Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series about the gay-rights movement and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.
I briefly wondered if I had wandered into the wrong conference.
In January 2018, the National LGBTQ Task Force held its annual Creating Change conference at a hotel around the corner from where I live in Washington, D.C. Creating Change, which bills itself as the “foremost political, leadership, and skills-building conference for the LGBTQ social justice movement,” brings together thousands of activists from across the country. Yet surveying the various panel discussions left me confused. “Elephant in the Waiting Room: Self-Love, Health, Queering Fat Acceptance” was the title of one workshop. “The Politics of Colony and Post-hurricane Politics in PR and USVI” was another. Most puzzling for a gathering ostensibly dedicated to the political interests of people discriminated against because of their same-sex attraction was the discussion simply titled “Asexuals.”
As the topics of conversation at America’s largest assembly of gay activists suggests, America is rapidly becoming a post-gay country. Gay people were once policed as criminal subversives, depicted in the popular culture as deviants, and pathologized by the medical establishment as mentally ill. Now most of America views homosexuality as benign. Only 30 years ago, 57 percent of Americans believed consensual gay sex should be illegal. Today, same-sex marriage has been achieved nationally, gays can serve openly in the military, and most gay people live in states that protect them from discrimination. An openly gay man is running a serious campaign for president and his homosexuality is considered immaterial, if not an advantage that distinguishes him from a crowded field. According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Americans say homosexuality should be accepted, an all-time high.