YOU - that's the "you" that's generally young, gay, trans, queer, lesbian, etc., and so certain you're right - YOU scare the living heck out of me. I'm not exactly certain what it is that is so frightening. I do have the distinct feeling, however, that you've just wrenched the steering wheel of the LGBT movement out of my age-spotted hands and that you're driving us queer folk off a political cliff.
Let me count my fears.
One: You don't know diddly, but think you've invented LGBT activism.
I came of age as a dyke activist (and we used the word "dyke" a lot then) shortly after I came out in 1979. It was a mere 10 years after Stonewall, yet I had no idea the Stonewall Riots had occurred. I certainly knew nothing about the hard work of activists who risked their lives and livelihoods before Stonewall.
I and my comrades in arms thought we were inventing the wheel. Actually, we were re-inventing it. In the process, we wasted time and energy that could have gone to furthering the cause. I see the same thing happening today, only on a larger scale. As the long-term impact of The National Equality March becomes clearer, that weekend in October may one day exemplify this kind of snafu.
Two: For people who possess the most powerful organizing tool in history - the Internet - you spend an incredible amount of time running in circles, screaming and shouting and accomplishing nothing.
I love the Internet, I love blogging, I love debating, but there comes a time when the debate has to end and action has to be taken. Two things tick me off about all the blogerrhea, Twittermania and round-the-clock YouTubing: (a) It preaches to the choir; (b) it sucks up time and energy that could be used more productively.
The uncomfortable truth is that the most effective way to change the hearts, minds and votes of the masses is to take a series of sometimes terrifying actions. These include knocking on doors, staffing phone banks, and most of all, engaging in one-on-one conversations with friends, relatives and co-workers. Having the courage to have those conversations risks relationships and even jobs, but it also creates real change.
Three: If you're going to take the reigns of the movement, you need to buck up, suck in your metaphorical stomach, and gain a little emotional maturity. Dare I say it? Grow up.
Disagreements about the best way to win equality are not attempts by the old guard to overthrow the young. Differences of opinions about tactics and strategy are not signs of cowardice or selling out. Offering the benefit of experience to a less experienced organizer is not a personal attack.
All of these disagreements, differences and offerings are, in fact, nothing more than signs that those of us who've been battling for decades respect your efforts. We need your energy, passion, refusal to compromise and new ideas. But you also need us old folks, along with our knowledge, skills and our willingness to work. Perhaps what frightens me the most is that you seem to think you don't.
Age, by the way, is a slippery concept. If you're in your 20s or 30s and see yourself in my rant, then I am pointing my finger at you. But being chronologically young doesn't mean one's immature, and being in one's 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th decade doesn't mean one's wise. Yesterday, 46-year-old Andrew Sullivan fell into the immaturity trap, but I'll leave the discussion of that for another time. This post is already long enough.