A Review of the Book Gay LA-
What occurs to me as I read Gay LA is the way that we as gay/queer/homosomething or other in the 21st century think about and regard our history. “A group cannot be effective without a sense of urgency” (320), I fear that it is this urgency that we lack today. We “survived” the AIDS crisis and gay bashings of the past, although it is not so much survival as normalization of these tragedies. Queer youth grow up today with no attachment to the history and trauma of the past. Although the homophile movement declared that homosexuals are a cultural minority, the fact that we often disassociate so heavily with family structures that pass down cultural memory seems to lead to a youth culture of vanguardism.
"'Vanguardism had long poisoned the movements of the Left, most recently in the sixties. Casting yourself as the 'vanguard' meant that you were morally superior because you had suffered the most and had therefore gained the right to lead the much-awaited 'revolution'"
This Quote is from The World Split Open: How the Women’s Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen. In this she describes the struggles that the women’s movement went through as it evolved over time. Often intersecting with the Lesbian/Queer movement women’s liberation can offer insight into the problems that Queer movements also face.
Since when is the vision of liberation that exists at the end of the book actually liberation. “Among the most encouraging developments for lesbians in the industry has been the comedy-drama series The L Word.” (360). The L Word does little more than thrust over sexualized rich white femmes into the spotlight. Meanwhile the lack of portrayal of women of color (or very few), working class women and gender variance excludes and hides the struggles and lives of these groups. What happened to the chapters on the struggles and great contributions of communities of color early on in the book? The epilogue seems to exist in a post-racial world of indifference where representation, any representation is positive. And yet these representations of lesbians are stabbing us in the back. They seem to empower, but really these tokenized queer characters enforce models of passivity and quell the urgency that we once had, the drive for liberation. Where is the radicalism in watching our stereotypes on TV?
Queer narratives are riddled with poor associations with birth families. Since most queer kids are not raised by queer parents they often do not have queer role models in their lives from an early age. Having no cultural role model means that queer youth grow up with out the same cultural historical memory that members of other minority groups might experience. Without these histories queer youth growing up today lack the association with the trauma and struggle that an earlier generation of queers fought through. This community of elders dealt with hostile circumstances to pave the way for the youth of today, and yet our interrogations of their identities and choices in time of crisis do not account for the context of the situation in which those decisions and identities were formed.
This failure to learn and understand histories leads us into patterns of disarray. Each new generation believes that it is the best, the vanguard, the improved model of the former. Because of this association our tendency is to disregard the histories that others have created. If only we built up the tools to unite the history of our movements with the present conditions of them. There are surely strategies from early resistances and attitudes that we would benefit from; not to mention more acknowledgment of history can help queer youth to develop a better understanding of their place within a broader less selfish movement.