Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Future of Gay: If Recent History Is Any Indication, the Lives of Gay Men and Lesbians-From Marriage to the Military-Will Be Drastically Different by the Year 2054. Will There Even Be a Word for Gay?

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Future of Gay: If Recent History Is Any Indication, the Lives of Gay Men and Lesbians-From Marriage to the Military-Will Be Drastically Different by the Year 2054. Will There Even Be a Word for Gay?

Article excerpt

Imagine what America would look like if during the past 50 years gay men and lesbians hadn't been shoved into secrecy about their sexuality. What if, since 1954, they'd had the same wide-open, out-of-the-closet lives and the power to affect American culture, law, polities, sports, and media that they have gained in 2004?

Fewer children would await adoption, and more loving couples would have legal marriages. Lawmakers might have taken the AIDS epidemic more seriously when it first appeared. Gay bashing would be a rare crime, and victims Matthew Shepard and Gwen Araujo might still be living. Professional sports teams would have special seating not only for players' opposite-sex spouses but for their same-sex partners. New York City police officers might have been suspended after harassing patrons of the Stonewall Inn, and major newspapers would have run serious headlines about that 1969 event instead of such examples as HOMO NEST RAIDED, QUEEN BEES ARE STINGING MAD. J. Edgar Hoover might have been a grand marshal in Washington, D.C.'s gay pride parade. Lucy Ricardo would have launched her outrageous schemes not with Ethel but with her gay best friend, Will.

In 2004 it is easy to play the "what if" game about the past. Never before has a minority group made such quick progress toward equality.

The past year's developments alone have been stunning. Presidential hopefuls Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, and Al Sharpton spoke out in support of marriage for gay men and lesbians, as did lawmakers such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Gay gymnast Matthew Cusick won a settlement from his former employer, Cirque du Soleil, after being fired due to his HIV-positive status. V. Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop to be confirmed by the Episcopal Church. Private employers have been setting up domestic-partner health insurance benefits for gay workers at the rate of three companies a day, according to the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

These examples make it easier to look 50 years into the future and see the lives of gay men and lesbians in 2054. "I think we'll see more progress in the gay movement in the next 10 years than we saw in the past 50," says Waiter L. Williams, professor of anthropology and gender studies at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Evan Wolfson, director of Freedom to Marry, a national group that advocates for marriage rights for same-sex couples, predicts a scenario in which a student in a rural classroom announces during recess that he's going to marry the boy who sits next to him. There will be no punishment from the teacher or taunts from classmates. After all, the boy might have two moms who are seen frequently at parent-teacher conferences. "We're moving toward a world where our children, nieces, and nephews could say they want to marry someone of the same sex and it will be fine--the answer would be, 'Of course,'" Wolfson says.

Although this schoolhouse scenario has yet to play out regularly in small-town America, cultural experts believe it will happen by 2054. By that time openly gay soldiers could be part of a battalion led by an out lesbian commander. Openly gay priests and ministers in monogamous relationships could conduct services without fear of a schism ripping apart their denominations. After winning the Super Bowl a gay quarterback could scream to TV crews, "I'm going to Disney World with ray boyfriend." The first lady could be the "first woman." By then high school history students might confuse George W. Bush with George Wallace. The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would write a ban on same-sex marriage into the U.S. Constitution, will be a curious footnote in history. So will televangelist Pat Robertson and the ultraconservative James Dobson, the gay-hating, far-right head of Focus on the Family.

"We are on the fast track to acceptance because people around the U. …

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