August 2000

Revolution or Assimilation?

Okay, so I've been reading up a bit on my gay history (actually, watching a documentary, and reading a couple of magazine articles, but whatever)...

And I noticed, like a lot of people, have noticed that the goals of the gay liberation movement have changed a bit in the past twenty years. It's become more about being accepted by mainstream white-bread America now as opposed to the old revolution of celebrating our being different from heterosexual society. Question, though, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I've always been different from mainstream society. I've never really fit in anywhere I've been, or among any group of people. My friends accept me for who I am, but that doesn't mean we're like each other very much. So for me, I feel a certain value in the "We're here, we're queer, get over it" attitude. It affirms that though I am different, I still have value. And as I read articles or watch videos about the "old days" of queer liberation (a term most gay activists would probably keel over from now) I have to wonder if maybe our activism today is misplaced. Instead of saying, "Hi, we're really just like everyone else," maybe we should be saying, "Hi, we're different and also valuable members of society."

And I can also see the assimilation point of view. People who have been perceived as "different" all their lives want to fit in, and be considered "normal." They want the American Dream, the white picket fence, the collie, et cetera. After a lifetime of being different, they want to be like everyone else. I can understand that. For a long time, that's what I wanted.

But there is a danger in assimilation. There is the threat of turning into everyone else, into a bland culture with so little diversity. If no one were "different", life would be so very dull. Like my mom said once, imagine how dull the world would be if everyone were cookie cutter people. And we're told that we're supposed to celebrate diversity...

What do I want? Do I want to assimilate or revolt, essentially? To be honest, because I never have fit in, except in some cases among other gay people, I can't imagine being considered "normal", and that word just makes me want to shudder and throw up anytime someone tries to apply it to me. But do I want to forever remain outside the bounds of mainstream Americana? When I'm forty years old will I still want to have that label of being "odd" or "different" attached to me? Yet I still can't imagine being considered mainstream, or normal. I can't envision that blandness that my mind so often associates with the white middle class lifestyle- the lifestyle that supposedly fits my parents (though anyone who knows them will say my folks are not in any way normal).

And what's better for the entire gay population - being different or being similar? There are gay people who are just like the regular Joe or Jane America except in who they fall in love with. I don't want to deny them their wishes, to keep them from being mainstreamed. Among gay people there is such diversity that there can't honestly be just one political platform to encompass everyone. Some people want that sense of uniqueness, others want to blend. Yet we must present a united front to heterosexual America, must choose one or the other way of gaining back our rights that are lost the second we utter those words, "I'm gay." It is one of those problems without simple solutions, bent and twisted by each individual's needs, shaped by each point of view. I don't want to be "normal" nor do I want to keep other people from that goal. But how to fulfill my dream and theirs?

Anyway, some food for thought... What do you want, revolution or assimilation?


Bethany Kimball is an eighteen year old high school graduate. She can be contacted at k41632@yahoo.com

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