This issue of OUT FRONT is a celebration of queer history and the progress we have made as a community, in particular since the Stonewall riots that took place 50 years ago. Our community has come a long way since those days, but we have a lot of room to grow yet, which is ultimately a good thing; we are a beautiful community of people still under siege by our government, and we need to fight back.
Like Harvey Milk, I’m here to recruit you. Not as conquerors, nor to fight with physical violence, but as storytellers. Ours is a war of words. We need to remove the possibility that our government could, again, become our chief antagonist, as it was in the days of the Lavender Scare. The way we do that is by controlling the narrative told about us.
One of my favorite teachers growing up was a history teacher who told me that history is nothing but a series of stories written and retold by the winners of any given conflict.
I continue to believe that in the last election, we lost a lot of votes to awful GOP candidates across the board because we didn’t make a clear enough case that there’s too much at stake, and that, unlike so many people who voted the other way, we in the queer community have so much more to lose.
Let’s face it: white, cisgender, heterosexual people might never understand—despite our very best efforts—but we have to try to reach them all the same.
Political apathy is more likely to arise in the general public out of a sense that the average person sees so much pain and suffering, and yet they feel powerless to do anything about it. They, too, are tired of hurting and want to disengage from the cycle of feeling responsible for it.
Do not let these people escape into their bubbles of affluence or indifference. We can’t put down our queerness and walk away from such pressing issues; we should not allow others to get off so easily. It will likely take extra emotional labor on our part to bridge these gaps in understanding. Is that a fair or just reality for each of us to face? No, of course not, but we face it all the same.
We face a large, uphill battle in much of the country, because the content of queer stories is still foreign and unfamiliar to large swaths of the general public. We might need to hold their hands through a tough conversation or two, but isn’t a better world worth a little bit of extra effort in the end?
We need to continue developing the idea that queerness comes from a continuum of people of different faiths, from different cultural backgrounds, from different regions of the country (and the world), and from people who come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
You can be gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender without letting these descriptions define the entirety of who you are and what you represent.
We need more storytellers, because the alternative is that others tell our stories for—or even without—us. If we leave the storytelling to others, they will tell the story wrong, leave out important details that matter, or tailor the endings to serve their own ends. They will accomplish a different agenda than the one we want to see for ourselves, who lived the moments of our own lives, simply by speaking for us.
In my columns, I’ve written a lot about the things I think we need to do. In the end, even these ideas I’ve expressed are just a small example of the wide range of possible futures that exist. While I think I’m right about many of these simple principles, I’m open to being wrong, too. It’s entirely possible that there’s an altogether different path forward, something I’m completely missing as a result of my privilege that blinds me to other possible solutions to our current predicament.
That’s why I’m writing, why I’m sharing my own stories and feelings—because it matters to me that others know not only where I’m coming from, but also where I want to go. It’s why I want to recruit you, too, to tell your own stories.
We cannot change what the world actually is and what it looks like without empowering others to imagine what it could be instead. How we do that, in some small part, is up to us. So tell your queer stories to anyone who will listen. Our lives depend on it.