We are a community. We are diverse with our own styles music preferences and goals. We want to be treated as an individual being that has different aspirations and dreams and driving force that gets us out of bed each morning. We may not all engage in the same activities or have the same interests. We may not prefer to participate in activism or show up for Pride each year. We may not have any resemblance to what is referred to as a gay lifestyle. But we are still a community that shares a commonality that sets us apart from the rest of society.
Even though the word and meaning of community itself is used too broadly or has been pontificated too extensively we are all still members of a diverse community of men and women that share one commonality in that we are different than the rest of society. A difference that may take a lifetime to accept but once it happens, becomes a milestone of growth. So much of our time as activists and leaders is spent on eradicating this truth that we are different while advocating for equal rights to the point now that it’s laughable. Some of us have yet to understand that different doesn’t mean better or worse. Just different.
So while posters are made to illustrate how we all want families with the perfect spouse that precedes having perfect children and perfect careers and perfect lives, it completely omits the fact that we love having sex with other men. Numerous seminars and endless lecturers going across the country explaining that the reason we deserve the right to marry is because we are all the same when we aren’t. We are different than our straight counterparts and it’s an injustice to who we really are to argue otherwise. What we should be doing is showing how those differences should have no bearing on our rights as citizens of this country and how we should be celebrating these attributes rather than hiding them.
Those of you who’ve read my past assertions know this isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about embracing our differences because that is what brings real change in society. Real change does not happen by assimilating or replicating some notion of normality that closely emulates the rest of society. This is usually what I say when talking to some zealot that calls us sinners but today I’m reiterating this message for us as well. Because truthfully nothing aggravates and saddens me more than seeing fellow gay men who harbor on the perceived negative attributes of this community so much that they feel the need to separate themselves from it. Or even worse campaign against it. This is much more than a criticism or observation on how we need to improve. It’s outright contempt that leads to their own dissonance from this community and is so strong that they renounce their gay membership.
At some point some of us felt that in order to have all the rights as the rest of society meant that we have to distance ourselves from the people who are the most like us. So in turn you’ll see some that’ll place themselves on a pedestal while giving some wistful humorous sermon about how degrading gay culture is. They’ll haughtily laud about messy bottoms and the degrading obstacles to quench their thirst or tops who don’t know how to be a man all while projecting their obvious self-loathing on to everyone else.
They will only focus on the adventures in bathhouses with disdain or worse that they will disgustingly treat the men in our community living with HIV as if they’re lepers while making tacky, tasteless jokes. Sadly this behavior is not limited to those living with HIV. The apathy towards the transgender men and women in this community still astounds me to this day. The ardent disregard and dry puns while these men and women are being beaten and murdered with hardly any stringent federal laws to protect them. We even have so called LGBT leaders that dismiss their transphobia as being too sensitive.
Those leaders will start misguided campaigns all to increase their agency and once their hot button reaction has become apathetic they move on to their next object. All this while not listening to those who are in the trenches seeing the harsh realities every day rather than in suit and ties at a gala for celebrities that want to boost their image. They’ll constantly say how we need to better ourselves while all they do is bring nothing but their own negativity and bitterness. They are too jaded to give real constructive criticism on how to further enrich our community.
Sometimes wanting to distance oneself from the community is about the rejection from others within this community. Because when some of us feel so much pressure to fit into this mold of what we’re supposed to say or do that we feel lost and without a voice. As a result they feel there’s no other alternative than to completely distance themselves from anything they associate with being gay out of self-preservation and maintaining their sanity. It all becomes so overwhelming because they feel as though people will only see gay and nothing else.
It all saddens and frustrates me to no end. Each time I come across these men I challenge them to seek out more than what is so easily seen on the surface because I’ve learned that no matter how much you assert that you need distance from this community that you will always be a member. The more you insist that as a whole, we are nothing more than a bunch of hypersexualized drug addicts looking for the next conquest to fodder over on social media that you are still a member of this community. No matter how you’re not into the gay scene or whatever you entail that to be. No matter how disheartened by what you believe to be superficial or uncaring about this community you are still a member.
Just like I will always be an African American, no matter what it is a part of who I am. Sure I could distance myself as much as I want from rap and rhythm and blues and Afros and cornrows and dance moves like twerking or stereotypes like eating fried chicken or watermelon or any other cultural aspect that identifies me will never separate me from the truth that I will always be a black man and society will always remember that as well.
Because if I deny all that is associated with being an African American then I’m also denying the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King and Bayard Rustin and Rosa Parks. I’m missing out on learning more about the collective history and embracing a history rich with an aesthetic that instills survival and perseverance that taught me how to stand even when it seems meaningless. Observing it enables me to know how I want to be treated and how I choose to interact with others. This mindset helped me understand that simply submitting to my adversaries or their oppressive objectives leads to more oppression.
And the same goes for being gay. Distancing yourself from gays that go clubbing is like distancing yourself from those that stood up for their right, our right at Stonewall Inn so that you have the right to choose. Saying that you’re too good to associate with gays that are too effeminate or too girly is like saying you’re not really gay because wanting to be with another man is a feminine trait. It’s this type of self-hate that people who have the proclivity to renounce gay life that is so damning it rivals the bigots that make it their life mission to campaign against us. It’s counterproductive and it needs to end. You will always be gay and no amount of fitting in or assimilating or emulating or distancing from the rest of us is ever going to change that.
All of this I’m sure I’ve mentioned before but this installment is the result of talking to a guy I spoke with today that told me that he hates being gay because he is tired of being seen only as one big stereotype that society will never accept. And he’s even more disheartened by what he describes as the constant animosity he experiences within the gay community. The conversation knocked the wind out of me because he essentially disliked his identity and those associated with it so much that even with the unwavering support of his loved ones he hates being gay and hates himself. And it broke my heart a bit hearing him have such a hopeless resolve.
He expressed that he doesn’t feel like he has the freedom to truly embrace who he is without being judged as being too feminine or not manly enough. And when he does embrace those aspects of himself that men say his aren’t good enough for him and that men that do accept his “gayer” side that he encounters aren’t interested in anything outside of those stereotypes of sex and drugs. He went further on this point by saying he doesn’t have the perfect body so feels like he’s constantly being critiqued. So he feels that he has to distance himself from the rest of us because no one will ever see him as more than a stereotype. Naturally I sympathized with this sentiment as I myself felt animosity towards this community I was made to feel as though I’m a magical negro that’s only purpose was to fulfill any sexual desires of the men I slept with.
But I explained to him as I’m explaining to you all know that while the actions of others can detour you from wanting to associate with the community as a whole that you cannot let that stop you from seeking out meaningful friendships and relationships from this community. As I spoke my words became more passionate because while I understand where the urge comes from to show your individuality, giving up on finding something meaningful from other gay men does nothing. While I realize that the man I spoke with today may just have a general depressive affect men at this point of his life his sentiment is experienced by a lot of other gay men.
So in my opinion it’s imperative that we remember we are a community. Regardless of the circumstances of why you are in conflict this is still a part of you. Challenge yourself to see the diversity and be an active member of your own life that seeks out what relationships you want from other people. You can choose to give into believing that whatever you perceive to be superficial all that exists within this community and miss out or keep looking and asking. Never settle for what you see on that surface.