Hampton Roads Pridefest take place today in downtown Norfolk at Town Point Park. Very large crowds are anticipated and the event is now Norfolk's largest festival event after Harbor Fest. Sponsors include not only the City of Norfolk which not too many years ago treated the LGBT community as if it was radioactive, and Newport News Shipbuilding, currently Virginia's largest employer and the company that builds America's nuclear aircraft carriers.
The event was preceded by events around the area virtually every day this past week - more events are tomorrow in Virginia Beach - including the "Block Party" held the last number of years in Scope, Norfolk's sports and concert arena. Having attended and closed down the party, it was packed, with the area floor completely filled with hundreds, if not thousands dancing while and even larger number socializing. The Block Party alone is far larger than Pridefest was for many, many years and the crowd covered a wide gamut of ages and every ethnic group was there, white, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander. Trump supporters would have thoroughly hated seeing such a multi-racial crowd getting along and having fun together. Things have come a long way since I came out going on 18 years ago.
Yet much remains to be done - both here here in Virginia where, if the Democrats take control of the General Assembly in the November 2019 elections, LGBT Virginians will finally have non-discrimination protections - and in many parts of America where bigots and Christofascists hold sway, encouraged in their message of hate by the Trump/Pence regime, the Republican Party, and, of course, scamvangelists lining their pockets with money as they pervert the Gospel message. To accomplish these needed changes, perhaps a new model is needed. Self-proclaimed LGBT activist groups like the Human Rights Campaign ("HRC") and Equality Virginia ("EV") increasingly seem most focused on raising money to support ever higher salaries to their leadership and larger staffs. Actually getting things done to benefit the wider array of the LGBT community has faded in importance despite lip service to the contrary.
In a piece in New York Magazine, gay conservative Andrew Sullivan looks at where the LGBT community finds itself today both in terms of positive improvement and criticism of some gay activists and organizations like HRC and EV that have lost their way. Some of what Sullivan says is on point, and some of it is out in the weeds due to his failure to let go of some aspects of conservatism and religion. Here are excerpts:
There has never been a better time or place in the history of the world to be gay than in 2019 and in the West.I think it’s worth repeating that — especially in front of the younger generation — because it gives us critical perspective on where we are now and where we are headed. If you glance at media aimed at gays, lesbians, and transgender people, you might imagine we are living in a state of siege. Gay students arriving in college in 2019 will be told instantly that they are oppressed in countless ways, and trans students will be told that they can be oppressed by gay people, as well. Check out the website for the biggest gay lobbying group, the Human Rights Campaign, and you will find that gays and lesbians and transgender people “have been under constant attack” since Trump became president.
And, yes, there has been some blowback, as one might expect after an astonishing decade of faster progress than in any civil-rights movement in history. The impulsively renewed ban on transgender service members makes no sense, was enacted by presidential whim (a tweet, no less), defended with arguments that collapse upon scrutiny, and opposed by much of the military brass. With luck, law, and lobbying, it will fall. There has also been executive action to defend the religious freedom of those fundamentalist Christians who make up a core of the Trump base. But it says a huge amount that Christianists are this panicked. They keep losing both secular and theological arguments — along with many members, especially among the young.
And look at what remains: marriage equality, even in Alabama; corporate America competing to brand itself as pro-gay (sometimes to an excruciating degree); full integration of gay service members; a lesbian mayor of Chicago and, in Corey Johnson, a future gay mayor of New York; a married gay man among the main contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination; a cornucopia of media-affirming gay and trans equality; openly gay and lesbian figures in almost every sphere of American life; a preventative pill for HIV and a pill to all but eradicate it from the living; and explicit legal protection from discrimination for half of the gay people in the country.
I’m not saying there isn’t more to be done — laws against discrimination in employment and public accommodations in those states that don’t yet have those protections, for example . . .
It is, I know, sometimes hard to take “yes” for an answer. It is also prudent, given human history, to be vigilant in defending the gains. But this level of openness and equality was unimaginable only a decade ago. Compared with the 1950s, when “sodomy” was illegal in every state, when the government hounded gay men and women in public service out of their jobs and demonized them as inherently treasonous, when gay people were barred from entering the country, and when psychiatrists believed them to be mentally ill, this is close to utopia. Compared with the 1980s and early 1990s, when gay men found themselves circling the drain of their own extinction, and witnessed horrors and pain and stigma as never before, this is incredible.
Because gay men and women are almost always brought up by straight parents, this history is hard to pass on. And so perspectives can be warped. Those whose livelihoods are built on defending victims have an interest in sustaining a victim paradigm for gay America, in which they are the saviors. And victim narratives are comfortable. They allow us to avoid responsibility for our own problems, while transferring it to others. . . . They actually provide status among today’s elites — and can help you advance your own career solely on the basis of your orientation if you want to go to college or get a job at a major corporation.
I think it’s time to shuck off this narrative, because it is a crude simplification of the gay experience, because it is profoundly out of date, and because it focuses us on other people we cannot always change while ignoring things closer to home that we can. What we need now, I think, is a narrative more productive and constructive, less about the harm the world can do to us, and more about the good we can give back to the world.
It will mean earning a living, raising kids in some cases, pursuing careers, sustaining marriages, and everything every straight person does without thinking twice about it. Being gay is not a political act; it is about deeper things than politics: love, above all, but sex and relationships as well. . . . We seek, in this sense, a kind of irrelevance for our sexual orientation — a world in which the hetero and homo categories define none of us, straight or gay, and the category of human includes us all.
But there’s more to the souls of gay folk than just this kind of normalcy, it seems to me. Unlike straights, we remain a specific minority, with life experiences that do shape us differently, and a way of life that will always, in some ways, be a subculture, as well as a counterculture. Equality and virtual normalcy need not be seen as ends, but as platforms for something larger, just as they are for other enfranchised minorities. Integration is not the same as assimilation.
This does indeed require pride in what we have that is distinct, a pride that is worth celebrating once a year. We have as gay people, it seems to me, a gift in our sometimes hidden sexual and emotional difference, a gift that teaches us at quite a young age not to judge a book by its dust-jacket, or to dismiss the different because they make us, at first, uncomfortable. The suffering that will always accompany gay and lesbian teens — the suffering that is a function of being so different at such a crucial age — can be deployed as adults, if we so choose, to see and alleviate the suffering of others.
[G]ay people’s lopsided contribution to the arts, fashion, design, and aesthetics are ways in which we can reflect society back to itself with greater depth and beauty.
These gay gifts can be shared. They always have been, of course, but under acute duress, and often silenced or unknown. What I’m emphasizing here is embracing these roles more explicitly as our charism, defining ourselves more clearly as human society’s indispensable regenerators, pillars, and buttresses. Gay male friendships can inform straight male ones — and surely for the better. Gay teachers can be a special boon to kids whose own family may not be engaged or supportive. We can be gay uncles and aunts, an often invaluable resource — financially and otherwise — for our siblings’ kids.
Gay scholars and aesthetes can protect and preserve our common inheritance. Gay entrepreneurs can invigorate decaying neighborhoods and innovate new ways of living. Gay writers can become, as they often are, the strongest champions of free speech — because, for so long, it was the only right we had, the indispensable resource to let each other know that we existed.
As the long night of persecution gives way to the dawning of integration, let’s take a moment both to remember the legions of human souls who knew nothing but darkness, to acknowledge the vast numbers of gay people around the world for whom such freedom still doesn’t exist — but also to recognize this unique and pivotal chance for renewal and reinvention in the West. We should indeed have pride in our past, our selves, and our lives as survivors. But as we peer into the future, and to what we can still bring to the world, let us also know joy.
One of the most powerful forms of activism is simply living one's life openly and proudly. Yes, if one lives in rural areas of red states, that can be difficult and perhaps life threatening. But the more of us that do this and demonstrate our normalcy to the straight world, the more positive change there will be. Demonstrate daily that we are not the "other" to be feared but rather friends, neighbors and positive participants in our communities. Yes, it can be scary, especially for those of older generations who grew up living in fear, but it is the way forward. It is something the husband and I try to do every day be it at work, social gatherings, participating in a sailing regatta, . . . the list goes on and on.