships, relationships, marriage and variety.
Boomer Pride (born 1946-1964)
I’m still a radical deep down inside, and most all of my perspectives come from that viewpoint. Boomers were the “me” generation, and to survive we had to band together to become the “we” generation. Pride means courage, standing up against all odds, losing the fear of being called out and hated for being who I am. The closets we grew up in were great and spacious, with many a corner to hide deeper when needed. It is so interesting that the haters who hated us back then, are still abounding in 2016; certain religions if possible, are even uglier and more oppressive. Political division and legislation is, if possible, meaner and more actively harmful than when I was a young gay man. I also truly believe with all my heart that what the Boomers endured and did was a huge part of the tremendous changes we have seen in the past few decades. Our allies are with us, certain politicians, all the way up to the President, are our advocates, and that feels damned good. Many from our generation are still scarred, frightened, ashamed and damaged from what happened in our diverse journeys.
I love the fact that a lot of Boomer men and women have gotten legally married and validated, because that validation and societal acceptance are two extremely important things our generation fought for. The last two decades have been full of surprises! Our generation was the first to embrace the ‘Just Come Out’ movement, our generation had, and has, many a strong leader in the gay movement, and our generation was decimated by AIDS. Beyond Vietnam, we queers have fought many a war ourselves and have the PTSD to show for it.
Pride is not an event or a noun to me, however I am glad it exists in that definition. Pride is a copular verb containing many feelings, such as accomplishment, overcoming, self-worth, possibility, bravery, remembrance, and contribution to name a few. Pride is about legacy, have I done and lived a life that I can be proud of? Have I pushed and pulled where and when it was needed? Have I spoken out when my voice may have been one of very few, I guess it comes down to the big question: have I made a difference? If you can say yes to a couple of those questions — that is Pride.
Talking and doing a lot of listening with very few pointed interview questions taught me so very much, which also reinforces that I need to listen a hell of a lot more. People have such amazing stories, I wish space allowed me to share some of the touching and powerful stories I heard. I was seriously touched by all the people I interviewed. Oh—and all three generations love Golden Girls and RuPaul, so there’s a wonderful generational continuity dish. Thank you to all the people I interviewed, you know who you are, and you made the time I spent with you treasured. Have a great Pride, whatever it means to you.