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More than just a pretty face

The next generation of our community is here.

It’s arrived in full force with bells, whistles and…booty shorts…and… glitter. As our community progresses, its volunteers, activists, participants and leaders change. In a perfect world, the standing generation would mentor, teach, and pass the torch on to the new generation. But this is not happening enough.

This past weekend I worked with the entertainment side of our company, SDPIX, at the Atlantis party at Rich’s. My job was to help run credit card transactions at the front door while wearing “booty shorts,” a snorkel mask and nothing else. I had a great time doing this, but it dawned on me that people who came through the door that did not know me probably perceived me to be something different than I am. I got plenty of “just stand there and be pretty” remarks and at one point, when I had difficulty calculating the $12 cover for a group of four in my head (math was never a strong point) an older man commented, “that’s ok, baby…boys like you weren’t made to be smart-you’re just eye candy.” For a split second I thought about slapping him in the face – I wanted him to know that outside this pretty facade, I am an activist, a graduate student, a writer and so much more. But of course, I restrained myself and just smiled like a good piece of eye candy should.

After the party, I raced home to re-write this column. It went along very well with the topic I had written about. You see, there are people in the generation above that fear the younger generation. They do not want to let go of the power, control and spotlight that has been on them for a number of years. Some of these people use the fact that my generation is just a bunch of partying, Facebook obsessed flakes. They think that because we like to go to nightclubs, bars and social events we are incapable of getting work done or participating in the affairs of the community on a serious level.

This is not to say that everyone in the older generation is like this. In fact, there are some amazing people who have held leadership roles in our community for many years, that are great advocates for my generation. These people have mentored me, have supported my endeavors and have passionately advocated for our generations to work together to carry out the ongoing work in the fight for equality. However, the growth of our community’s future is strongly affected by the small percentage within the older generation who do not want to embrace the future.

We cannot forget that it was a group of primarily young people, led by a 23-year old fresh-faced activist who organized the November 15, 2008 San Diego protest of the passage of Proposition 8, which drew 25,000 marchers. It is young people who are working hand-in-hand with veteran activists to now repeal Proposition 8. It is young people who are running many grassroots organizations in our community and making headlines. Heck, it is people from our next generation of leaders who created and run this amazing website, SDGLN.com. Our older activists must remember that they, too, were young when they created many of the community institutions that exist today, so why do some of them think that this generation cannot do the same?

Certainly, we need the older generation. We need their knowledge, expertise, wisdom and support. We need them to continue to work with us side-by-side, because we cannot do it alone. We are young and have so much to learn, but we are also capable and willing to work together to bring change to the community. Minds need to be open enough to listen to new ideas and try something different. It might just work better.

There will be a day when I replace the booty shorts for a suit and tie. For now though, I am going to keep them at the front of my closet, and directly next to the ties. I wear both looks quite well and both sides of me – activist and party boy – complement each other. When I retire the booty shorts one day, I will begin working with my generation’s successors to mentor them for their future. For now, I look forward to collaborating with those who came before me, to continue to make positive change in the community.