TW: Mentions of suicide, drug/alcohol abuse, homophobia, racism.
I’m a proud gay man. I’ve said it many times. I don’t hide my queerness. I don’t hide my marriage. I don’t hide my demi sprinkles. Technically, I’ve never been in the closet, but ever since I first realized I was gay and admitted it out loud to someone, there was no looking back.
I try to live as openly as I can without inviting strangers to feel they can intrude on my life.
One thing that I’ve never said out loud to anyone (aside from my husband and closest friends) is that I often don’t feel at home in the LGBTQIA+ community. Many times I feel like an outsider in the community of which I’m happy and proud to be a part.
I feel that looking at my own intersectionalism, a good part of my identity is ignored. Or is not welcome. I feel that when all the flags are for sale during Pride month, the Ls, Bs, Ts, and others have options and the flag that is specific to gay men is left out. I feel that if I don’t agree with the current trendy opinions of my community (which generally come from the loudest people with the most time on their hands), I am shouted down. I feel my gay and demi identities are benched and my specific ethnic identity never had a seat at the table to begin with.
I feel like discussion and debate are no longer welcome in our community.
Fall in line or you will be ostracized and treated as a blood traitor.
Or…dun dun dun… canceled.
One can’t even say: “Hold on a minute. We’re getting carried away here.” without being branded a self-hating queer or some other buzzword that literally means nothing anymore because it has been used as a means to shut people up so they won’t argue.
Our community also favors hyperbole. Slight disagreements turn into words being twisted and, suddenly, you’re the person who said you wanted someone dead when you simply didn’t agree with their opinion.
So..let me tell you two stories. One to illustrate the types of things in this community that sadden me and one to illustrate why I still have hope.
So far this year, I have DNF’d (did not finish) two audiobooks. It wasn’t the writing that made me put them down. They were written beautifully–from what I managed to hear before dropping them.
One was by an author who was new to me but had been recommended over and over again by people in the community. The other was an author I’d been a longtime admirer of, and couldn’t wait to read their next book.
I DNF’d these two books due to racism.
One author had me about a half-hour into the audiobook before I started to realize something was…off.
The other author did something racist on the first page. Not even the first page. The dedication.
“Surely,” I said to myself, “this is a misunderstanding, and I should do a little internet research before I jump the gun here.”
Because that’s what reasonable and reasonably intelligent people do.
After looking into the issue with the first author, I found that they were aware of the issue and didn’t care. In fact, they presented themselves as a white savior type figure in interviews and op-eds about the issue.
The second author I found out wasn’t even aware why what they did would be offensive. Which forced me to think back on all of their books, wondering if I had missed their racist writing before.
In the past, had I been so ignorant to overlook these things because I loved their books so much?
Both of these authors are gay white men.
It made me wonder why so many authors are canceled for the problematic things they do, yet two of our prominent gay white male authors are given the thumbs up and adored.
Now, I’m not looking to try and cancel anyone (which is why I’m naming no names). And I don’t like talking shit about other authors (I’ll whine to my husband and besties). I don’t think these authors are racist. I think they’re ignorant. But they could improve with a little understanding of the harm they’ve caused to other marginalized peoples.
Regardless, these two situations made me feel even less welcome in this community. It made me feel sour about how our community treats marginalized ethnic and racial groups.
I was pretty sad about both situations for a while. I’m definitely not okay with it now–and I never will be–but I’ve decided to not let it occupy any more headspace.
The greatest (unexpected) gift I’ve gotten from writing and publishing is other queer people telling me their stories. People read my books and, suddenly, feel they know me. It makes them open up to me. It makes them want me to know them in the way they think they know me.
Complete honesty–sometimes people can be creepy. Because some people aren’t reaching out just to connect as one queer person to another. Intention matters. Luckily, the creeps are incredibly rare now.
The queer people who reach out to me and touch my heart the most are the elders. People who were teen or adult queers when things like the Stonewall Riots happened.
Recently, I got an email from an elder reader. In an email that brought tears to my eyes, I got to read about a queer person they knew who got disowned by their family, and their struggle with alcoholism and depression for over a decade before they took their life fifteen years later.
I didn’t know this person who wrote to me out of the blue to share this story. I had never spoken to or interacted with them in any way before this email. But I’m honored they trusted me with it. That they wanted to add to the pieces of our history that live in my heart and brain. I felt honored that they simply wanted to connect with me as another queer person and share something utterly human.
Typically, long emails I get from readers have to wait until I have time to read them–though I always try to respond within 24-48 hours. However, when I glanced and saw a few lines from this email, I read it immediately. Then again. And again.
I struggled with my response (and to see my monitor through my tears), but I hope that what I sent back touched them in the way they touched me.
Regardless, this story sent to me was obviously heartbreaking. However, the sender of the email told me about all of the things they’ve tried to do for our community in the 30 years since the person’s suicide to honor their memory. To not let their family’s abhorrent behavior towards them be the defining moment of their short life.
To not let homophobia and hate win.
In some small way, it reignited my hope for, not just LGBTQIA+ people, but all of us.
I’ll forever be grateful for that email. And I will probably think of the person who sent the email, and the queer man they told me about, at least once a day for the rest of my life.
I’ll forever be honored by that email.
Why do I tell you these two stories? Because I feel that we’ve lost our way as a community. Our mission should not just simply be fighting against governments who do not want to assure we have the same rights as others. Or to try and cancel everyone who disagrees with us (over big or small things). Though we should NEVER stop fighting the government.
A big part of our mission should be to solidify our queerness as valid–regardless of race, color, creed, sex, gender, religion…we are all valid. We are a family. None of us are safe until we’re all safe.
None of us are safe if Black people are not safe. We are not safe if Muslims are not safe. We are not safe if Jews are not safe. We are not safe while women are not safe. We are not safe while Asian and Indigenous people are not safe.
You get the idea.
So…my hope for Pride 2022 is that we all reaffirm our commitment to each other. That we work to uplift each other and fight against the wrongs done to each other, even if we don’t share the same identities. Because what else is Pride for?
What do we owe each other if not the active commitment to ensure we are ALL treated equitably and equally? If we’re not fighting against racism, sexism, and bigotry of every kind, we may as well not bother worrying about hate towards our community.
That should be where we shift all of our energy starting immediately. Not these petty fights, disagreements, and the desire to cancel people over matters that…ultimately…don’t matter.
And please, if you feel safe enough to go to a Pride March or other Pride activity, look out for the queers who look out of place. They may need someone to take their hand and offer to be their Pride Buddy. It might be their first time, and the first Pride can be so scary. Be particularly mindful that our elder, disabled, and BIPOC family members are made to feel welcome and loved and have the necessary tools to participate. Be mindful that all body shapes and sizes are made to feel beautiful and worthy of love. If you’re going in a group, that’s several sets of eyes to watch out for the queers who might need love from your group to feel welcome. Organize and make a plan for how to make sure you can help those who need it.
Pride is still so integral to our community’s safety, education, and advancement. Pride is STILL a protest. But also make sure it’s the beautiful love fest it should be.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,