Op-ed: Are Gay Men A Gay Man's Worst Enemy?
One of the wonderful things about the world we live in is that homosexuality is becoming more and more acceptable every day. What's more, people such as Dan Savage have had incredible success with campaigns such as "It Gets Better." Mr. Savage and his contemporaries continue spreading the message to adolescent and teenaged members of the LGBT community promising hope that the bullying and mistreatment of their them and their peers will eventually end once they leave their high school lunchrooms. However, what happens after you leave the walls you feel have closed you in for years is very rarely discussed. The truth is, the bullying doesn't end once you get your diploma, and it doesn't necessarily better. The faces of the people who make fun of you simply change.
It's no surprise that coming out of the closet is a difficult task. Whether or not you have the coolest parents in the world, telling them that your lifestyle is most likely different from the one they had in mind for you is challenging. We've all had to face the firing squad - for some of us the outcome was a welcoming one, while for others, it led to a completely different reality. While nearly every gay man has gone through the coming out process, it's a wonder to me why we are so mean to each other when we've all had to fight the same fight.
Men are inherently more competitive than women. And so, when you get a room full of them, the outcome can be nothing if not brutal. For years, gay men have been portrayed as "wise talking," "promiscuous," and "catty" on television shows such as Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, and Modern Family but as they say, there are truths in every stereotype, and one begins to wonder, after going to a gay bar on any given night in any given city, if those stereotypes aren't that far off.
I happen to be very fortunate to have a wonderful group of gay friends who I consider family. However, we're quick to judge, quick to make fun of each other or say nasty comments about our peers. It makes me begin to wonder: Are gay men a gay man's worst enemy? Because while the high school dramatics are supposed to end at 18, and we are all taught to move on mentally from our teenaged years, how is it possible to do that in a culture that focuses so much on the aesthetic and is perpetually quoting Mean Girls?
So does it actually get better or does the bullying simply change? It's not uncommon to go to a gay bar on a Saturday night and overhear a grown man teasing another from afar on what he is wearing or what he looks like. More common is the gossip between gay men. We are a culture that loves to talk about one another and the bad tittle-tattle is more prevalent than the good. What's more, gay men have to date each other. Generally, this is not always a good experience. When you're a gay man living in a big city, chances are you've dated someone who has lied to you, taken advantage of you or flirted with one of your friends behind your back. If you haven't, I would like to meet you for an interview. While cheating and lying is not exclusive to gay dating, I personally have three books worth of material covering that very subject from a menagerie of various men. The truth is: gay men just aren't very nice to each other. Sure, we all have those close friends that we can always count on, but the likelihood that those good friends haven't talked poorly about another acquaintance is slim to none.
This past summer, I wrote a string of gossip blogs geared toward a few specific people who my audience knew. Granted, I didn't name them specifically, many of the people who read the articles knew exactly who I was speaking about. While I was praised for airing the dirty laundry of a questionable few, after the fact, I didn't really feel better. In fact, I felt worse. Not only is telling the stories of others for the world to hear not my business, but it's wrong and immature. What other people do with their own time, whether or not I think it's right or wrong is none of my concern. Since then, I have personally apologized to each and every person I offended and learned a very valuable lesson.
The LGBT community is made up of a group of people who are fighting for more rights because we have been neglected and stepped on for so many years, however, within our own community—we aren't very nice to each other. Granted straight people aren't nice to each other every minute of the day and you could point out that women in particular aren't always kind to each other—women aren't as actively fighting for the right to be accepted as equals and when they were, they were bonded together fighting for a common goal. Gay men seem more apt to go out of their way to put each other down, when we should be bringing each other up. Is it due to competitiveness or are we using our put downs as a defense mechanism? Regardless of which, what kind of example does that set to the kids in middle and high school who are hoping for a bully-free future?
I think it's high time we all start being a little nicer to each other. If we take even a few seconds of each day to compliment a fellow gay man's new outfit or haircut or congratulate them on a recent career win, it not only makes them feel better, but makes you feel better. Being kind is so much easier than being a bitch. Take it from someone who at one point could write a book on how to be a bitch. I think it's time that restart thinking about the next generation of gay men, the ones who are desperately hoping for a better tomorrow and show them that it really does get better and a hell of a lot nicer.