For auld lang syne, my dear.
“For auld lang syne.
“We’ll take a cup of kindness, yet,
“For auld lang syne.”
Most of us have been singing those words at midnight on Dec. 31 every year for, well, for our whole lives. But what the hell does it actually mean, this “auld lang syne”?
I looked it up. It’s from a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns. “Auld lang syne” translates literally to “the old long since,” which in plain English means “days gone by.” So basically, this song we sing each New Year’s Eve is reminding us to always remember our old friends (“auld acquaintance”) and to remember the bygone days, even as we move into the future.
Every year around this time, I always start feeling nostalgic, thinking about and missing those “auld lang syne.” Recently, drag entertainer Tasha Kohl posted a video on Facebook of one of her performances. It was, I think, a more recent performance, but it reminded of those days gone by when I never missed a Thursday night or Sunday night drag show at Joe Elliot’s bar on Pearl Street, The Landing. Tasha Kohl was part of the show cast at The Landing, and she was one of the first drag queens I ever saw perform.
Tasha and Lady Shawn and Kandi Delight and Deva Sanchez and Ricki Rousseau — they were all part of the cast there, and they were all fantastic. And that’s not even counting the guest performers — Naomi Simms, Tiger Lil, Jennifer Fox, Dana Manchester, Michael Andrews, Hot Chocolate and so many, many more. Tasha’s video on Facebook sent me to YouTube, where I searched for all those names and watched video after video of all my favorites from those days gone by.
So many of the people and places I knew back then are gone. And those of us that remain? Many of us have been scattered far and wide, our lives — and ourselves — so very different from what we were. But I do remember those “auld lang syne.” Those “auld acquaintance” are not forgot.
But as I look back over these last 12 months, my memories really are not so fond.
Our LGBTQ community is no stranger to struggle, of course. We have had to fight for our rights, for our very lives, forever. But we had made progress — significant progress.
In the first decade and a half of the 21st century, we won precious victories that many of us “old folks” thought we’d never live to see, that many of our friends, in fact, did not live to see. The sodomy laws were overturned, marriage equality became the law of the land, LGBTQ students were beginning to see protections put into place for them, military policies were changed to allow lesbians and gays and, finally, transgender people serve openly and without fear of discharge if their “secret” was revealed.
We were winning. Love was winning.
But then came November 2016 and the election of Donald Trump. And our world began to shatter. Maybe all the victories we had won and the progress we had made left us complacent, and we were caught off guard by the sudden turn backwards. We were left scrambling, it seemed, just to maintain the victories we had already won; moving ahead, it seemed, was impossible.
No, the bigotry, the hate and the violence spewing at us from the enemies of equality are not new this year. It’s not even new to see it coming from the White House and the halls of Congress. That’s been happening since Day One of the Trump regime. But this year has seemed, at least to me, even worse.
Maybe it’s just the accumulation of oppression that has been building up over the last three years, growing heavier with every step. Maybe nerves have just become more and more frayed while stamina has waned. Maybe it’s because we are heading into an election year and the campaigns have brought the tension and the vitriol to the surface even more. Maybe it’s because of the impending — and now accomplished — impeachment vote.
Maybe we are — maybe I am — just freakin’ exhausted.
And now, as the year ends, it feels like we are just left hanging. Nothing is settled, one way or another, and as they feel more and more threatened, it seems that Trump and his minions are becoming ever more strident and vindictive, and they are targeting the country’s most vulnerable, including the LGBT community — especially the T part of the acronym.
So no, I am not counting the days of 2019 among the “old long since” that I will remember fondly (except for a couple of very specific days, like the day my wife graduated from Midwestern State). But I am looking ahead to 2020, with as much anxiety and trepidation as anticipation.
Because 2020 could be the year that the forces of reason and responsibility and maturity take back our country, and the year that we once again begin to move toward a better future. But at the same time, it could be the year we fall further into bigotry, violence and chaos.
It’s up to us. It’s up to you.
So get informed. Get involved. Get registered to vote (if you aren’t already, and if you are, make sure you are). And get busy. Let’s make some better “auld lang syne” to remember on the next new year’s eve.
Tammye Nash is managing editor of Dallas Voice.