The hardest thing to tell a queer these days is to move beyond one’s own victimhood. We are trying to encourage sensitivity and understanding, and raise awareness about our oppression. We do face problems, and society is not set up to give us equal opportunities and social respect. So pointing out how the problems are not equal or unfair can help raise awareness and create conditions for change. We also have to be pushy and edgy at times. The more aware you are of how you are marginalized, the more sensitive and frustrated you get, because you realize how social structures are enforced and create your marginalized stress. These things are not fair. It is not fair women do not get paid as much as men. It is not fair that gay men do not have the same social opportunities for love and sexual relationships that straight people do. It’s not fair that people of color face profiling and racial insensitivity. It’s not fair that trans people are not respected for their gender identity. Not because that’s simply the way things are, but because people allow and enforce these things to be the way they are. This is why our anger is justified, let us learn from stonewall and never become complacent about the injustices we face. However, we can easily allow our victimized status to debilitate us and stop us from rising to our truest most human potential.
Our movement has progressed from fighting not to be prosecuted by the law, to acting like we’ve been thrown in concentration camps because of one tiny mistaken micro-aggression. Sometimes even by well-meaning allies with their hearts in the right place. Let us not forget there was once a time where being gay meant you seriously could be arrested, given shock therapy, and given a black mark on public records that would truly destroy your possibilities for success in society because of the stigma. That hate crimes were far more common and unprotected by the law. In fact the stonewall riots happened because the law enforcement sought to incarcerate us, not protect us like it is required to now. Our ancestors at stonewall did not care if straight people even so much as liked us…they just wanted to stop being persecuted and have the simple right to exist! Today we still face hate crimes and different forms of discrimination and they are certainly terrible and unjust…but we do seriously have SOOOOO much more than we ever dreamed possible in the summer of 1969 (the year stonewall happened). Does that mean we should simply grow complacent about our current issues and stop the fight? NO certainly not! I live here in NC were House Bill 2 has been passed and am outraged at it! We should take a stand against the xenophobia and bigotry of our state leaders! However, should we push away our allies and friends just because they made a tiny mistake misgendering someone that was trans even though they didn’t mean too? Should we tell our fruit flies to fuck off because they asked which one of us is the “girl” in the relationship enforcing an oppressive gender binary heteronormative social structure? I don’t think so.
I have written many blog posts about how sacred and important exclusive gay space is. Because of all these microagressions and the lack of strong community access in our lives, we do need (and justifiably so) spaces that are completely 100% free of heteronormativity and that provides a normalized homosexuality. The first time I experienced an isolated gay space of NOTHING but men who loved men…(180 of us in an isolated space, ONLY US, no straight people for a whole week) my life changed dramatically. It was like discovering something I needed that I never knew how desperately I needed. I got to decompress, express my sexuality and appreciation of homoeroticism among those that shared that appreciation AS GAY MEN THEMSELVES. I heard the stories of elders, and fellow gays that inspired and moved me. I realized I wasn’t alone and figured out how to express something in my self I never got to in a heteronormative society. Most homosexuals don’t get that opportunity that often, and wouldn’t even appreciate how important that was to their well being until they truly did experience it in depth and felt its impact. Sacred space to facilitate this otherwise unavailable opportunity in a heteronormative society is one of the most important things I think a homosexual can ever experience. I will always believe that. I will always fight for the right to have it. In this sacred gay space we began to understand ourselves without heteronormative and homophobic conditioning that impacts us on deeper levels then we ever realized. After that new understanding of self, you can get more sensitive to microagressions and heteronormative social structures. You begin to realize how they effect you on subtle levels and the things they imply that only serve to worsen your marginalized status and stress.
One of my biggest pet peeves are gay bars that are invaded by straight people. In my local hometown the local bar Scandals: Nightclub has had a long history of being one of the most important local gay bars on the scene. Everywhere from being important during the times of the AIDS endemic for local homosexuals, to providing sacred gay space for gay men and women to explore themselves amongst other homosexuals. A safe place to go out with your boy/girl-friend or meet one. It typically was known for being dominated by the younger crowd, while other bars such as O’Henry’s, Smokey’s After Dark, and Hairspray catered to other queer groups. Today with the combined cultural changes of gay networking apps that provide less incentive for gays to be outgoing, to a normalized bi/pan-sexuality in Asheville’s mainstream culture, to a liberal atmosphere that provides a less hostile public space for gay people, many gay bars that use to thrive in Asheville have closed over the past decade. In that time Scandals has become less of a “gay club” and more a “dance club with drag.” Gays that use to enjoy Scandals as one of the few places they could go to meet other homosexuals and share in sacred gay space, only find drunk sorority girls and straight couples who think it’s the cool thing to do because they are “cool with the gays.” The only space we have left is O’Henrys which as become a more diverse queer space as a result. After all, fractured sub-cultures no longer have options to split off. Which in its own way is nice, young gays can interact more with elders, bears and twinks have to co-exist more, and there is less of a clicky nature in the scene…but the scene is no where as glorious as it once was. Though it’s pretty easy to live a decently comfortable life as an openly gay man in Asheville…there are so few places to go in Asheville to find gay community and opportunities to have sexual and romantic interactions. Hence why I do get angry and sensitive at the prospect of straight people assuming it’s okay to invade our space and erase our homosexual socialization opportunities with their presence while they have enjoyed the privileges a heteronormative society provides.
Yet does this make straight people terrible people simply because they enjoy this privilege? No I don’t think so. It would be nice if they would be more sensitive and respectful of our needs though. I remember going through a time in my life where I had grown so sensitive to this particular phenomena I just stopped investing my free time putting energy into maintaining my friendships with straight people. I didn’t directly alienate them, or try to actively cut them out…I just spent more effort trying to find, and maintain gay friendships in my free time. I preferred going to the local gay bar and meeting more gay people then having dinner at my heterosexual friends house who couldn’t offer me opportunities to practice my homosexuality. I needed time to be at “gay church” so to speak and practice my homosexuality in ways that would create homosexual experiences and relationships. I didn’t get this with straight people…only from putting time and effort into meeting other homosexuals would I ever get these things my soul desperately needed. This time made me hyper sensitive to micro-aggressions and blind heteronormative privilege. I may of very well come across as a militant radical homosexual to some. I do not regret this time in my life and I in fact think there aren’t enough homosexuals that benefit from this kind of empowering state of being. It makes you less apologetic about simply being who you are, it helps you deconstruct social conditioning you grew up with that makes you feel ashamed of your homosexuality (most of the time people aren’t even aware of how deep this programming is in their psyche). It also helps you learn how to more effectively socialize with other homosexuals and find common bonds with them that help make connections and build relationships that only homosexuals can share uniquely. This is ALL really important and not enough gays give themselves permission to do this because of rigid internalized homophobia and shame that they carry. But one has to find a way to reintegrate into society harmoniously while still valuing that powerful fraternal bond.
Yet it’s not all so simple. The world is full of so much more then just one group of people with needs. The LGBT community continues to enforce its own fractured nature by creating more and more reasons to separate ourselves. Masculine versus Feminine guys for example. A guy that likes sports, has a very strong masculine gender expression, and hunts, fixes cars, and has abundant physical strength would have a very different experience to a guy that likes musical theater, arts, pop star divas, and drag. The more experienced you are in the multilayered structure of the gay male community. The more you see the conflicts of these contrasts. Masculine men are more sensitive to their closets, they stand to have more to lose when their gay identity is exposed, they treasure being able to hold on to the things they value and associate with masculinity. Feminine guys are used to being bullied, they learned likely from an early age how to stop caring what bigots think and just unapologetically be themselves. They never want anyone to tell them who to be or how to live because they have spent their whole life being told to be something they don’t want to be. Feminine guys tend to carry a strong personality that is typically so vocal it becomes a commonly associated representation of the gay community, while masculine guys feel a lack of representation that fits them and this makes them feel less welcome in the gay community or that they are pressured to be something they do not want to be.
I recently fell in love with a guy my total opposite in many ways. I have a radical queer edge, was made fun of for being queer long before I even knew what that was, value my freedom to express myself and the things I am passionate about and feel make me unique. I carry a lot of wounds from being bullied for being different and not conforming to masculine standards, and have no desire to be anything other then what I am and I want to be respected for that. Many masculine boys I have met never seem to understand that. They see the things I value as unimportant and believe me to be making a big deal out of nothing, dismiss my feelings when I express them, and think I am responsible for all the misfortunes of homophobia that have plagued my life (instead of holding the aggressors responsible). Yet I ironically fell in love with a military man, who hunts and fishes, loves sports, and values his masculine identity as apart of who he is. We often do not feel the same about certain things like PDA, sensitivity to microagressions, sympathies to particular perspectives in issues, etc. Yet somehow we’ve learned to respect each other and our emotional needs. It may be easy to tell someone you barely know they are privileged and don’t know how real your problems are and tell them to fuck off, but someone you love? When you love someone, even if you feel like you disagree with them, you put more energy into listening when their feelings are hurt, to try to understand them because you care. He’s learned I can feel victimized because I had a tortured childhood with very little self-esteem and was heavily bullied and now understands how important it is for me to feel heard and like I am respected when I express myself. I have learned that his perspective comes from a different experience, he expresses his feelings and emotions differently then I do (and he certainly does have them). Just because he fits a “masculine” profile that many feminist-queers would say makes him “privileged” doesn’t mean his feelings don’t get hurt or that he is trying to victimize me when we disagree about something.
Falling in love with someone that fits a masculine mold has made me really examine my tendency to play the victim card and react instead of respond. The non-femme-gay-queer world is not always out to get me. When I got my first taste of what my life could be without traditional masculinity, Christianity/monotheistic-spirituality, heteronormativity, and homophobia I realized the injustice of society and my right not to be complacent about it and to empower my own voice. But the people in that normative world that don’t fit into my identified experience are not inherently out to get me just because they don’t experience or understand my perspective. Queers make these mistakes too often of thinking everything that fits a normative structure is the enemy that’s victimizing you. People that fit what we perceive to be “normative” often are just people trying to make it through another day in their lives. They often don’t mean any harm to us and if you are patient with them they can learn to appreciate the things that make you unique and that exist outside of their normative world that they take for granted. That doesn’t mean you have to accept abuse or that it’s even your job even to be an educator. But it does mean they need some respect too.
As someone who was persecuted and bullied by Christians all my life, I always hated hearing the “not all Christians” apologetics arguments. Even just recently my vary own Grandmother broke down and cried because I told her I was moving in with a man soon and told her “no” when she asked if he went to church. She’s known for many years I am gay, and that I am not Christian and practice non-monotheistic traditions. Yet she still struggles to accept the reality of it. To me Christians have always been a privileged class, even if they don’t directly abuse me with violence, they still prescribe to, and are permissive of a belief system that encourages hierarchy. Homosexuality (even if you’re not judgemental of it) is still a sin while clearly heterosexuality is not. It’s okay to be gay and Christian (hopefully that doesn’t mean you’re going to hell, even the ones that claim to accept us aren’t really sure but it’s for God to decide right?) but if you’re not Christian you’re definitely the wrong kind of gay. Because of people with this permissive belief system of xenophobia, I did not have a safe place to grow up. Christian boys said I needed Jesus and beat me up and threw me in lockers. Yet as hard as it is for me todo sometimes with the scars I have carried because of this monotheistic belief system, I have to give Christians a chance to prove to me they are not victimizing me before I assume it. I have a lot of anger and have worked through a lot of it. When it’s necessary and when it’s not, but I still have a ways to go and can still get pissed when people expect me to participate in a public prayer even though I am a Pagan and would much rather honor the Earth and the Gods and Goddesses I acknowledge. But just because Christianity is common and life is easier for you if you are Christian because of how society works, does not mean you are automatically a jerk because of it.
I have too ask myself constantly when speaking about religious issues “Am I reacting like a victim right now…or am I responding as a sovereign being?” As a victim I get mad, and everything I say is just because I am mad and I feel I have lost control. As a sovereign being I realize what the situation is. I communicate clearly and rather the person is receptive to what I say or not, I will say my piece rationally and fairly (unless of course it’s simply not worth it) and move on living my life the way I want to…even if it is in opposition to the person causing the issue. As a victim I am always the center of attention and have no responsibility for my side of the story, even if I am being a jerk. I am right and being unjustly treated and the other person is wrong and should feel the guilt and judgment of all the Gods of Justice descend upon them! Its not a really effective state of being to communicate. What if you are right in the sense that someone is not acknowledging your perspective, but they have things to say too that are important. I heard a saying once that “all truths are only half truths.” You may be enraptured in your victimhood and see an injustice that ought to be corrected, and you are probably right. But the person you disagree with has a story to, and vary rarely are they truly in essence a “bad person” lacking in empathy and compassion. If they don’t feel like their perspective is acknowledge then why would they want to acknowledge yours? It goes both ways naturally. You can do everything you can to try and meet them in the middle and they may choose to refuse to take their blinders off. Then you just simply walk away. But don’t sink into the vein mistake of staying stuck in your self-referential universe.
The queer community (A-Z identities of non-normative gender and sexual identities) I think is struggling to look beyond its victimized status. Look at the movie zootopia and see the example of how non-predatory animals are marginalized in the beginning and the bunny (the lower end of the totem pole in “marginalized”) finally reaches the most successful point of her career. She smashes the proverbial glass escalator to get there only to instill a prejudice in society for traditionally predatory animals. The paradigm here to consider in this context cisgendered vrs. trans, gay vrs. straight, monosexual vrs. bi/pan-sexual, masculine vrs. feminine. What is our dream? To create a society where the marginalized gain so much power they oppress those that once held privilege over them? Or to create better state of humanity that is more understanding and celebratory of its diversity. Just because someone is straight doesn’t mean their life has been easy. They may of never been oppressed for being straight, but what if they had an impoverished childhood, were sexually molested as a child, or violently abused by their parents. Just like in the movie zootopia there had to be an equilibrium. Herbivores had to fight for their equal opportunity in society, but had to exist harmoniously with omni/carni-vores. If they didn’t it meant that carnivores would become the new oppressed class while herbivores enjoyed new positions of power in the so called “inclusion initiative.” (Please watch this movie if you have not already, not only is it cute, but it’s a perfect example of the statement I am trying to make).
I think there is such a thing as “righteous anger” and there is a time and place for it. But it easily can become anger for anger sake if you don’t keep your personal victimhood in check. Masculine men have hurt me all my life, Christians have hurt me all my life, does that make them all profiled “predators.” Call me sappy, but I have fallen in love with a very traditionally masculine man. I do not believe him to be a “predator.” He’s my lover, love seeks unity and transcends differences. We may not ALWAYS understand each other, but we try to because we care about each other. Maybe if we stopped being selfish about our victimization in the gay community we might at least try to look past our blinders rather those blinders are through privileged prejudice or marginalized prejudice. Because like it or not, if you are victimized you can easily become prejudice to profiles too. I see the trans community doing this sometimes. Saying that all cisgendered white gay men are racist, misogynist, and privilege (never mind Matthew Shepard’s hate crime). I agree many gay men, particularly that are white, tend to be blind to the social progress they have enjoyed…but ALL of them? I wouldn’t of met my dearest deepest love if I remained a victim to the masculine men of the world and assumed they were ALL privileged bigots. I may not agree with Christianity even in its more progressive ideologies, but a good many Christian friends have been there for me to help me when I was vulnerable (so have non-Christian friends). Should I continue to profile ALL Christians to be permissive of hate and intolerance when some have not only been there for me, but fought along side me in the name of diversity and inclusion? Not only for me as a gay man, but as a pagan too. Just recently one of my closest gay Christian friends got me a birthday gift with almost entirely pagan symbology out of respect for who I was…so maybe it is true… “Not all Christians”… AND “not all the privileged” are trying to victimize me. I only create my own barriers to well being by staying in that state and holding on to that belief system.