I am gay but I do not like to be associated with the gay community.
It has been hard over the last few years for me to watch the banter between the gay community and the people who disagree with homosexuality. Not because I believe either side is right or wrong but because of the tremendous level of respect and entitlement that the gay community feels is automatically owed to them and frankly I just can not associate with that.
I came out twenty-five years ago and in that time have certainly seen my fair share of hate towards the gay community as well as my own personal struggles with family and friends as it pertains to my sexuality. It is definitely a tough road to walk when you are any kind of “different” but I think an answer to acceptance in a society that doesn’t understand a particular lifestyle is to change perceptions.
I sometimes compare the gay community and lifestyle to automotive mechanics. When something is wrong with your car and it needs to be repaired our initial thought is the cost involved. The second thought we have is “are they honest?”. The majority of us know very little about cars so we are investing a tremendous amount of money and trust into a person and trade we know next to nothing about.
We drop off our vehicles at the garage and we anxiously wait hours or perhaps days and weeks for whatever ails our precious mode of transportation to be brought back to good health again. We pay the bill, pick up our vehicle and pray everything is okay.
In the days that follow, we drive our cars with hyper-awareness of anything out of the ordinary; a noise, a slight pull to the left, a slip of the transmission. If nothing occurs and the vehicle appears fixed, we are thankful the vehicle is repaired and continue on with our lives. However, should something occur we become outraged and blame the mechanic for everything from not fixing the problem to raking us over the coals to not being honest.
My point is that mechanics get a bad rap. There is already a stigma that surrounds them before we even step foot into their garage. The stigma of not being trustworthy.
Therefore, mechanics need to work ten times as hard to gain your trust. They need to be on their A game from the very beginning because they are also very aware that there is a negative vibe that surrounds their little section of the yellow pages.
Mechanics are aware that even if they do everything by the book and fix your air conditioning issue perfectly so that your vents now blow the coldest air it ever has blown until the car turns 700,000 miles, that even if everything is done correctly yet all of a sudden the trunk stops latching, it will somehow be the mechanics fault.
Are all mechanics crooks? Not at all. Are there some out there that are? Sure.
Mechanics and the gay community have a similar stigma because perception in some cases and to some people become reality.
The stigma of the gay community is that some of society thinks that we are all deviants who get drunk, dress in drag, are promiscuous, and party all night long with very little regard.
Are all gay people like this? Not at all. Are there some out there that are? Sure.
In my opinion, the gay community in this day and age needs to work ten times harder to gain the trust and equality that they so badly want. The whole of society will not grant equality because they do not all perceive us as equal yet. While we do have a tremendous amount of support for equality, there are some that continue to perceive us as those deviants and do not make a secret of their perception. While the opinions of those people may trigger some strong emotions, we must focus that energy in a positive direction. Perhaps that energy gets directed inward to ask “What truth in that opinion is angering me?”
Equality will not be handed out freely and the gay community is in a situation where a little humility should be inserted. The community as a whole needs to become aware, much like the mechanic, of how they are perceived by others. Equality must be worked for and in this case the work that needs to be done is changing negative perceptions. I once viewed a motivational training video that said if you think you are performing at a “10” attitude, others are probably viewing you at a “6” or “7”. I think that is a perfect analogy for the gay community.
If a gay pride event were to be attended by someone who had never been to one before, what would be seen? If an Advocate or OUT magazine were to be opened for the first time, what would the advertisements look like? If a gay club or bar were to be visited, what type of behavior would be observed? Take a step back and think about what ones perception would be in those examples.
When I share these opinions with other gay people I am always told that the straight community has some of the same behaviors in social situations. This is true. However, the straight community is not currently living under a magnifying glass and in need of equality.
This is such a crucial time for the gay community when states in our nation are now deeming gay marriage legal. We should not think that an inevitable domino effect of legal marriages across the country under the overused term “Marriage Equality” is any type of human rights victory. The political game now is all about who the last state standing will be without legalized gay marriage. The hard work of changing perceptions of a gay lifestyle and now gay marriage has only just begun.
Now is the time when the gay community needs to prove its worthiness of equality to the world. This can only be done by putting our egos aside and making a focused effort to shift the perceptions of what society sees our community to be.
In doing this, we will literally have become the change we wish to see in the world.