Last week I watched When We Rise from Dustin Lance Black which chronicled LGBT activism over four decades. The scripted mini-series did an admirable job telling a political story but its myopic focus on how long-suffering our community has been was a skewed portrayal of the gay experience. Apparently the featured activists never had an adventuresome free-spirited moment -- not even during the 1970s in the Castro! -- as they grimly confronted a never-ending series of tragedies and crises. At the end of the eight-hour grim fest I just wanted to ask each of them: "did you ever have any fun or find any joy in forty years?"
As someone who came of age during the 1970s, was a gay activist during my college years in the early 1980s, and lived through the AIDS pandemic, I too can point to many scars and summon up righteous anger. But let's not forget that so much of the LGBT story involves a creative joy for life regardless of what we endured. For example, there was a mad celebration and absolute joy on the dance floor. Shirtless guys were dancing to "It's Raining Men" but When We Rise gave us only Chicken Little yelling "the sky is falling." The gay experience was not all-bad-all-the-time and we were not 24/7 victims, and yet that's how Black misleadingly portrays it. Balance and perspective should matter in accurately presenting our story. In When We Rise the gays in San Francisco apparently don't celebrate Halloween unless they're wearing wet blankets.
Our lives were more than our oppression, and yes it's okay to have fun and feel free even while marginalized and fighting for equality.