Society at large is nowhere near as laid back as when I was young. You can't walk down the street smoking a joint these days. Cops wouldn't laugh if they caught you having sex in public. You'd never smuggle a bottle of Southern Comfort into a correctional facility. A large group of teenagers standing around in a public park on a Friday night would be arrested for something. We drew some looks in our patched jeans and embroidered army jackets, but not like we would now in this military-worshipping world.
Yet somehow, in a world of patrolled behavioural conformity, there is a personal freedom unheard of in our barefooted unshaven days. In the complex navigation of adolescence, teens will talk about sexuality in an open way these days. And bigotry too. What was a middle finger of defiance then is quite ordinary now. A boy in a flamboyant skirt on a summery day may get a few rolled eyes but wouldn't be pointed at and chased down a Manhattan street, an image burned into my brain as I stood there in my Catholic school uniform helplessly watching.
While there will always be an enclave of narrow-minded morons among us, there is much more diversity allowed nowadays. Children aren't forced into churches as we all were. Little boys can get their nails polished by little girls. Girls can wear pants- jeans!- to school. Children have rights just like regular people. Who knew?
We've come a long way. My father called my brother Billy "Sheepdog" for growing his hair over his ears. I wish he'd been alive to see me with a Mohawk and tattooes. Or even more, to see his 16 year-old great-granddaughter with tattoos and proclaiming Atheism. Billy has no hair at all now.
I take heart that there are entertainers like Lady Gaga and Antony & the Johnsons around. Yeah, we had Bowie and Iggy, The Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls. They broke the ground for Boy George to go multi-platinum. These days being "outrageous" is standard. And never, ever would a patriarchal literary hero like Dumbledore have been gay. Nor would a black guy have been President of the US.
So yeah, in some ways things are better. There is more freedom and protection to be who you are. It's a start.
Here's some performance freedom. Gods bless the arts:
I'll Fly Away
1 day ago