The GenerGAYtion Gap
Several weeks ago my cousin (several years my junior) arrived back in the United States after years abroad. He had left his Washington, D.C. life after being educated at George Washington University and working in the information technology field to seek new horizons. He began by teaching English to young children in Asia and from there basically traveled the globe getting certified in things like teaching scuba diving and eventually ending up in Australia selling strawberries out of a van. He's a braver soul than I and I have to say that I lived vicariously through his fearless adventures of life that led him in a very different direction than my own.
When he was little everyone compared him to me. We're relatives so we did look a little alike but I think it was more about his unending energy, wanting everything to happen immediately and what we would all eventually learn that he was gay like me. When he first came out he was perhaps the most annoying gay on the planet. Everything he had was gay or gay friendly to the point where I even joked that if he could, he would have gay soap! He reveled in his gayness in a way that I don't think I ever could have and to be honest I don't know that I would have wanted to, it was all a little off putting if I'm completely honest. You see back in the day when I was coming out (I really hate using that term for myself because I've always been gay, always knew I was gay, anyone who came within four hundred feet of me knew I was gay so the only "coming out" I went through I guess would be telling others I was gay. But is that really "coming out?" I don't know, to me it seems as though it's a personal thing and it's more about coming to terms instead of out. You decide to come to terms that you are different than a lot of other people in the world including (for most of us) your role models you grew up with, your parents, grandparents and your friends' families and telling anyone else should be your choice (are you listening Perez Hilton? And so although it's a widely term used, I'm just saying that "coming out" never quite made sense to me personally.) When I did tell my parents and my friends, I can't imagine it was any sort of huge shock but I do remember telling my parents that I wasn't going to do anything to embarrass them but that it was just a part of me that I needed them to know about me because I loved them and we never had any major secrets from one another. But when my cousin announced his gayness he seemed to almost take a page out in the local papers and had everything except a parade (which I'm sure if he could have, he would have had one).
I was thrilled to have him back in the States and even more excited when he said that he would be coming to Vegas for a visit. Besides coming back with all the life experiences I would never have he also came back with a fiancé. But like everything my cousin did he managed to trump me even in the fiancé department. I guess it wasn't enough that I brought home a tall black man to spend the rest of my life with, my cousin managed to fall in love with an Englishman. So he came back to the states to get his Visa in order to become the husband of his love. That's right, similar to the movie, Green Card, he would need to get everything in order and prove to the British government that he and his mate had been together two years and deserved to enter into the state of matrimony and be accepted as a couple in what would become their new home in England. Well, although we came here from Britain as pilgrims thinking that we would get away from tyranny and create our own government we are now the ones lagging behind the Brits when it comes to accepting gay marriage. Yes, that's our cue as Americans to be more than a little embarrassed that the country we fought against because they were so antiquated has passed us by like a sports car passes a Yugo.
What I found when I picked my cousin up at the airport was that he no longer used the word, "gay" as every third word. He had a sense of calm about him, a sense of (for lack of being able to think of a better term) he seemed comfortable within his skin. His guy arrived a couple of days later and so my guy and I took them out to see some of Vegas. It wasn't as some might suspect, a bar hopping, pill popping, sex romp but instead it was simply a typical tourist trip around the town to show the fiancé who had never been to Vegas, its neon infused energy and opulence.
When I looked at my cousin looking at his fiancé I could see the love in his eyes (and vice versa). They had an easy sense about being with one another and while they weren't "all over" one another (like some white trash heterosexuals I've seen) they did occasionally grasp hands or go in for a quick kiss. Nothing major, just two kids in love. Two fiancés who had gotten all of their paperwork approved and were getting ready to begin their lives together. They would spend about a week here in the states (which would include an engagement party thrown by my cousin's parents) and then it was off to England to get married and begin their lives together. Their plan was to marry, live there for a year and then live in the States for a year. They aren't rich, they haven't been afforded an easy path but they're in love and they are not unlike many young couples starting out.
What amazed me more than anything was their comfort in what they were undertaking. The word "gay" never came into the picture. They were just a young couple starting their lives together. I don't know if I ever felt that, well not exactly. You see when my guy and I started dating, that's all we thought it was because there was no talk about gays actually being able to get married or anything back then. (Well, at least nothing that I was aware of anyway) You just sort of lived together and everyone gave you a knowing nod that they knew they were living next to a gay couple. But here some twenty years later and my cousin and his fiancé were in love and marriage was one of the first things on their mind after committing to one another. So I began to wonder about this whole "genergaytion" gap and wondered how it made me feel?
Unlike your typical generation gap, I obviously don't think they're going to ruin civilization with their "crazy marriage" ideas but I do think they listen to crap music. So where does that put us? Or more importantly, where does it put my contemporary "gays of a certain age" compared to this new breed of gays that are just living their lives, getting married and in some ways not even aware of the struggles of their forefathers? Is it important that they know about the struggles that gays have been through (not that there aren't struggles now but let's face it, on the whole society believe it or not IS more accepting now than they were twenty years ago)? Is it important to as the Jews say in their sleep "Never Forget, Never Again" about the Holocaust? Or African Americans who have come along way baby but still struggle with the struggles they had and have? Is it as profound as those two examples? To be honest, I don't know myself.
I know that while it may not have been the greatest experience being "a gay" back in the day, I don't think it was quite as horrible as the civil rights movement or holocaust (at least not for me personally). You see, I was always in theatre so when people outside my "artsy folk" made jokes or comments I really just looked at them as being not as evolved as myself. The marriage thing has thrown me for a loop. Not because I don't want all the rights of married people but because I don't want to call my mate of twenty years "my husband" because that seems to be a term for straight people. And as I've said before the straights can have their precious word, "Marriage" I just want the rights and benefits (all of them) that come with committing to being committed to another person.
I'm glad that my cousin and his fiancé saw their union as one that can legally be blessed by the powers that be (in this case England) as well as their hearts. I'm glad that they won't have all the struggles that I had (although many of them are here to stay - bullying, being the brunt of really bad jokes, being stereotyped as having fabulous taste - well that last one we don't mind) because let's face it, no matter what generation you're in, growing up gay is never easy. So maybe there's less of a genergaytion gap than I originally thought.
Read More Scott @ www.somelikeitscott.com