This piece originally appeared in Annals of Gay Sexuality, co-written with Marcus Greatheart and Pan.” See sidebar for titles of posts.
Trauma irrevocably marks us. Not one of us as gay men, whatever our age, has made it through this epidemic unscathed. We’re all transgenerational trauma survivors of AIDS and homophobia. HIV will continue to be associated with gay sexuality for decades. We’re also aware that relentless homophobia often negatively impacts the acute political and medical support needed for others including women, Indigenous people and people with AIDS in the non- Western world. As many of us in North America delve into our generational histories we experience a multifaceted resistance to, and acceptance of, survivor’s guilt. We screwed our way through multiple losses, isolation and sex panic to discover we’re still here. Our sex lives flesh out our need for, and act as our tools of, change.
While trauma can debilitate it can also, willingly or not, cast us into new roles as cultural change agents. Coming out as queer/ trans is a political act that can be devastating. It can also, with the support of community, be a health-promoting, culture-evolving offering. Finding each other and sharing our scars and strategies
can be exhilarating. Healing from trauma requires survivors be seen as valued individuals, witnessed (when ready) for their nightmare, honored for their survival skills and celebrated as vital members
of community. By kicking the closet doors open, by bravely being ourselves, our sociocultural initiatory practice compels us to embody the role of culture brokers to the betterment of society. Coming out develops and demands a profound set of intrapersonal skills such as courage, strategy and psychosocial adaptation. It is an imperative that we research the skills that queer and trans folks develop and deploy in shifting their social standing by coming out. Looking beyond coming out solely as a process could prove to be revolutionary. It’s in our blood.
Our collective story is extraordinary. We must remind ourselves where we’ve come from if we’re to fully comprehend the potential of what we can create. Many of us lived and died for sex. Over three hundred thousand gay men in the USA died of AIDS during one of the most profoundly loving human rights movements in history. We have yet to lovingly claim the victory of our dead brothers against a near biocultural genocide. As with survivors of other wars, only those extraordinary men and women who lived through the AIDS years can fully comprehend the horror of those times or know the depth of love that gay men and our allies shared. If we are to find joy in our own wellness we must choose to remember them, be ever curious, and uphold and celebrate their extraordinary contributions to our lives and indeed, the world.
If we see ourselves as seminal to evolution rather than a biological aberration, our storyline gets far more interesting. In only four and half decades we’ve run the proverbial gauntlet. From invisibility to disco ball frenzy, near annihilation to killing ourselves with meth to learning how to find intimacy with transmen — all the while participating in the world where everyone else is also working out their shit.
Imagining Stonewall as our LGBT cultural birthday, it is no wonder we are in the throes of a full-blown cultural midlife opportunity: We are 46. While we gain mainstream rights, we need to learn how to reorganize in real-time communities. We may shirk our social responsibilities in favor of re-exploring the erotic- cultural adolescence we missed. We may be shtupping our way into a full-blown queer cultural renaissance. As we queerly mature, let’s envision ourselves as the loving Daddies we never had. We also need intergenerational mentorship to entice our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness. For this to occur we have much more compassion slinging to do.
Greater and more imaginative political actions will once again serve as a method to promote our overall queer health. Whether we choose it or not, our sex lives are political odysseys that can be used against us, or help us build healthier futures. We know the psychosomatic and social costs of stigma and hatred.5 Many of us have remarkable tales of survival. Our methods of adaptation are
the template needed for LGTBQ community education and health. Together, we are the change we seek. If we click our heels three times and say, “There’s no place like community,” we might recognize each other as miracles-in-waiting. When we see ourselves as members of
a diverse community invested in the culture of queer/trans* health — not just as gay men focused on HIV — we envision rewriting the HIV narrative with the overall intention of improving our lives, inclusive of the sexual health of future LGBTQ people.