Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Generations, and regeneration

Today I'm thinking about generations, and regeneration. Maybe this started yesterday when I was thinking about the 25-year anniversary ACT UP protests, and I realized that for someone in their 20s now, the heyday of ACT UP is as far in the past as the '70s were for me in 1992, when I was 19 and coming of age in ACT UP. I mean, the '70s were already unimaginable to me in 1992, and I'm starting to understand the older queers who looked at my bellbottoms in 1992 with bemusement. It's that dislocating sense that something so foundational to your understanding of the world means something so entirely different for someone of a different generation. Sometimes this is exciting, like with the sudden renewal of interest in ACT UP. Sometimes it's frightening, like when someone talks about all those ACT UP protests in the '70s. Um, ACT UP started in 1987, you have to say, but now maybe people are starting to know that again and I guess what I realized the other day was that oh, 1977 wasn't that far from 1987 or 1992 even if it felt unimaginably different to me and part of that was about coming-of-age as queer at a time when it seemed like everyone was dying and it would always be that way, until you were dying too and now it's not that way, or not that way for queers who inhabit the descendents of those same worlds, and I wonder what that means too.

I was four in 1977, and yes sometimes I wonder about the possibilities for communal celebration, radical engagement, and sexual splendor in that particular time that I missed out on, but of course I've also learned the limitations that existed then that might not exist now -- and, all the limitations that exist now, that might not have existed then. If we are told in high school that a generation is about 30 years, I think a queer generation is maybe five years, 10 years max - I'm thinking about this too while reading the manuscript for Sassafras Lowry's forthcoming novel, Roving Pack, about transmasculine queer kids coming of age in Portland in the early-2000s. This is just 10 years after I was coming of age in early-'90s San Francisco -- so much is different, and so much in the same. Gender in particular, that's what's particularly different. Early-'90s queer San Francisco was still a dyke world where binary gender was rarely questioned. But then, the way peer pressure eerily wharps visions of chosen family -- that's what is so familiar. Where do we end up learning how to change this, not just in the moment, not just generationally but intergenerationally, that's what I'm wondering also.

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