With my three year coming out anniversary now behind me, I often think about how my decision to share myself with the world was, is, and will be the single greatest decision of my life. It was a turning point, the beginning of a period of exponential personal growth, and a profound experience in ways that I couldn’t even begin to describe. In what seemed like no time at all, I transitioned into a better version of myself. I look back at my coming out period with pride and a feeling of self-worth that didn’t exist beforehand, which makes it so very strange to think that those months of pride could fade away so quickly and be replaced with an overall bad taste in my mouth.
I always thought of the gay community as a haven of sorts; a safe place in the storm for misfits and outcasts. It didn’t matter who you were, where you had come from, or where you fell on the sexual spectrum. You had a community of people to support you and as long as that community existed, you had a home. Maybe I was naïve to think that everyone in the community would be welcoming. Maybe I was stupid to think that everyone in the community would be kind. Maybe…just maybe…the community that seemed so great at first is no community at all.
In the three years that I’ve been openly gay, I have taken more wrong turns than I can count, trying to navigate my way through a sometimes terrifying and hostile new world. I experienced new things and new people, challenged myself to evolve in new ways, and broadened my scope of the world and in turn my understanding of what it means to be human. I made numerous mistakes and learned a great deal about myself and others as a result.
Despite the wonder and brilliance of it all, I can’t help but feel that my view of the gay community has shifted from a place of pride to one of disdain. In a matter of three years, I’ve witnessed so much that makes me wonder if there are more things wrong with the community than there are right. I often wonder if we’ve become so focused on the bigger picture that we’ve neglected the individual parts that make up the whole.
With greater acceptance, a larger group of allies, and equality on the rise, the gays of today unquestionably experience the world in a very different way from those who came before us. We forget or just don’t know about our predecessors. We are ignorant to the atrocities our community has faced and know nothing of the struggle and sacrifices that had to be made for us to be where we are now. It’s no wonder that we’ve become a group of individuals that is focused on categorical exclusion, interchangeable relationships, and misplaced pride.
For a community that is rooted in the need for inclusion, so many of us are quick to exclude others based on any number of things from physical appearance to socioeconomic status to even a proper level a masculinity that is determined arbitrarily. We somehow forget or just stop caring about the fact that we know exactly what it feels like to be on the outside; to feel out of place and unwanted. Yet we choose to make others feel this way with our actions and words. We are often cruel, unwelcoming, and (to my astonishment) elitist.
We label any and everyone. On any and probably every gay-oriented phone app or dating website, you’ll notice categories that are based on physical characteristics. You have twinks, chubs, jocks, bears, cubs, chasers, otters, etc. The entire gay world is broken down into categories and subcategories that only serve to isolate and alienate those who do not fit a particular mold. We’re continuously made to feel like we have to pick a category and stick to it in order to maintain the status quo.
With the majority of people having computers and smart phones, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that behind every online profile there is a person; a person with thoughts, feelings, and an identity that we often overlook because we see these people as interchangeable. In a world of online profiles, you and I are each one of many; nothing more than a list of attributes on a screen that can be discarded at the drop of hat no matter how much time and effort we have invested in the cultivation of new relationships. These programs that are meant to bring us together only serve to tear us apart. Instead of getting to know one another, we find reasons not to.
Maybe it’s because we’ve gotten so wrapped up in what it means to be gay, that we’ve lost sight of what it means to be human. We get so wrapped up in the need to embrace gay culture and find our place in the gay world, that we lose sight of or ignore the fact that we are all just human beings. Being gay is just a small piece of what we are; it by no means defines us in any substantial way. While pride in who we are is great, it is our humanity that connects us to every other person.
So why do we continue down this path? Why do we place such great value on the things that will only bring unhappiness and negatively impact the community to which we belong? Why do we allow ourselves to lose sight of where we were, where we are, and where we will one day be? Maybe I can’t answer these questions. Maybe instead of trying to answer them, I should be focusing more on small ways to fix the problems that we will inevitably continue to face.
No matter the reasons and no matter how we proceed, there is one thing I am sure of: as we move forward, we have to face the reality that change will continue to come in all shapes and sizes; some of this change will be good and some of it will be bad. Some will test us in ways that we never thought possible. It is our responsibility to ourselves and to others that with these changes we create a generation of men and women who are equipped to carry us further to the point at which “gay” is just another trivial word with no more weight than any other descriptor. This can only begin with open discussion, education, and an honest look at the state of world in which we live. Our community isn’t perfect, nor is it entirely broken, but we cannot ignore that there are problems we choose not to face. So I leave you with words that we’ve all heard before: If not now, when? If not us, who?
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry
Do you have any thoughts on the above? Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to comment and thanks for stopping by.