Saturday, July 2, 2011

Advice for Pride Festival Season

Stop worrying about whether or not there is a "gay community" and create the community you want.

No community ever creates itself; it has to be forged and developed with conscious intention. That's as true for the gay (pseudo-)community as for any other.

Very often there seems to be no gay community whatsoever: we are too diverse, we are often very different from each other, come from different places, have differing values, differing political opinions, and have little respect for each other. An obvious lack of respect is the root of most interpersonal problems within the community, indeed is the root of why there often seems to be no community.

Most gay men and lesbians (etc.) have gotten this far only by speaking back to the majority that doesn't respect them, that even hates and fears them. It's understandable. Self-assertion is necessary. You have to stand up to oppression and speak back to power, and assert your own legitimate right to exist as who you are, just as you are. It is common for many LGBTs to experience a period of personal militancy, especially towards family and friends that would like us to just shut up about it and go back to being invisible and closeted. So a declaration of self-respect and self-fulfillment and self-actualization is a necessary part of the coming-out process. Far more so far LGBTs than for other minorities who otherwise have parallel tracks about gaining civil rights. And that's because of the possibility of invisibility, of hiding, of avoiding being an open target because it's not obvious and you can pretend, while still in the closet.

But a declaration of self-purpose needn't therefore be a declaration of permanent war. A lot of gays experience a period of militancy, as I said, but that period needn't be a perpetual battle. We don't have to hate back. We are not required to hate those who once hated us. And we don't have to hate each other.

Those are choices.

In other words: Many of us do go through a period of militancy when we're coming out: Accept me for who I am, or be damned if you don't. Eventually, the edge can come off the need for self-assertion, and it can become: Accept me for what I am. Period.

Your own life doesn't have to be a constant state of war, or even a battle-ground. Although some people do make militancy into a habit. Militancy is right and necessary—as long as it doesn't become habitual.

So, you might want to think about how you present yourself. That can make a huge difference in the discourse that follows. How you present yourself will make a difference for when you're trying to build a community, and doing so with conscious intent will mitigate the sometimes unconscious urge towards self-sabotage, which can be rooted in unconscious poor self-esteem.

If you put out a hostile warlike front all the time, that's definitely what you'll get back from others. And that will prevent you from building a community. A lot of guys, when they first come out, are very combative—again, this is understandable, because we've had to fight all their lives just to get this far. And yet there comes a point where the combative attitude can become counterproductive. And that is when it's time to let go of the more extreme forms of militancy—but without also letting go of the reasons why the militancy was there in the first place. Abandoning militancy does not require one to therefore abandon one's self-respect.

Toning down militancy does not mean one must therefore become dominated by the ideology of assimilation rather than that of diversity. It doesn't have to be and either/or decision. Find the middle ground.

Stop worrying about assimilating into the mainstream culture so that they "won't hate us anymore," and start embracing our diversity.

In your struggle to obtain, find, and create some sense of normalcy, don't abandon that which makes you unique.

If you can't stand to have your opinions be challenged, then you're not ready for this yet. If you're grounded and centered enough in your own being, your own self-esteem and self-confidence intact, that you can allow someone to disagree with you without trying to shout them down, then you're ready to start genuinely embracing genuine diversity. Most people who can't stand to be contradicted are fundamentally insecure about their own opinions: their fear is that they might be humiliated if proven wrong, or even worse that they might in fact be wrong, is what drives most shouting matches.

Get over yourself: you're only one voice in the vast chorus. The Universe is a vast place, and no matter what you believe about it, it doesn't spend much time thinking about you in return.

The only group I've ever encountered who is more insecure than gay men—more unwilling to embrace diversity for the sake of finding universality, more willing to kill and destroy anyone who might make them look or be wrong—is poets. For whatever reason, poets have even more self-esteem and poor-ego problems than do gays. Go figure. it's at least partially that in our commodity commercial culture, the arts are looked down on in general, and among the arts it's even harder to make a living as a poet.

Stop telling other people how to live. Especially if the way they live or act, or simply are, is an embarrassment to you. Stop telling other gays to be "less flamboyant," and learn to love your own inner aesthete. We all have an inner Oscar Wilde, unashamed and flamboyant. You only want to suppress in others what you hate in yourself.

Stop telling other people to shut up. You can tell them they're wrong, and correct them on the facts, and point out why their prejudices are asinine, irrational, and offensive. But don't tell them to shut up. If you really can't stand it, just ignore them.

As for Pride celebrations themselves, if they embarrass you, stay home. Nobody cares either way.

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