This was a project idea I had been kicking around before the shooting in Orlando, and sadly it appears to be more relevant than ever.
Much has been made in the media over the last few years about the changes in LGBT lives. Marriage is now the law of the land, courtesy of Obergefell. Representation of LGBT characters as fully realized individuals has increased exponentially in our entertainment products. Children are coming out younger and younger, and increasingly expecting to find supportive peers, parents and communities.
But this rapid change has happened unequally. The gap between perception and reality could not be greater among youth in conservative places, who are told we're living in a golden era for gay rights but experience oppression as their daily reality. The change has also created a generational gap where none would normally exist—people only five or ten years apart have radically different experiences in coming out and living as LGBT people.
I am interested in this difference for personal and academic reasons; I am one of those gay men who sometimes view the younger generation with incomprehension. A similar effect happened in the 1970s, as incrementalists were confronted with post-Stonewall radicals, and our world has once again gone through an upheaval. But now we have children coming out in elementary school, or taking their partners to the prom. This has potentially huge and fragmentary effects on the LGBT community writ large, as other observers have noted. We are primarily brought together in an oppositional mode, welded into a whole by the disdain of the larger society. If that bigotry is removed, can the community transition into something cohesive on its own accord? Do we have enough positive ties?
In more concrete terms, I am interested in the lived reality of LGBT individuals today, and how they reconcile their self-image against the changes in society. I am particularly interested in the experience of LGBT people in the border and Deep South, for whom I suspect gains have been slower to arrive and less comprehensive than might have been hoped. To investigate that question, I am going to conduct a series of interviews with LGBT people, to find out how they experience the world as it is right now, post-Obergefell but also post-Pulse.
Why is this relevant to any of you? I need volunteers willing to share their stories with me, and with the broader public, so that the real lived experience of LGBT people is not lost amid the noise of our 24-hour media circus. I need people who are willing to share their pain and their triumphs, to share their loves and their sorrows, to share their dreams. The LGBT community cuts across lines of race, class, and gender, but each individual's experience is filtered through their identity in those classes as well as being LGBT. I want to provide a snapshot of LGBT lives as they are really lived, today. If this sounds like something you'd want to be involved in, or you know someone who would be, please don't hesitate to contact me, and we'll talk in more detail about the interview process. You can email me at sterling.w.davenport@gmail.