The idea of a ‘Gay male Community’ seems a feeble notion these days. At times, it’s lying on a stretcher, begging for morphine and waiting to be put out of its misery feeble. We do still enjoy throwing around the word ‘Brotherhood’, perhaps in some vague hope that through doing so some form of community will eventualize itself into existence – or in the very least to fool ourselves into the same state of complacency most gay men reside in when it comes to the wellbeing of their ‘Brothers’. It does work for a bit. We can look people in the face in our local gay bar, walk through our big gay villages carefree and fancy – resist the urge to roll our eyes when our mate feigns interest in the latest atrocity overseas with a touching message under a holiday selfie.
We tolerate each other because we know that when it really counts we’ll support each other. It matters that after the Orlando shootings, gay men took to the streets in their thousands to reach out and say, ‘We care’. Supporting is action and having someone on your side can be priceless. It’s a comfort in a world that can repress and persecute us that those that share our struggles will build us up, defend us and be the ones to tell us ‘it’s not you, it’s them’. Those days after the senseless murder of 49 beautiful people were a reminder of the strength we can find in each other – but we failed to maintain that momentum. To create a community that will still exist outside of reactions against the mass slaughter and suffering of Queer people or outside of the sponsored togetherness of our ‘Pride’ celebrations.
Increasingly it seems that we have to defend ourselves as much against our supposed ‘brothers’ as against the outside world. If you want to look for proof of the rot then you only need to look as far as it takes to find a gay man making himself vulnerable to find other gay men who feel entitled to take part in his damnation. This entitlement stems from a place of privilege and comfort in the relative freedoms and rights that gay men have acquired. Fighting for the right to exist openly as gay men has, over time, turned into an expectation that a gay man existing cannot be challenged on any behaviour. Pride in your sexuality becomes defensiveness in all of your sexual preferences to the point we avoid holding our desires to adequate scrutiny. Superficially this is where you find your ‘No FATS, No FEMS, No ASIANS!’ profiles, your ‘Masc for Masc’ bro’s, your ‘Size Queens’ and your ‘straight/twink/trans chasers’. A projection of everyone else as only existing to serve you and a categorisation of them that completely diminishes their humanity.
This way of viewing each other seeps into every facet of your life as you project ideals onto others on whom they may not fit or for whom those ideals may hold no interest. If they are sexually attractive or they make you laugh or you admire their talent then they have worth but if they are uninteresting to you or a stranger or a burden then they are ripe targets for mockery and cruelty. Their own identity becomes mute past the point for which they serve your purpose.
The terrible endgame of this sort of one sided relating is that when empathy diminishes it becomes easier to deny the basic respect and rights you expect for yourself to others. They are no longer real to you in the same way that you are real, your friends are real and that guy you fancy is real. Suddenly language is only offensive when you believe it is, you’re not being racist when you can’t recognise it in yourself, you don’t need to engage sensitively with any feelings outside the scope of your own experiences. One of the biggest victims here is consent, for why would it matter what others consent to when the bar for social decorum is whatever you yourself believe it to be. You can objectify anyone you feel is ‘asking for it’ by virtue of their job or clothing or number of partners. You can barrage a trans person with any number of personnel or disrespectful questions and statements about their identity as their existence is purely as something to be regarded by you and to sate your curiosity. You can go so far as to justify raping someone by redefining the parameters of consent entirely – ‘I was drunk’, ‘they were drunk’, ‘He said yes at first’, ‘he didn’t say no’…
Instead of putting yourself in someone’s shoes you wait for them to prove to you they deserve to be considered by you. You are not offering only taking, collecting humans and categorising them to have power over them much in the same way that gay men themselves have always been categorised and controlled by the world around them. As gay men amalgamate more into society and culture increasingly they are adopting the very strategies that were used to repress them and this is why the notion of a larger queer community cannot survive. Smaller, more diverse groups within the queer identity that are more strongly at odds with wider society – sex workers, trans people, asexuals, doms and subs etc – these communities continue to thrive, spurred to stronger unity in the face of an enemy that can often include gay men.
This would seem to be the end of it then. You suffer as an outsider until you become mainstream enough to make others suffer under the weight of the same structures that crushed you. However gay men will never truly be normal. The assumption will never be, certainly for many lifetimes, that a baby isn’t, percentage wise, most likely a straight baby. As a gay male there will always be the assumption that you will grow up to be a straight boy and then a straight man. The friction between this assumed journey and your sexual reality will always create outsiders. We still need our communities to look out for us, raise us up and to tell us we are ‘ok’. We just need to develop the intellectual and spiritual rigour to hold ourselves to a higher standard in how we regard one another.
We can reclaim our community if we look out from ourselves and embrace each other for what we are, not for what we think we should be. If we find the Pride, not in what we happen to be, but in what we have helped each other become.