Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Burden of Leather

Last night's Melbourne Leather Dinner was very good, lots of good discussion.

There was some heavy discussion, particularly about HIV and the current soaring rates among young women, and about how my age group was not alive during the AIDS crisis and did not go through the heart wrenching days of funeral after funeral while the world just shrugged and was glad your people were dying. We talked about how the drag queens and the Leather community were the ones to look after those with HIV and AIDS, nursing them and caring for them when no one else would - about how that sort of thing was the burden of Leather. Caring for our people and looking out for them, even when it's hard, especially when it's hard, is the burden of Leather.

A lot of the discussion was about how we don't want to push that burden onto people much anymore, as we want to bring new blood into Leather and we want to show people that it's here without scaring them off.

I was thinking about many of the young people I know, myself and my friends, and my friends of friends.

We weren't there for the AIDS crisis, but a lot of us know what it did, know what it meant. A lot of us are heavily invested in our history, we research our past and we listen to those that came before us. Yes, there are certainly (probably a majority of) young people who don't give a toss about the past, and those are the ones at the most risk. But there are a lot of us who are serious about remembering the mistakes of the past, and not repeating them. There are those of us who also turn our attention to the problems of today, without losing sight of what came before.

But I guess I want to reassure you, if you're older, that there are young people who care, we exist.

There are young people who don't mind the burden.

I am quite lucky (or perhaps just discerning) in that most of my friends are actively involved in caring for one another and trying to improve the world. We do everything we can.

Some things me and my young folk have been doing over the last year or two:

* Easing homelessness where we can by setting up new sharehouses and giving folks a couch or a spare room when they have nowhere to go.
* Setting up new social groups so people feel less isolated.
* Lobbying for changes in legislation.
* Helping each other move house, often out of toxic situations.
* Gentle, loving care to victims of hate crimes.
* Slowly reconfiguring what consent means and what we can do to make consent more meaningful and cut down on sexual assault and harassment.
* Choosing careers in nursing and aged care so that we can look after our own when no one else wants to.
* Choosing careers in law and medicine so that there are people with power who are sympathetic to our needs.
* Organized fundraisers for a variety of causes, all causes that no "respectable" organization wants to touch.

These are a small example of the things young people today are doing. All of these examples are coming from people I know, not just people I've heard about.

I know that the majority of young people aren't like this. Sure.

But I just want to promise you that there are young people who are willing, able, prepared to, and are already carrying the burden.

I just want to promise and reassure you that I, as a young person, am willing, able, prepared to, and am already carrying the burden. I have no plans to stop any time soon, and I doubt those I know do either. One day I won't be a young person anymore, but I'll still be happy to carry the burden.

We are your next generation, and we know that. There are those of us who are willing to not only live up to what you've left before us, but we will strive to improve the world even further.

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