I love June. Summer is in full tilt and everyone is half naked. In NYC, you can feel the energy of the Gay Pride events and it always reminds how far we have come as a culture. Being gay and living in NYC has been an incredible journey but not without its difficulties and sadness. When I moved to the city in the mid-eighties, AIDS was sweeping through the community with a large deadly scythe. I buried many good friends in those first years and as a young man in my twenties, I saw enough sickness and death to last for a lifetime.
Today, as a man in my forties I see that, although there are still many fights to be fought, that our community has grown from the many challenges it has overcome. There are new issues that arise everyday for the gay men and women and many are things I could never have imagined, such as marriage, adoption, and military inclusion. I believe that the next generation will benefit from the strong men and women who are fighting on those front lines today, just as our brothers and sisters fought for our rights on that historical night in the sixties known as Stonewall.
The concept of pride and how it relates to our present state in our continued fight for equality is an interesting one. Yes, indeed I am a proud gay man. I came out in my late teens and never looked back. I feel like I experienced a delayed adolescence and like many of my gay friends, I reveled through my twenties and into my thirties while my straight counterparts were marrying and raising families.
A good friend loves to refer to our generation as the “gay non-community” and I like this ironic term. While we are united, for the most part, in our fights for equality on several fronts, we are a non-community in that we now are free to identify as individuals, not a group. Being gay is one of many parts of my own identity and not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about myself and where I am today. More important to me is what kind of legacy I can leave behind for future generations.
One thing that I am involved with now that has become more and more important is the work that I do with SAGE. They have a “friendly visitor” program wherein their clients are assigned a volunteer who comes to see them once a week or so. My beloved “client” is an 84 year old man, an artist, who has lived in NYC for almost 60 years. It has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done and it has been incredible to hear his stories of being gay in NYC in the fifties and sixties.
As we celebrate “gay pride” I also think this is a time for our community to celebrate it’s individuality within a larger population. We are individuals first and foremost and the legacy of each individual is to leave behind something that is worthy and honorable. I hope that my life continues to be filled with opportunities to reach out and serve others, not just myself. I take great “pride” in my work with SAGE and believe that we can show the world our true colors by the work we do for others, not just by our style and six packs.