Coming Out / Gay Tribes

Is it OK Not to Relate to Gay People?

#relate
#doi

Some of you may recall a recent post I made on Instagram which resulted in controversial comments. The exact post read as follows:

“Just because I’m gay, you’re gay, and we’re near each other, does not mean we need to date, be best friends, or otherwise be attached at the hip. Frankly, I usually relate to the women, animals, food, and straight men in the room before my own.”

Before controversy reignites, I have and again apologize for the second sentence of the post, which was attempting to be a joke but in poor taste – particularly the part about straight men, which totally reads as internalized shame and a person that avoids his own out of some sort of hatred. The core of what I was trying to say was best covered by my caption, which read:

“Not to be anti-togetherness, but we’re all very different and no one should force their love/friendship/personality on anyone else. Respect those potential differences in your interactions with new people.”

Of course, the above wouldn’t be very catchy or amusing, which is why I regrettably went the route I did. Nonetheless, the post seemed to polarize followers, with numerous likes and comments for and against it. I found such compelling arguments in the comments, that I thought it was important to share them in a blog post to make sure all perspectives were captured and to inspire us to think more deeply about the core issues. I believe the core issues are: (1) whether or not it is acceptable not to relate to other gay people; and (2) whether or not it is acceptable to voice that reality; and (3) if acceptable, how one can voice that reality in an inoffensive way.

As to the above issues, my personal opinion (for what it’s worth) is as follows. It is completely acceptable not to relate to others in your own community. In fact, I think if more closeted people realized that being gay is just a sexual preference and nothing specific that they need to actively do or subscribe to, they would likely feel more comfortable in coming out. Sure, it would be amazing if we were all a part of queer culture and movements, but it should not be a requirement and no one should make other members of the community feel bad for how involved they choose to be. It is also acceptable to voice whether or not you relate to your community. We shouldn’t be afraid to share our varying perspectives and I feel that a lot of people (with good intentions) want to silence any dissent by queers against queers. That said, I voiced my concern in my post improperly and should have done so differently, but I do have the right to dissent. When voicing dissent against our own community, we should do so with tolerance and respect, not putting other members of the community down to get our own point across (which I failed at).

I think of this concept broadly as pride 1.0 and pride 2.0. I define pride 1.0 as needing to achieve acceptance and equality for all queer people and shutting down any dissent outside and within the community. I love, respect, and appreciate the pride 1.0 movement and it needs to continue for decades before we really accomplish complete equality worldwide. However, a lot of the issues I discuss are what I classify as pride 2.0, or ideas within the community that call into question actions of queer people that may be damaging to the community or create new issues within it. In many ways, I have the luxury of discussing “pride 2.0” issues because I live in a country where being gay is legal and relatively comfortable. So while pride 2.0 discussions are not life or death (which is sadly a reality for many of our queer brothers and sisters), I will not avoid discussing them because they do affect a large sector of our population and I think any discussion of anything impacting the queer community is valid.

Now (finally), let’s see what some of you had to say about my post. Here are the very valid reasons some people disagreed with me:

“I think it’s totally fine if you relate to certain people more than others…as long as you acknowledge that not all gay guys are a certain way (and I don’t think you’re doing that).”

“There is an understanding, empathy, and compassion that I’ve come to enjoy when I open my heart and my mind to people like me. That’s called community and we all need more of it.”

“I’m coming from a country where being gay is totally taboo. Having gay friends was definitely one thing that helped me a lot to cope with my daily routine without total anxiety and have someone dealing with similar pain and trauma as you are.”

“I agree with not wanting others to project an assumption about you based on this one trait, but I will reflect back to you that maybe a resistance to gay culture is (1) indicative of old inner demons; and (2) potentially holding you back from more meaningful connections.”

And here are some equally valid reasons some people agreed:

“I think because we have hidden in the shadows so long as a community, we tend to have a “take what we can get attitude…” [with dating and friends] I often find myself bound to someone with an entirely different lifestyle, not to mention morals, simply to feel like I belonged.”

“I think this post [may be] trying to highlight the pressures we place on ourselves when another gay is in the room. To help alleviate and ease those pressures, we should allow ourselves to just be ourselves instead of immediately trying to be something to someone just because they are gay and in the room with us.”

“I think this closely relates to you other post regarding subconsciously conforming to certain stereotypes as a way of validating yourself…people are quick to say it’s disdain or personal demons or internalized homophobia, but that’s not always the case. We expect others to accept who we are not not from within if we’re deemed too different? I am under no obligation to befriend anyone with whom I don’t share things in common beyond sexuality.”

Just remember, no matter where you stand on these or similar issues, let’s try to voice our opinions politely and productively (me included).

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