A new year, more challenges.
Let’s admit it. 2014, for a lot of us, really sucked. For me, there was a stuff on a personal level that just wasn’t great. I have a lot of friends who had a less than stellar year. And in general… well, Mitch McConnell will be the Senate Majority leader starting later this month. That gives you an idea.
Seeing how divided our country and community on very basic levels hasn’t helped either. I lost count of how many gay people, usually men, complaining about the protests after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner decisions. The object to protesters blocking traffic or condemn people for rioting. Never mind the fact that protests, by definition, are supposed to disrupt things and the rights we have grew out of a riot. (Stonewall. Look it up.)
And should we get started on issues facing the trans community? Kink and leather does handle them better than the wider community. Doesn’t mean we handle it well. They still face almost constant issues and discrimination even within our own community.
We’re supposed to make resolutions for the new year. I don’t. I never remember them and I trip up within the first week. I don’t need to start the new year on that note. But I would like to set goals.
First, on a purely selfish level, try to break even financially. I’d like to have a month where we don’t worry about making rent. After that, I want to try to support all the groups in our community. And hold others up to that same standard.
We, especially the gay and lesbian community, have found allies with the hetero and pan side. Yes, I know, not all have been allies, but I’ve also seen a lot of them march with us, speak out for us, cheer for us and back us up as we’ve fought for our rights. The way we pay that back is by doing what they did. We should be allies to those in our community who are still fighting for basic rights, including the right to exist without fear.
We need to listen to them when they speak about what they deal with. We need to back them up when they confront discrimination and injustice. We need to boost the signal when they speak to the greater community. We need to be willing to walk with them while they lead the battles they each face. We can’t claim to be a community that accepts everyone if we don’t actually, you know, accept everyone. The only limits we should have on that are those who repeatedly violate consent and harm others. We need to actually hold ourselves up to the standards we claim to have.
We also need to learn the art of compromise. Too often, especially in the past year, we have taken the same attitude that’s infected society at large. It’s not enough that I win, the other person has to be destroyed. There can be a benefit of giving on some things but still keeping what’s important. I’ve seen too much division in this community, and been caught in it on occasion. We have to find ways to bridge our own differences without having people needing to pick a side on everything. There are ways to make change in our very personal experiences and spaces without a full frontal assault. Just as there are times for major protest, there are also times for diplomacy and calm talk. Full on assault should be the last resort. It too often has been the first resort.
This community is supposed to be a family. And, as a close friend and family member said, families fight. But when the family remains estranged, it is weakened. There are, rarely, times when you need to send a family member away. It is not good, nor easy. It is sometimes necessary. But it shouldn’t happen often.
Families fight. But, in a good family, they also rally for members who are hurt, suffering and lost. That is my hope for the new year. That we be the family we claim to be.
Ruff Wray is the publisher and founder of Great Lakes Den. He lives in Chicago with his husband Jeff. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org