Hardly a week goes by without news that another historic gay or lesbian bar is shuttering, whether due to gentrification, declining patronage, or some combination of the two. And with our publications folding, radical queer politics in decline, and gayborhoods bulldozed, it's easy to understand why some people think that queer culture is dying.
This watering down of the culture has been blamed on many things—LGBTQ political acceptance, same-sex marriage, queer assimilation, the taming of the AIDS crisis, the rise of the internet... They're events that have taken the "edge" off the gay rights movement, supplanted our bars and spaces with apps, and took self-identifying as LGBTQ from a potentially dangerous move to something approaching normal in much of the country. But if queer culture were truly dead, if we had all perfectly assimilated with the broader American mainstream, our struggles—for political equality, for representation, for healthcare—would be won. Sadly, that is not the case.
If anything, queer culture is merely changing—adapting to a society where being queer (or loving and befriending queer people) is the new normal; one where we have cultural acceptance without political justice; one where the interplay between assimilation and resistance has made it an increasingly peculiar time to identify as LGBTQ. And in this series of articles, which we're calling The New Queer, we're exploring the manifold ways that people embody queerness and queer culture amid all this change.
What does it mean to raise a child without gender in 2016, or to come to grips with one's problematic desires? What are the next steps for transgender activism and the LGBTQ rights movement under Trump? What does it mean to be "queer" in an age where transgender people disrupt the very notion of gender? Given the opportunity, how would artists update a piece of public art to express a modern spirit of queer liberation? Are gay dance clubs and music dying, as some may claim, or thriving under those critics' noses? What does the wane of gay promiscuity mean for the future of gay sex? And what does the decline of the Women's Land movement and the dream of radical feminism mean for young queer people today?
A range of scholars, journalists, artists, activists, and writers have come together to unpack those questions and more. They arrive without easy answers, and several questions of their own. What becomes clear from taking their work as a whole, however, is that queer culture will not be felled by the shuttering of a few bars or the arrival of a hostile administration. If anything, the challenges we face today make our culture more vital than ever, and those questions all the more pressing.
"Now is the time to remind ourselves that there is no true liberty without insisting on the freedom to be, and express, who we really are," writes Nathaniel Frank in his piece exploring the LGBTQ rights movement after Trump. No matter how you identify or what your relationship with queerness and queer culture is, that fight—and those of every author and artist here—strike at the heart of human nature and the future of our society. Let's see where things are going.
This article is part of the VICE series The New Queer. Read the rest of the package here.