As a proud unapologetic homosexual queer man, I not only have a lot of pride in myself but I have a lot of pride in our community. It’s an interesting path to take to choose to be a gay guy that actually enjoys our community and has positive feelings regarding it. The gay community is not easy to navigate, and many internal social structures in it make it difficult to really find kinship and solidarity. There is a lot of judgement and fractured aspects of gay culture. Not to mention gay men tend to have higher rates of substance abuse and mental illness as a population. Lets be realistic, being a gay man seeking out a fulfilling sense of community with other gays is hard. There is a reason so many guys end up feeling bitter about the gay community. But I think one of my life’s passions since I have come up is trying my hardest to not be that way, and network a positive circle of gay men in my life.
All of that said, if we all learn how to challenge our internal barriers and learn how to navigate gay culture in the right way. The gay community becomes something so much better then what people often think. It can be a fraternal connection amongst us, one that is affirming and supportive of our diversity. The gay community I have continuously found as I have built a network of friends has become a really important fraternal experience for me. Once I started building real friendships with guys that were based on mutual respect, my experience with other gays have become increasingly more and more rewarding. Its one that I greatly enjoy. I have been in vulnerable moments where I needed a friend, a flat tire late at night, sick and living alone and in need of something nutritional to recover. My brothers have been there for me. Tell me thats not a positive thing, and good people with there hearts in the right place. Granted I have seen them in moments of jealousy or with a bit of a snarky ego, but I have some short comings too. I can be a really intellectual snob, and cast shade with the best of them. But at the end of the day the benefits I glean from having a gay family in my life far outweigh the cost. Any mistakes we make we grow and learn from. That’s what it is to have relationships that are meaningful with anyone.
It’s Not Heterophobic To Need Exclusive Gay Spaces
I find it interesting when I talk about how important having my gay family and spaces is to me that people perceive it as some sort of heterophobia. That if I create exclusive gay spaces like a gay party at my house, that is intending to be a bonding experience between gay men only, its perceived as discriminatory action against straight people. But the reality is, its not. Is a feminist group that is exclusively for women wrong? Is a place defined for the worship of a particular faith and not other religions wrong? If I run and maintain a space that I designate for the communal needs of a particular group and maintain that as the purpose, how is that wrong? I have had to point this out to my straight friends where I work many times, who I love deeply and hang out with and have meaningful friendships with too. But even though my work place is a very safe place for LGBTs and we can be open about who we are without much problems. There are only realistically three outed gay men where I work. Where I do I go to seek out bonding experiences and sexual/dating opportunities with other gays? Any other place I might go will likely have the same ratio of visible and out gays even in this progressive and liberal queer-friendly town of Asheville, NC. I have to build a community that is designated for us and us alone to give us those opportunities. That’s the purpose of a gay bar its a space designated for gay people to have opportunities to be social and meet each other…not to be a sorority party or a bridal shower, there are many other places in heteronormative society for that. If the gay bar no longer is a social experience for queers to meet other queers it loses its whole purpose. Which is a growing problem for the bar scene nation wide. Gay men need places to explore their unique fraternal bond with each other, and to have easier access to social opportunities with each other that are otherwise not easily accessible in a heteronormative society.
Show Up or Give Up
I have become less and less apologetic about my desire to build and maintain connections amongst gay men. Because experientially and intellectually I see how important it is for all of us. We all have the potential to co-create this together. A big part of doing that is learning how to place unapologetic pride and value in it. The more we make co-maintaining a positive sense of community a common value and priority the more we create it with our attitude. I have nothing against grindr and have used it plenty myself and have met several awesome friends off of it…when I have used it the right way. But we need to put down the apps long enough to actually show up to a physical common space. When we are in that space we need to respect each other and our diversity instead of being a snob or predatory creeps. The gay community we have, is the one we co-create with our attitude and regard for each other when we interact. If you can simply show up with the right attitude and a little sincerity you’d be surprised the kind of connections you make with other gays. Its fraternal bond that is irreplaceable. I can honestly say the bond I share with the gay men in my life has been essential to my happiness and fulfillment in life, and I didn’t realize how important it was for me until I challenged myself to learn how to access it.
Becoming Apart of the Tribe: The Fraternal Brotherhood
What does “Fraternal” mean? A dictionary definition would be “of or like a brother or brothers” or “of or denoting an organization for people, especially men, that have common interests or beliefs.” People need fraternal bonds in their life, we are tribal animals, we need our non-blood families that give us a fulfilling sense of relationships and community. Gay men need this with each other more then they realize. Most of us internalize so much homophobia, shame, and heteronormativity we create our own barriers to making that accessible and real. But I am experiencing this brotherly fraternal bond more now in my life then I ever have, its been one of the most fulfilling relationships in my life. I really do see my gay friends as like brothers, ones that share a special and unique connection with myself that I simply can not find else where. It took me a long time to do the self work and gain the confidence necessary to get access to this kind of gay community. But all tribes entail initiatory experiences that solidify our identity as apart of the group. That entails undergoing challenges to reach a new understanding of life and of self to mark ones place amongst the brotherhood. I know that I have had to endure challenges that changed how I looked at both myself and the brotherhood. I had to deconstruct my own internalized homophobia and preconceptions/judgements towards other gay men specifically. I lower my inhibitions and take a step outside of my safe comfort zone to explore my sexuality and preconceptions about gender. I had to develop a more positive sense of self-esteem in my identity as a gay man and learn to celebrate and have pride in it instead of apologizing for it or qualifying it. I discovered a warrior spirit inside of myself that gave me the strength and confidence to draw my boundaries and know my limits. I had to develop and intuitive sense of discernment for what was healthy or harmful for me and make wise decisions with that discernment. Once I underwent those trials and become more confident and carried a better sense of gay pride, the gay community and my relationship to it changed. I discovered a sense of brotherhood with people that seriously have changed my life for the better in many ways.
The Gay Community is Co-Created by ALL of Us
The gay community has potential to be something truly wonderful, but we have to realize the vital role we all play in co-creating it. The attitude and value we place on our together experience, will define the together experience we have. Can you learn to see a fellow gay man as a brother? If not, wouldn’t be nice if you could? What are the barriers to realizing that a true and sincere reality for you? Its not only the others you interact with that co-create this community, its you too. You play a vital role in the community you build and maintain. I use to think all gay men were bitchy, vindictive, or some such negative stereotype. But I realized it was my own preconceptions and lack of comfort with myself and gay identity that made that a self-fulfilling prophecy. Gay men are widely diverse and unique man to man, and just like any human being you meet their is more to them then what you see on the surface. Some of them do fit certain stereotypes and some of them don’t, and either way they are still unique individuals that you have to get to know and build relationships with to really understand them. Some of them you’ll become close to others just don’t have the right chemistry to mix well with you. But at the end of the day we are all gay men. We need opportunities to meet each other. We can’t do that with out a community we define for ourselves. That community is valuable as something fraternal and not simply political alone. A man’s gay experience would not be worth it without other gays. We need mentors, friends, lovers, boyfriends, and all these things to make our gay experience holistically fulfilled. We teach each other valuable things about ourselves and give each other opportunities for more intimate relationships we can’t get else where. We need each other, and the sooner we realize that the sooner we can value our fraternal bond that has potential to make our co-created community great. I can honestly say now that I continue to find this fraternal experience in my life in deeper and deeper ways…I say with pride…I love the gay community, I love my gay brothers, and I want to see an evolving sense of gay community that becomes more accessible, and inclusive of all gay men. What role will you play in doing that brother?