Broad public support for marriage equality is at an all-time high. Debates about complex issues such as HIV/AIDS treatments and transgender teens are becoming more mature and complex.
All these changes we’re currently in the midst of, gives us an opportunity to reflect on who we are. Previously, our collective LGBTI identity has largely been shaped as a response to external (and largely negative) circumstances. Up until 1973 (when the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder) we were “sick”. So society shunned us so we were “closeted”. When HIV/AIDS happened, we became “survivors”. It seems that our identity was created in response to these external forces.
But as the stereotypes and stigmas that shaped us fade away, we now have an opportunity to form a new identity. One that isn’t borne out of a necessary response, but one that we can create ourselves, on our own terms, in a way that suits us. Broadly speaking, I believe there are 3 ways this might play out.
If it ain’t broke….
Part of the irony of increased acceptance, is that some people within our community feel that our collective sense of a unique LGBTI identity is being whitewashed. Perhaps having children, moving out to the ‘burbs and getting a mortgage for the next 30 years is “hetero-normative”…or perhaps we need to change what we assume hetero-normative to be.
Either way, the first option when it comes to what identity we’d like to have into the future, is that we can choose to keep whatever identity we currently have. We don’t have to change anything, or become anything that we’re not. Where we are now, and who we are now, is perfectly fine. It’s important that no one feels forced to change, or feel like they’ll be left behind if they don’t change.
Gay it up
Another option we may choose to consider is gaying it up more than ever before. There’s a sense that gay/queer culture used to be progressive and anti-establishment. As gay ghettos around the world become increasingly gentrified, some say our unique identity is as well.
As gay bars and clubs are becoming an endangered species, and Mardi Gras and Pride parades around the world are becoming increasingly corporatised, we can fight back and defy the trends. We can create a culture that ties in strongly to our sexual identity and expression. This option might not be for everyone, but it allows people who strongly identify with elements of their sexuality, to pursue and incorporate it into their lives.
No big deal
The last major option is that sexuality will become almost a non-issue in our identity. It will become so normalised within society, that it no longer qualifies as a significant point of difference. Headlines about gay sportsmen or high profile actors coming out, will simply be seen as evidence of an antiquated and by-gone era.
For those who choose not to include their sexuality as a major part of how they identify themselves, it won’t have to be. And there’s a great freedom in that. Not being defined by who you love, or who you’re sexually attracted to, by the broader community, is still perhaps a few years off. But it can be something we start to cultivate within ourselves, and within the safety of our community, today.
Whatever identity/ies we choose to explore, adopt or reject in the future, the great thing is that we’re at the point (or at least very close to it), where we have the power to make these choices for ourselves. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s all about personal choice, and doing what feels right for you. Hopefully one trait we will retain is a commitment to providing a safe and supportive space for all LGBTI people, regardless of how we choose to identify ourselves.