The more I refine my ideas in this blog the more it comes down to a need for gay people to have a quality community with their own kind. I have explored a lot of the multifaceted issues that create barriers to that in previous posts. But now I find myself moving less out of the mental and more into the emotional. Advocating for an exclusive gay space can sound a lot like an “us versus them” paradigm that a lot of people do not want to advocate for. Indeed love belongs to everyone. The question I ask though, why do homosexuals struggle to experience that inclusive, positive, affirming, and fulfilling community with each other specifically? I have met many a gay that loves their open minded str8 friends, but struggle much to feel the same sense of connection and quality relationships from the gay community. Why do I always target this crowd? Not only because this is a problem that is far too common. But because I was one of those gays, for the longest time I never really felt connected to the gay community in the ways I wish I could have been. I only perceived the gay community for what I saw on the surface of it, which I thought was shallow, filled with unnecessary drama, people that I thought didn’t share my values, and hypocrites that preached tolerance yet were so judgmental. Not only have I heard guy after guy say this, I was one of those guys that said it too. But my journey after doing student organizing as an LGBT org president in college and then doing some life changing research on gay socialization for my senior thesis changed how I perceived the gay community in so many heartfelt ways. I now live to try and see a sense of “connection” come together between gay people in more heartfelt ways, because this connection is more than just boyfriends and hot tricks (though it certainly doesn’t deny our need for these things), it is valuing each other’s personhood as a community that lies beneath the surface perception of what we see on shallow levels.
Why Need a Gay Community in a Progressive World?
Why do we need a gay community? Community can be much more than just gay people right? Definitely, I have many communities in my life, spiritual ones, friends I know from work, family, people I know from my school days, etc. But for a gay person in a heteronormative society, other communities do not provide us easy access to homosexuality. What is the point of being gay if you don’t have any gay relationships in our life, or at best having them is a rare occasion at most? I came to the conclusion a long time ago after being all of my str8 friends GBF for years that, that was not enough. It’s great to have straight friends that accept you and want to celebrate your identity with you, but if all your gay identity means is you get to make str8 people laugh when you sprinkle around some glitter and act fabulous, but you end up sexless and boyfriendless while they tell you about the ups and downs of their love lives….what’s the point of being gay at all? Even then as someone that came out to a community of dominantly str8 progressives when I was 16, I feel like I internalized a lot of things that bared me off from valuing the gay community. Straight people would constantly try to tell me how my identity was a good or a bad thing, what’s a good gay stereotype and what’s a bad one, all from a perspective that ultimately had heteronormative privilege, not one that actually knew what it was like to be gay and to need homosexual companionship in your life in a heteronormative world. The gay community isn’t just a political campaign, it’s our one place to gain access to parts of ourselves we get absolutely nowhere else in society…homosexual relationships…connections that fulfill needs that str8 people cannot. That’s what makes a gay community important, without an exclusive gay space that gives us easy access to homosexuality in a society that is otherwise heteronormative all we are is desexualized GBFs to entertain our str8 allies. Much though we love them and appreciate their support, there will always be limits to the kind of relationships we can form with them.
“I don’t identify with the gay community” Can we let it go already and move on please? How does that serve to create a positive community?
In my experience, statements and internalized beliefs that demean the importance of our gay identities and all the things that entails about us as a community only serves to demean the potential value we place on each other. This is one of the root problems I discovered in myself and in many guys I have met in my journey. Indeed if all other gay people are to us is who we fuck and that’s not important, that is it’s not about your wholistic and non-compartmentalized personhood, then this preconception will shape the homosexual connections you make. This internal belief becomes a toxic way of demeaning the only people that could give you access to homosexual relationships as a homosexual yourself who indeed is not heterosexual and does not have the same experience as a heterosexual in heteronormative society. If that’s all we insist on perceiving when we meet and socialize with other gay people, then what kind of community do we co-create from that basis? Believe it or not so many of us carry this demeaning perception of each other that I would argue this is one of the ROOT reasons why we feel so disconnected. This was the greatest heart breaking reality I dug through at depth in my college research. Many of us due to this internalized homophobia tend to think we are alone in gay world, we don’t fit in, we don’t belong with the tribe…yet the reality is we are ALL saying, thinking, feeling, and believing these things about ourselves as we show up to gay space. With how common this is, surely some of us have awaken to the fact that EVERYONE is thinking this in some variation or another it’s not just you or me, its EVERYONE…so how do we do something about it?
Here’s the Important Part: Communities Value the Importance of the Personhood of ALL Involved, So Yes The Gay Community Too!
I think communities are co-created, every individual is responsible for the part they play in the community they create together. Each individual must realize their power a connection in the web that is the greater whole. It may seem silly but even the connections you make on grindr are threads that you impact. Underneath the games on the surface, most of us might like to feel like the community we are a part of is a quality experience, so why not own that? The guy you hooked-up with once is a person, not simply a nameless sex object, there is no shame in sharing something intimate with him, but if you really have a healthy and positive relationship with your sexuality what’s wrong with at least knowing his first name? Maybe shamelessly saying “hi” should you see him in public, making him feel like he’s visible as a wholistic person sexuality and all? There is also respecting boundaries, people need to feel like sovereign beings, would you feel appreciated by your community if your boundaries and individual voice were not treated as though they were valuable and important? If a guy isn’t interested respect him, don’t be pushy, realize it’s nothing personal against you, there really are no obligation or entitlements. If a guy shows interest in you and you don’t feel the same, don’t make him feel disgusting for liking you, learn to say “thank you for the flattery and while you are handsome in your own way I do not reciprocate interest.” Sure, you can be the sweetest and nicest guy possible and there will always be those that still don’t respond well, but that’s not your fault just say “no” and don’t apologize and move on. Knowing your boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others is the key to many relationships in life, but it is certainly amplified in importance when sexuality is involved as a potential component which is why it’s so important for us to learn in gay space as gay people. We often do not learn these lessons in the context of sexuality in any other community in our lives. Respect each person you meet as a sovereign being, their voice matters, how they feel matters, and when they say “no” it matters (the same respect should be extended to you).
The Difference Between “community” and “my personal relationships”
Valuing an individual and valuing a community of people are different perspectives. We get caught in thinking the gay community are a bunch of personal relationships we are after. Boyfriends and hook ups and the like. But limiting the gay community to that, I would argue, is not a true community experience. Communities are a wide range of connections (or relationships if you prefer). Communities are friends, acquaintances, enemies, drama queens, peace makers, lovers, co-workers, ex-boyfriends, new insecure people trying to figure things out, long time veterans that are either really jaded or really comfortable in themselves, revolutionaries, leaders, and all the rest. When you look at a community with that bigger perspective and bring it to the context of the gay community it changes the experience. You won’t only be thinking about the next trick, or guy you can nab as a boyfriend. You’d be more open to platonic friendships and more diversity in the connections you form with other gays. Besides with a wider community and broader range of social connections relationship opportunities of all kinds become a side effect of community building. Also, you aren’t necessarily going to be best friends with everyone you meet, nor do you have to be, but when you look at it through the lens of “community” we are all in it together. Each of us, friend or foe has an important part to play in the greater tapestry of it. I may not invite everyone I meet on grindr, at pride, or in the local gay bar, to my house for a dinner party but I still respect them and recognize them as “apart” of the community of which I am also “apart.” Thinking about the gay community from this perspective is key, because it places more value on more diverse connections as oppose to only valuing guys that make a potential sexual/romantic encounter. It’s not an all or nothing game with community, it’s “we are all in this together.”
Communities are Only a Positive Experience when they are VALUED as IMPORTANT!!!
Communities only really come together and become a positive experience when all involved value the creation and maintenance of it. Without interest, funding, and working together these things will not happen. Furthermore, without valuing gay kinship, the things that make us unique, our very connection that gives us common ground to come together (our gay identity), what kind of community do you expect to see when it comes together? I see a vision of gay politics becoming less urgent and immediately necessary in the near future. It will still be necessary to a certain degree, but not in the same way it has been in the past. With marriage the law of the land on a federal level, work place discrimination protections brewing, and growing sympathies to our cause…our community building will be less and less about politics and more and more about the simple need for us to have opportunities to build social connections with each other (without which, there is no point in being gay). I would like to see more and more of us thinking about how do we CO-CREATE a positive and affirming gay community for all of us, that gives us the things we need. Without a gay community, we are desexualized GBFs for fruit flies in a heteronormative society, and while the support and enthusiasm of our allies is certainly not a bad thing, we NEED access to gay relationships and we can only do that through a strong, effective, and valued gay community that ONLY we can co-create with each other for each other. Each of us is individually responsible for the part we play in that “co-creation.”
It took me a long time after coming out at 16 to get to a place where not only do I value and prioritize having a gay community in my life, but can honestly say it has been a very positive thing for me. But that was a long process of learning to question my preconceptions, letting go of internalized beliefs that created barriers to that goal, learning how to navigate gay culture in the right way to meet the right people, and just simply getting more comfortable with myself and where I put my boundaries. Indeed now I can say I have a lot of gay friends that I hang out with regularly of all ages and different backgrounds. But that process took a lot of work, and getting to a place where I actually valued what it meant to see this community come together and the common identity we all share in it. Without a gay community, there are no gay relationships, and if that community is not valued and regarded in a positive way then the experience of that community cannot be of quality. So how will you, my fellow gay brother, play your part in co-creating a community we can all be proud and happy to be a part of? That’s the question I leave you today…