If you grow up in a Jewish family, you’ll absorb your Jewish cultural history, traditions and aspirations as you sit around the dinner table. It’s the same of pretty much all minority cultures. But not ours.
Most of us grow up in heterosexual culture. And then flee to cities to seek our own and reinvent our lives in line with our desire, our lust and love, our gender identification. So every generation of gays and lesbians, bisexuals and trans has to make an effort to learn what has already been discovered, to absorb the truths of those who have come before, to continue the goals of the founders of our movement while welding on their own personal and generational goals.
Pride celebrations are a big part of this socialization process. So are gay bookstores, gay libraries, youth groups and newspapers like the one you are holding. And even gay bars.
Most of us don’t emerge from our parent’s heterosexual environment and the homophobic school and church environment without needing to relearn a thing or two. Like loving ourselves and others of our kind. And how the only rules in sex and love are what works, not what they tried to shove down your throat in Sunday school. Not the model that mom and dad – or TV – paraded as the only viable option.
We make mistakes. We talk to our friends, read books and newspaper features. Maybe check in with older queers to seek what works in their relationships (learning, for example, that most long-term gay relationships work because the couple has come to an understanding that monogamy and fidelity are not the same thing and that it’s okay to have sex with others in an agreed-upon honest way). We grow.
Many of us give back to the community that makes this all possible. And we help change the world as we demand the space to just live our own lives, inhabit our own culture, just because we are here.
With the battle over same-sex civic marriage now behind us (providing that Stephen Harper never becomes Prime Minister), it’s time to turn our attention to what’s next. Because the battle for our freedoms, for strengthening our unique culture, is far from over. You see, there is no pause button in political movements; they either move forward or back. We either push for the next victory or end up fighting to preserve the ground already won from enemies who would push us back. And we saw our enemies gather steam and organize through this latest battle.
I think we can all agree that we need work on multiple fronts: Parliament and the provincial legislature, city hall and the police department for one. The courts for another. Building our own geographic community, bricks-and-mortar community centre and healthy, gay-identified commercial strip and surrounding residential community for yet another. And let’s not forget our own internal community work – and individual self-improvement – to make Ottawa’s queer community ever more inclusive as well as tackling issues of income, disability, racism and so on.
That’s a lot, isn’t it? But not too much for an involved community. You know, we’ve come a long way in 30 years, but few of us would claim that we’ve fully realized our vision of the kind of queer community that Ottawa can be. In an informal survey this spring, Carleton students repeatedly told Capital Xtra’s reporter that to consider staying after graduation, they want a bricks-and-mortar community centre, a clearly identifiable gay district and more and better gay bars.
This city’s queer future lies with attracting those students, getting them to stay and invest their lives in this community. If you care about that, please get involved in creating a gay centre; it won’t be built unless there’s a major injection of new talent on the planning committee. (See the news report on page 7.) And don’t forget to come to the meeting with the mayor on Aug 25, 5-7pm at city hall.
For this special Pride issue of the paper, Capital Xtra also asked queer visionaries and leaders, both local and national, what the community ought to focus on next. You’ll find their suggestions on page 21. And next issue we’ll have even more suggestions. I think you’ll find their answers thought-provoking.
See you at Pride.