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Pride is coming up soon, and you know what that means! That’s right. It means a flurry of Facebook feeds loudly railing against the existence of Pride, and in fact, against the gay community as a whole. While reading many of these debates, it struck me how very different the gay youth culture of today is from the gay youth culture when I was under 24. I recently sat down with one of these Kids of America and decided to pick his brain about gay history and what gay pride means to him.

How old are you?

23

How long have you been out?

Since I was 15 to some, 17 out-and-proud to the world.

How about some gay history. Are familiar with Mattachine Society? Harvey Milk? ACT Up? The Radical Faeries?

I know about all four of those topics well, and I didn’t just Google them to say that. I consider myself knowledgeable of gay history, especially the AIDS epidemic (which isn’t really “history,” but you get the idea). I devour autobiographies of queer writers, and any retrospectives I can find. I also enjoy reading the old writings of radicals like Larry Kramer; there’s an anger there that I wish our contemporary voices would channel more often.

Are you active in the community?

Yes. The vast majority of my friends, from close to just acquaintances I see at parties, are queer. Most are queer men. I’m out to my friends and family, I go to the bars, so on and so forth.

What are the things you like about the gay community?

We do care. We do look out for one another. We are vibrant, creative, empathetic and loving personalities. People who say otherwise are often projecting their own insecurities, and I can’t take the critiques too seriously since they often reek of hypocrisy, sex negativity, body shaming, etc. People are people regardless of the labels; embrace the good, reject the bad, but NEVER underestimate us as a whole.

Things you want to change?

The priorities that have been set for the movement: marriage comes before, say, housing and employment discrimination, queer youth homelessness, and AIDS. Now, marriage is critically important, whether YOU ever care to be married or not, and I actually get very angry when people say it isn’t. My point is that there are a lot of issues with our hetero-normative, religiously monogamous, monogamously religious, and romantically dysfunctional society, and I wish there was a deeper dialog occurring about them. The issues aren’t only things that courts and congresses and voters can change; many of them just reflect social attitudes and customs that are poisonous to all people, straight or gay or whatever else, and gay people have a history of subverting these norms with great success. Yet with all these pink elephants in the room, the mainstream conversation is ONLY about marriage, essentially; we stay hush-hush about the ways in which we ARE different from heterosexuals because rich white men decided it’s better to pretend we are exactly the same. Demanding the same legal rights while still recognizing our community’s individuality is a line that we’re not walking very well, to the detriment of our culture.

Lastly, what does Gay Pride mean to you? Is it a good or bad thing?

Pride is the opposite of shame: who could disagree with that? Refer to my answer to question six to see what I think about the people in the community who hate on Pride.

So folks, here’s one guy’s experience regarding the current gay community. We’d love to hear your experiences! Sound off in the comments below.