A new gay agenda: The movement in 2016

It is time to take stock of the gay movement. Marriage equality is now recognized across North America. Employment discrimination is still a reality in some jurisdictions, but with public […]

HomoCulture Equality + Rights Kevin Moroso

This article was published on March 9th, 2016

A new gay agenda: The movement in 2016

It is time to take stock of the gay movement. Marriage equality is now recognized across North America. Employment discrimination is still a reality in some jurisdictions, but with public opinion solidly in favour of banning discrimination, it is only a matter of time. So is that the end of gay liberation? Is it time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour and the achievements of previous generations?

The gay movement can never end so long as there continues to be injustice directed at any member of the gay community. Gay rights is not merely a collection of laws recognizing gay men as equal members of society without regard to their sexuality. Gay rights is about ensuring that gay men, all gay men, can thrive. Otherwise, the reason for the continued existence of the gay community ceases. The gay community is unique because of how it cuts across barriers of race, income, and gender identity. The rich and the poor mingle together at the bars, black and white fuck each other at the baths. In a society still segregated by race and income, the gay community is a place where all these differences intersect. So until each member of the gay community no longer suffers injustice, the gay movement continues. Here are ten issues that gay men must continue to fight for, a redirection of what the gay movement must stand for.

Trans equality. Gay men have to be honest with themselves – they’ve left their trans brothers behind. Discrimination again trans men is legal in most places. They face even higher levels of violence. And access to health services is abysmal. Equality for trans men must be at the centre of the gay movement.

HIV. The battle ain’t over yet. Stigma against gay men living with HIV is high in the gay community itself and even higher in the straight world. There is still no cure and the community has to continue to fight so that no one has to live with it for the rest of their life. And the epidemic continues – PrEP needs to be rolled out in force but PrEP is just an interim measure. Until a vaccine is created to prevent HIV, the fear that has dominated our community for 35 years will continue to linger.

Police discrimination. Whether it’s black men in Cleveland or aboriginal men in Vancouver, gay men of colour face police profiling and disproportionate arrests. The fact that a white gay man can stumble home after the bar without worrying about getting stopped by police but a gay man of colour must always be vigilant and careful not to attract suspicion is something the gay community shouldn’t find acceptable. When a police officer sees a gay black man, that police officer first sees him as a black man. It wasn’t long ago that the police also targeted white gay men, something the last generation knows all too well. Racial justice and queer justice must go hand in hand. And lest we forget, black civil rights leaders have been some of the loudest supporters of gay rights over the last few decades. They get it, so must the gay movement. And in a sick twist of irony, marriage equality was recognized in the United States by the Supreme Court in the same week that that court gutted the Voting Rights Act.

Housing and gentrification. It’s a long running joke that when gay men move into the neighbourhood, property values go up. It’s funny, but in a perverse way. The problem is that once those property values go up, two things happen: straight people find the neighborhood a better place to live and many gay men are forced to move out because of affordability. Gentrification is destroying the geographical heart of gay communities across North America. From the Castro of San Francisco to Greenwich Village in New York, gay men are being pushed out. Contrary to media images, gay men are not rich, having higher levels of poverty than their straight counterparts. Some continue to live there by cramming several single guys in a one bedroom apartment, generally unstable living conditions. The gay movement must focus on social housing and rent control so that there will actually be a physical community in the years to come.

Queer seniors housing. After a lifetime of leading the fight for gay rights, many gay seniors fear not only being isolated from the community but worse, being placed in a housing facility where they will have to deal with discrimination or go back into the closet. As well, gay men lack the traditional support network of kids and grandkids and therefore rely more on seniors services. Whether it’s housing dedicated to queer seniors or, at least, housing where queer positivity is the norm, the gay movement must not ignore those who helped bring us this far.

Schools. Bullying is still endemic in our schools and this can give a gay man scars for the rest of his life. The higher levels of mental health issues among gay men often stem from this period in their lives. The gay movement must continue to push for safe school policies, gay-straight alliances, and a curriculum that includes gay people, from history to sex ed.

Sex. A focus for the gay movement should be restarting the push for sexual liberation that got halted by the AIDS epidemic. Gay men have internalized the fear around HIV and place such high burdens on themselves and others to control their sexual activity. Sex is good, sex is fun, sex shouldn’t involve shame. The gay community needs to put an end to slut shaming within the gay community and embody the original spirit of previous generations. Whether its bylaws or laws that prohibit sexual activity in gay bars or the controls around nudity, our bodies and our sexuality should be freely expressed.

Alternative relationships. It’s great that gay marriages are recognized. However most gay men are not married. Gay men have formed different types of relationships and non-blood families over decades and continue to do so. The only relationship that’s been recognized is the one that most closely mimics straight ones. Our best friend and lover isn’t invited to a cousin’s wedding because that relationship isn’t seen as equal to a marriage. Or the invite is only for “plus one” and doesn’t reflect the fact that a gay man may live in a pack with a group of men. Basically, when it comes to recognition by law and society, only one small proportion of gay men get to be included. Now it is probably too far for the gay movement to push for polygamy. However, the ability to draw up contracts between multiple partners and the need for at least partial acceptance from society for alternative relationships needs to be on the agenda.

Mental Health. Depression, anxiety, suicide, alcohol and substance use, and eating disorders. These are all mental health issues that disproportionately affect gay men. Gay men’s health organizations need to provide affordable counseling for gay men, something that is financially out of reach for many if not most gay men. Campaigns to reduce stigma and encourage discussion of mental health are also needed. And mental health resources need to be available more broadly in society as not all gay men have access to a queer health organization.

Refugees. Circumstances have changed dramatically in some parts of the world. We are used to thinking of gay rights as progress, something societies are moving towards. It’s a way that we are taught to think but it’s a faulty assumption. In large parts of the world, from Africa, to the Middle East, to Russia, the lives of gay men are deteriorating at a rapid pace. Gay men in North America need to do what they can to improve the situation of our brethren overseas. Trying to intervene in those societies directly can produce a backlash and be counterproductive. But gay men can do what they can to both push the government to bring in more gay refugees, ensure asylum processes are fair, and even go as far as directly sponsoring a refugee.

With our brothers, together we will stand.

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