Like other young gay men of my generation, I had few role models in the 1980s. I’m wrestling with the reality that I am now an elder.
As a Quaker, I’m used to thinking of elders as being in their 80s. But as a gay man about to turn 60, I’m wrestling with the reality that I am an elder. Like other young gay men of my generation, I had few role models in the 1980s—first because people weren’t out, and then because they started dying in the aids epidemic. My generation was decimated.
While Harvey Milk had exhorted us to “Come out!” and many of us did, hundreds of thousands of men were outed in illness or death. All those sick and dying young men awakened compassion, anger, and commitment among their peers, their friends, their families, and dare I say the nation. The visibility and political and social advances gained by LGBTQ+ people have come not only from Stonewall and Pride but also from struggle and death.
Resistance and pride continue, but so do struggle and death. Trans women of color are being killed simply for existing; young African American men continue to die from aids due to racism, homophobia, and governmental neglect.
The recently concluded General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association had the theme “The Power of We.” Often noted during GA was the refrain “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Yes, those LGBTQ+ elders and role models we’ve needed? It’s us. Those activists we need? It’s us. Strategists and visionaries? Us. Nurturers, fire-
tenders, and healers? Us.
The hard work of becoming an inclusive “we” is worth it. There is power, possibility, struggle, and joy in the work to become we. And that’s nothing compared to the power, possibility, struggle, and joy that will open before us when we arrive.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
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Kenneth Sutton is managing editor of UU World.