Gay rights mean different things to different generations of community
Posted on July 1, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
Before there were domestic-partnership registries and commitment ceremonies, before same-sex marriages and civil unions — before the gay-rights movement, even — John McCluskey and Rudy Henry met, fell in love and harbored the notion that they could spend their lives making one another happy.
And for 50 years, the Tacoma men went about doing just that, all the while longing for social acceptance.
Even in gay-friendly San Francisco where they first lived together, they found it necessary to hide their relationship from prospective landlords, and on job applications they would sometimes lie about their marital status to avoid raising suspicion.
Decades later in 2006, at a coffee-shop concert on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, Amy Balliett and Jessica Trejo met and they, too, eventually fell in love.
In their 20s, the two had come out as lesbians at a time when young people could find support in groups on high school and college campuses, when they had gay role models in politics and on television, and when their parents probably knew people who were openly gay. By the time the two married in California last October, legal bonds between gays and lesbians were possible in several states.
Balliett and Trejo, Henry and McCluskey are like generational bookends to this modern gay-rights movement, launched 40 years ago this week after a group of activists at a small Manhattan bar called the Stonewall Inn stood up in violent protest to ongoing police harassment.
While older gays and younger ones share much the same agenda of equality, their needs within the movement are also divergent.
Young people, who have at times referred to their own post-gay movement, seek the protections of marriage equality as they form relationships and start families, while gays of their grandparents’ generation are more concerned about issues of aging — like survivor benefits and long-term care.
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