In a community that is built on a foundation that we all have some shared understanding of what it feels like to be different, and face some sort of discrimination, why do we feel the need to constantly cut each other down?
Since I have come out, I have encountered many different types of gay men because like all communities, no one is exactly the same, and within our broad general gay community, there are in fact subcultures that exist, just like any other large community.
However, what has boggled my mind is that there seems to be some sort of hierarchy within the gay community, or at least a never-ending amount of cliques. You know, those things that existed in high school.
And it is here that we find why we are so competitive as a community
1. We have a second adolescence.
We did not get to date like our straight peers growing up, and experience sex, drinking, drugs, etc with people we found attractive, so we go through a second adolescence. We often move to a big city, where gay is okay, or at least more so then the small suburbs and rural farms we grew up on. We finally get to find out that there are people like us, but also a lot that still aren’t.
This wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is, but we don’t have anyone regulating us because we are technically adults, who make our own money. Having no one to answer to when you have endless opportunity makes for a really rich kid in a candy store, and well that just creates monsters on sugar highs.
2. We separate ourselves into subcategories.
We have our wolves, otters, bears, daddies, babies, twinks, twunks, jocks, and a never-ending list of categories that ultimately say one thing: we aren’t equal, we are separate.
We may cross paths, but often we tend to stick to those cliques that match ourselves, which through a sociological perspective makes sense. Comfort comes from understanding something, and we tend to understand ourselves better than someone we don’t know.
However we are reverting back to an immature notion that because someone doesn’t look like us, means that we don’t understand him or her. When frankly this is not true.
3. We struggle with notions of masculinity and femininity.
We are using outdated versions of what it means to be masculine and feminine to classify a group of people that do not fall strictly into either category, as most don’t in today’s world.
We create an internalized homophobia based off of how “masc” or “straight-acting” someone should or should not be, when in fact both of these terms are ridiculous as straight people do not claim to be acting at all.
4. We are obsessed with looks and perfection.
So much of gay life revolves around appearances: what you look like, what your friends look like, where you are hanging out, what you are doing, etc.
Sure, there are different personality types, different interests and different activities that these groups like to partake in, but it all seems to stem back to a classification system, and finding the most “fabulous” and perfect versions of each of these things.
5. No one explicitly knows our past.
Unless we decide to share it, but even then it is a one-sided version of what happened.
When you grow up, and have friends from childhood there is a basic understanding of who you are. However, when you grow up and move away from everything you knew, you get to start over, for better or worse.
If we were more honest about our pasts, we would see that we all are more alike than we could ever imagine because we did face the same discriminations and bullying.
6. Success makes you unpopular in a world where popular is apparently still a thing.
As gay men we work so hard to prove to others, and ourselves, that we are in fact amazing because we were told by ourselves, and others, for a period of time that we were anything but. However, once we get to the place we dreamt of for so long, we often find that those who were not so friendly become extremely friendly for self-serving purposes.
Furthermore, you find the better you are doing professionally, romantically, or whatever the case may be the more everyone else in the community has something to say about you.
7. We create prejudices and separate ourselves.
We often create a level of competition that becomes so fierce that it hurts us as a community rather than pushing us forwards because we create subgroups within subgroups to classify our own community.
It’s not just the wolves, bears, otters, and the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s ageism, professionalism, racism, interest, neighborhoods, etc. that become how we look at one another.
Superficial things that have nothing to do with who someone is on the inside add up ones valance in such an excessive way that we often think of someone based off of insignificant things.
8. Everyone is every kind of possibility.
Whether it be sexually, romantically, friendly or professionally we can all fill each others needs in multiple ways that do not exist in the straight world.
We often come into a new group with the thought that maybe one of these guys could be my boyfriend, or at least someone I’m into. However, someone may find you attractive, but you do not look at them the same way, so the dynamic is thrown because you would rather be friends while the other person would rather have sex. Thus, your purposes do not match.
9. Everyone is connected.
This has become something that is more prevalent in today’s day and age because of social media, but literally every gay man seems to know, or at least have seen every other gay man. And if for some crazy reason you do not know each other, there is like one degree of separation.
Facebook, Instagram, and even Linkedin suggests you know X person because well, he’s gay. However, what this means is that we think we know each other, when we, in fact, do not.
10. Our exes and friends can date each another.
To build upon the idea that everyone is a possibility and connected, we can date each other’s exes in a way the straight world will never experience. Sure, a girl can date her best girlfriend’s ex boyfriend, but the two never had a romantic connection that makes the relationship way more complicated.
We can become each other’s partners, sexual conquests, best friends, and ex-boyfriends. Our ex can date our best friend, who was someone we at one point could have been dating. The relationships that exist within the gay community are so complex, and run so deep that it feels like we are constantly surrounded by no one new, and in an endless connect the dots game that feels both familiar and obscenely disgusting.
The list could truly go on and on, but what we need to remember is that none of these points should be used as an excuse to why we cut each other down.
We need to remember: we all face the same discrimination; we want the same rights; we all want success; and that if someone in our community is doing well, we should applaud them, and give kudos, not gossip like children. When someone else succeeds, it doesn’t mean your chance for success diminishes. Rather, it means that your chance at success has been lit by a light even brighter than before.
Jealousy, bitterness, and gossip stem from an ugly place inside all of us that simply says: “I wish I could be doing what that person is doing.” “I want what that person has.”
Well, the thing is, you can! You just have to get out of your own way, stop focusing so much on others, and live your life for you and no one else.
When you find your authenticity and get over the cliques, the classifications, notions of masculinity and femininity, what you find is that you are simply you. An individual that wants happiness, love and respect. You won’t feel the need to tear others down, but rather build them up higher and higher.
We must go back to being a brotherhood before it’s too late, and claim our pride in a new way. Let’s lose the labels because they further perpetuate stereotypes that were put on us to make us look like savages, animals, deviants. Let’s lift each other up. Let’s make each other proud. Let’s define a new way to be gay.