In an incendiary political climate, members of the next LGBT generation share their thoughts on what the world looks like from their age
Kids will be kids. But that doesn’t mean you can dismiss the next generation of gay youth. Technology has helped make today’s youth smarter and savvier. The Internet has made the world smaller, but may also be one of its greatest educators. And that means the community’s successors have an advanced perspective on what it means to be LGBT in 2009.
Pride is a fluid term, ranging from rainbow-colored decorating schemes to one-day only parade attendance. It may never lose its meaning for LGBT people, but youth now are bombarded by politics, bar raids, unequal rights and daily discrimination on top of school, work and coming out. Are they being forced into adulthood quicker than they should be?
Some local teens and young adults have refreshing perspectives on their Pride as they balance their lives between youthful tendencies and adult responsibilities.
Say hello to the New Pride Generation.
Young people from Youth First Texas and the Cathedral of Hope offer insight to what’s going on in their heads. Is there an added burden with issues like same-sex marriage and "Don’t ask, don’t tell" on their minds, coupled with course loads or work?
"I’m just trying to get my stuff together to get on with my life. I graduated high school last June, and I’m ready to get out there in the world," Loren Chandler, 18, says.
Chandler, with COH Youth, says he doesn’t feel overly stressed, in part owing to an accepting and supportive family. But he, like the others, agrees that there is a frustration that comes with realizing some of his individual rights are being denied because of his sexual orientation.
"If I was born hetero, I’m immediately allowed to make a difference in my country. Now I have to fight for that. It’s like, ‘You can be gay but good luck having everything work out for you in the end,’" says Charley Scarborough, 21.
Heather Sullivan, 20, puts it more bluntly than her YFT pal: "We have to fight for our rights so we have to be burdened by it."
This burden may not bother non-gay youth. They may assume,"One day I’ll get married" or "I’ll join the Army and let it pay for college." Marriage in particular may seem like a remote possibility.
But gay youth face being told they cannot now. They are almost forced to think about marriage, even if at the moment it doesn’t apply to their lives at all.
Scarborough laughs at those who defend the sanctity of marriage, noting the high divorce rate among heterosexual couples. Sergi Calavia, 17, estimates the possibility of marriage in another 10 to 20 years, but Cris Lopez, 21, sees it differently.
"I don’t think our generation is ready for it. I think we’re preparing the next generation for it, but I don’t think in my lifetime," he says.
By thinking about the generation that follows them, have Lopez and others given up on their generation already? Hardly. They simply want what’s right — even the straight kids.
Zoe Davis and Jordan (who asked not to use her last name) both identify as straight but feel a place in the community through their attendance at COH; Jordan’s parents are gay.
"I don’t think there are enough people aware and educated enough that care about equal rights. As an ally to the LGBTQ community, I see myself helping in every way I can to gain equality," Jordan, 15, says.
"It’s always been extremely easy for me to tell people about my views," Davis says. "People reacted at first, but I was able to educate them so now things are chill. I do as much as I can, but I’m 16 so I can’t do all the things I’d like to for the cause."
Activism seems crucial for all of them. They are looking to further the advancement of LGBT people as if their Pride depends on it.
"When I came to YFT, I figured this should be my future plan. Once I finish college, I want to be a full community activist," Steven Richmond says.
Heather Sullivan has those same goals and is already working on achieving them. "I want to be a leader in the community. I’m working toward that being part of the youth board. Being part of the community would be a really big honor for me," she says.
Given their concerns, ambitions and hopes, when it boils down to Pride, they all agree on certain facts: Gay rights are inevitable, DADT is stupid and the Rainbow Lounge debacle was confusing. And they all were familiar with the Stonewall Rebellion, contradicting the clichÃ© that younger people aren’t aware of LGBT history.
But what about plain ol’ Pride?
Some, like Calavia and Chandler, get philosophical. "Pride parades are excellent methods of staging protests; making an appearance to demonstrate the number of people willing to fight for our like-minded beliefs," Calavia says. Chandler concurs. "Showing others that we are uncompromisingly ourselves is extremely important in us being accepted as real people," he says.
Others see Pride as a sort of sanctuary, knowing that being gay is merely a part of their lives but doesn’t define who they are as a whole.
"Pride is important because it’s a place to let us be known. To see all these people get together and celebrate something other people don’t understand, it’s pretty awesome," Sullivan and Richmond agree.
But Scarborough might say it best. He doesn’t want to be considered different in any capacity.
"I work too hard, I hate my job, and I’m a normal 21-year-old. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Oh, and P.S., I’m gay."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.