Preparing for the GLBT Expo this weekend at the Javitz Center, I had some idea of what to expect; would it be an enormous room full of beautiful queermos hocking pride jewelry, free dental dams and condoms? (Yes.)
Would there be a slew of corporate and tourism booths dedicated to opportunistically courting the almighty "pink dollar"? (Predictably, yes.)
Would there be incessant, inescapable and incoherent babble coursing from loudspeakers over a driving bass thump from the back of the room? (Annoyingly, also yes.)
In fact, most of what I expected to fill the large conference room at the Javitz Center did, but there was something else.
This is where I should let you in on a little secret: This was my first time at the GLBT Expo. Therefore, I have no idea what was there previous years. That said, I was struck at how completely family oriented the whole thing had become, and not in that Sister Sledge- "We Are Family..." kind of way, although it was that too.
Amidst the free HIV testing booths, the booths promoting the latest Broadway shows and the queer, ethical porn booth, were booths offering at home fertilization devices, promoting sperm cryo-banks, adoption services for same-sex couples and foster parent advocacy groups. The whole thing was so normal, so nice, so... non-subversive, which is a good thing. Right?
I mean, sure there was the occasional bear or leatherman walking around, or the odd old school butch/femme couple- one in a slinky dress, the other with a lead gray crew cut, but the overwhelming feeling I got walking around the expo was, "we're here, we're queer, and, let's face it, America's used to it."
Now, before you get your carabiner clipped keys in a tangle, let me explain. I'm not romanticizing the days of unrecognized partnerships, daily gay bashings and general societal homophobic ickyness.. Hell, leave New York City and you'll find that that world still exists. In fact, I think it's amazing and wonderful that I can go with my WIFE to her new doctor, and when he asks what our relationship is, answer "I'm her wife". I love the fact that we live in a city (and time,) where the love of my life and I can walk down almost any street holding hands and barely get a second look from passersby, and it's incredible that- if we were a bit more solvent and in a position to adopt a child, there are services to help us do just that.
All these things, and so much more that have come about with this great sociopolitical shift are more than I could have dreamt of when as a child, I first realized that I could never follow in my parents' socially sanctioned footsteps, but there's a part of me that wanders if, along with all these gains, we as a people haven't lost something precious.
Gay culture has always given its proverbial middle finger to the bourgeois, middle American ideal of white bread, Bible thumping conformity. As dykes, queers and trans* people, we've always had somewhat of a rebel cachè. What now, now that we're becoming that bourgeois cliché? Does the fact that we're out and proud on Kindle commercials, raising adopted children before coast to coast network TV audiences and a frontrunner in the NYC mayoral race mean that we're slated for sociocultural lesbian bed death?
Maybe not so much. As out front as our collective fight for equality has become, (even the POTUS has publicly sworn his support for marriage equality,) it's easy to forget that in several states, conservative lawmakers are still proposing laws as heinous as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and rates of anti-gay and anti-trans* violence have barely waned.
Events such as the GLBT Expo are designed- not only to support GLBT owned/friendly businesses, but to increase opportunities for LGBTQ people, and to make more visible our presence in the world.
Being an out and proud dyke of trans* history may make me feel a little badass, but I'll gladly trade that little bit of outsider cool for a world in which my sisters and brothers can celebrate their loves and lives and enjoy the same privileges as the rest of the hetero world.