Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Why (Some) Gay Men Take Meth

(I've been debating whether to post this, most of which was written last week. I've decided to go ahead. We'll see whether it was a good idea or not. It rambles. I suppose it's a rant. Oh well. I warned you. If you prefer, skip it and read about my glamorous vacation.)

Two of my favorite blogs, QueerJoe and Tricky Tricot, recently referenced an article in The Village Voice about the use of crystal meth in the gay community. And boy, did it stir up some debate. This is a good thing.

I'd read the story myself before they posted it, and found I agreed violently with Patrick Moore, the author. He goes beyond merely saying "Drug use is terrible," (that not being news, certainly not to the Voice's readership) and tries to get at the underlying reasons why meth has become such a problem.

His conclusion, greatly simplified, is that gay men are inclined to use drugs not from an inherent moral failing, but because they are often desperate for solace in a world that at best ignores them and at worst seeks to eliminate them.

This is the passage that struck me. Moore is writing of his own experiences with drug and alcohol abuse:

"Had I looked deeper, I would have seen that I had always felt self-destructive and isolated, even from other gay people. I believe many young gay men* still feel that way."

The italics are mine.

I'm going to say something that may be very unpopular. And I don't care. I'm going to say it anyway.

I know guys who have taken or do take meth. A lot of guys. To a man, they have corroborated Moore's point that men who use it are usually doing so to achieve a feeling of connection - of bonding deeply, if temporarily, with a partner. Of belonging to the group of gay men who are desirable and desired. And every one of them made it clear that this feeling was something they couldn't achieve without the drug.

Moore twice brings up the feeling of being isolated from the gay community in his article, yet dwells more on the pressure from the wider, straight world as a negative force on gay men's lives.

Without in any way wishing to disagree with him that homophobia is omnipresent and powerful, I wish to offer the viewpoint that a good deal of the damage suffered by gay men comes from other gay men.

Here's an example, a personal one, of just how supportive gay men can be of each other.

I was sorting photocopies in the office hallway the other day when my ears pricked up at the sound of my name. In an office nearby, Colleague A was saying that the t-shirt I'd worn that day showed off my chest, and he was surprised to see that I have a solid build.

I was startled and so flattered that I blushed. Then Colleague B replied, "Yeah. But I guess when you're short and bald and have a face like that, you have to do something."

Colleague A said yes, that's true.

Ouch.

I wasn't suprised, though. When our office has reason to divide into groups - sitting at department events, going out after work for drinks, etc. - the gay men go off by themselves, and I'm not invited. I don't look like they do, or act like they do, and a tacit point had been made well before this conversation that gay or not, I'm not one of them.

Happily, I've had years to come to terms with the fact that I'm not and never have been a Pretty Boy by mainstream gay standards. I'm not blond, hairless, and slim as a willow. I've learned to take comfort in being caviare and catnip to the minority who like men who look like me. As much as one can, in this day and age, be at peace with one's physical appearance, I am.

But it takes years, and a whole lot of crying and hurt feelings, to get to this point. Some guys never get there. The fact is, and this never seems to be mentioned, that there are a lot of gay men who come out and aren't received into the fold with rapture.

These are the guys who aren't particularly good-looking, who may have a weight problem, who are shy in a club setting or aren't quick with a witty remark. These are the guys who happen to be the wrong race at the wrong time, or can't afford to live in the proper ZIP code,** or don't look right in the jeans that are the thing to be wearing this week.

There is a gay ideal, shamelessly pushed and promoted by those who market to the gay community (including our own press) that is as unrealistic for most of us as the supermodel ideal is for most women. Physical perfection is requirement number one.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the covers of gay books and magazines over at Amazon and count the number that feature some variation of a muscular, bare torso on the cover. And I don't just mean books about bodybuilding or sex. I mean books about cooking, decorating, childcare, philately, beekeeping, Esperanto...

The muscular, white, shaved and oiled torso has become universal visual shorthand for "gay." The logical conclusion? Don't have one? You're not really gay.

Some men can't handle this, and no wonder. When the world at large doesn't want to include you, it stings when those who are supposed to be (if nothing else) your comrades in oppression also make it clear you may not join the can-can.

When I was talking about this with Buzz the other day, he made a good point: "Do you really want to be invited to that party?"

No, as it happens, I don't. At my most muscular, I was given a pass to explore the fringes of it and found it dull. But the fact remains that except for persons temperamentally inclined to a hermetic life, everybody needs to feel that he belongs somewhere.

For many guys, it seems like the only place to belong is that perfect circle of shirtless men on the dance floor - the ones who will definitely be photographed for the party pages of the gay newspaper. Everything seems to point to it: you're here, or you're nowhere.***

And when you want desperately not to be nowhere, what's more tempting than a drug that will make you feel your God-given flaws have been erased by a Photoshop filter, and allow you to feel you have a right to membership?

Hell yes, pressure from the straight world at large takes a toll on you when you're gay. And so, sometimes to an even greater extent, does pressure from the gay world.

*I have news for you, Patrick, so do many older gay men. You know, the ones over 23.

**In Boston, I found "Which ZIP code do you live in?" to be the second most common question at gay parties, the first being "What do you do?" If your field was sufficiently impressive, you got to go on to question two. The South End (the gay ghetto) straddled two ZIP codes, only one of which was consdiered fashionable. Shades of Lady Bracknell. And people wonder why I don't miss Boston?


***Yeah, there are other subcultures within the gay culture (like the bear and leather communities). But some don't fit into those, either, and in my experience they can be just as elitist - at my first and only visit to Bear Pride in Chicago, I was openly snubbed for being too thin. Meanwhile, the gay press (when it speaks of them at all) usually implies that they are decidedly second-best, a lunatic fringe.

49 comments:

C said...

I'm so so SO happy you're not one of them. And I'm proud that we're not one of them together. :-)

Cheryl said...

Honey...
be yourself...
hetero people have these problems too..
women have these problems too..
"you have such a pretty face"....(yeah and I'm 60 lbs overweight)--
the people that love you love you for what you are and who you are not what they think you should be...and honestly you don't need anyone else...

Buzz said...

Some interesting quotes:

From HIGHER RISK by MICHAEL SPECTER 5/25/2005 New Yorker Magazine

Methamphetamine is a mood elevator, and is known to induce bursts of euphoria, increase alertness, and reduce fatigue...Crystal methamphetamine is highly addictive, but its allure is not hard to understand; the drug removes inhibitions, bolsters confidence, supercharges the libido, and heightens the intensity of sex. The difference between sex with crystal and sex without it is like the difference between Technicolor and black-and-white, one man told me.

...gay culture is focussed on youth, and once you hit forty you are no longer that cute kid on the block, the pretty kid. You are not married. You don’t have a partner, and you are trying to assess what you want out of life. There are many who are confused and unhappy, and you mate that with cultural norms that have moved away from safety and you have a pretty explosive situation.


From : Crystalmeth - Life vs Meth by Kevin Koffler POZ Magazine July/Aug 2002

"From my first bump, I was hooked: I had discovered the "answer" to all of my problems. That tiny clump of glassy-white powder delivered a bolt of energy, power and invulnerability. Suddenly I felt smarter, sexier and funnier. It turned an insecure, slightly doughy wannabe into a lean, mean fuck machine. At first, I only used the stimulant "recreationally" on weekends. I could walk into a club cold sober, feeling awkward and alien, do a bump in the bathroom -- and then spin out of the stall like Wonder Woman. From Miami to Palm Springs, crystal lubricated my entry into a world of beautiful, shirtless muscle men who seemed to be the gay social and sexual elite. Eventually, being one of the "golden boys" out on the dance floor became the sole source of my self-esteem."
------------------------------------
I have been offered Meth more times than I care to admit, in situatones I do not care to revisit. Every generation has a drug that marks them, the 80s had coke, the 90s had crack and now we have Meth. And i totaly "get it"

Whats that latin phrase for 'dont let the bastards get ya down?"

Love you

Jon said...

I think you have hit the nail on the head for me. These are reasons why I don't connect well with the gay community.

It is so shallow and body/physic centric, it's rather nauseating.

I used to have a caption on my gay.com photo that said "who could ever learn to love a beast?" Apparently, none of the guys I ever spoke to truly understood the meaning behind those words or heaven forbid, read the original story of "La Belle et La Bete."

Honestly, the man I love and who will love me for the rest of my life won't have a perfect body. I would prefer that he didn't. He will be truthful and honest and caring and what's in his heart will matter more than anything else in the world.

Incidentally, the first question here is "are you a top or a bottom?" Denver is innundated with bottoms who are searching for an adonis. Whatever.

TrickyTricot said...

Jon - I think every city is inundated with bottoms (DC for sure). Someone prove me wrong - and maybe I'll think of moving.

Franklin, I'm glad you posted this. In reading it, I found myself in that duality of "Yeah - that's right on - damn those muscle boys!" and "Have I ever put someone in that place? Surely I have - I know I can be catty. I suck." I don't think it has to be either of these though - when we gather, something extraordinary happens - that is to say, when you get 60 men in the woods together, making an effort to see each other and connect, the cattiness dies away and people actually connect. (This is actually just an advertisement for the Fall Gathering :).)

I think what I'm really trying to say is what gay men desire most of all is connection - and what I'm finding more and more, is I can't have that "just" through the leather community or "just" through gay.com - as Mame would say, "Life's a buffet..."

Rambling... somethin somethin...

Sean said...

Your post makes a lot of great valid points. Gay men, so much more than the stereo-typical catty female, can make life horrible for those of us who didn't make the "A" list. Not only have we (I) fought to be accepted by our families and friends, but then we have to suffer the slings and arrows of the pretty boy gang.

As a more secure adult, I'm really very thrilled to not have been in that crowd...constantly working to achieve a life that doesn't exist and eventually failing...

Sean said...

Follow-up, having read Tricky's post:

I agree that gay men crave a connection. Having felt "outside" all my life I have craved one. And as a result of being kept "outside" once again, bitterness replaced the craving and then maybe that's where some of the cattiness comes from...this is a great examination!

Jon said...

But what do we gain from all of that examination?

I walk the pup through the gaypark in the gayborhood. In fact, this is going to be a subject of a post soon "Anatomy of a Park." But to my point, as I go through each section, I'm scrutinized. Or at least, I feel scrutinized. I mean, conversation ceases and I'm gawked at and then conversation resumes.

Maybe they think I'm straight or too straight. Maybe I'm too fat or not fat enought. Maybe my hair color is wrong or I don't have facial hair or I'm too short or I'm too tall...too white, too blond, too too too too.

Never once has any of these men engaged me in conversation. Of course, I'm sure it doesn't help that I have my iPod going and it's rather difficult to hear catcalls (would there be any) with the speakers in my ears.

Do I have a point here or am I just rambling?

I think there's a desire for many gay men to belong, to feel like they fit in with a group and they are accepted. I blame our society for those feelings and I blame our community for those as well. How many times have you seen a guy driving a car with the HRC sticker and heard someone say "Oh, he's in the closet." Why does this matter anymore than having a leather bear sticker? ARGH. Now I know I'm rambling. OK, I'll shut it now.

And I think Tricky told us he's a bottom. {VEG} OK, I'll say it! LOL

TrickyTricot said...

I'm versatile thank you very much - though I think these comments belong on another blog, Franklin?

What do we get for all the examination? Well, I get a sense of self-worth, for one - and maybe some sense of being able to live with myself at the end of the day for being true and thinking about what I feel and want.

I agree with Sean - I'm grateful having never fallen into the gay-bar-abercrombie-hypnoticness of it all. I mean, sure, Ethan Hawke is hot, but do I want to look like him? No thanks.

Colleen said...

You guys all realize, of course, that you just described a room full of females. That sort of mean-spirited shit is what most teenage girls go through every day. It's what girls and women do to others.

sep said...

honey, we all do it to everyone.

women to men, women to women, gays to gays, straights to straights, straights to gays, gays to straights, lesbians to gays, gays to lesbians, queers to trans, trans to queers, etc., etc., etc....

BUT, when you take a population that is already existing in the margins, that is already walking down the street in fear/self-loathing every single fucking day, and then look at their ways of internally dominating themselves and contrast it to your own group's internal treatment you do nothing to further any understanding of domination and hatred and the repercussions of enforced morality/normality.

everyone walks their own path, but it's not a path of their own making. that's the place where we all have a part in remaking the path for everyone to benefit.

reba (misquoting Marx, in case anyone was listening) :)

Colleen said...

"honey, we all do it to everyone."

Probably true - except of course, for straight men. I think they live in their own universe. A universe of 38FFF boobs and vapid giggles.

Sean said...

I think discussion breeds awareness...makes us think as we discuss and maybe makes us more aware.

I for one no longer need to "look" like that or be like that anymore. But I remember looking in from the outside thinking that was the "life". I now know how empty it is "in" there.

Jon said...

38FFF?? Did you some how get Franklin's pec measurements? LOL

TrickyTricot said...

Sean - Are you saying that since you're partnered now, you can just "let yourself go?" *grins and runs*

Sean said...

No, Tricky...I actually am more interested in fitness now more than ever. But it's not a vain thing, it's a health thing, it to help me be able to play tennis...run...etc., without pain.

I guess what I was trying to say is I know now, that that lifestyle is not what I want to have a part of...I may have once, but now, I want an honest life.

Ted said...

Okay. You guys who are feeling dissatisfied with your connection to the gay community, and to the gay "scene", who've felt abandoned and like you didn't belong. Now that you've had some self-examination and some discussion, what are you going to do to connect in better ways. In more life-affirming ways? In ways that are inclusive?

How about helping someone who's just coming out? (Mentoring a newbie is extremely important, and would go a long way to helping someone feel accepted and to connect in ways other than through sex.) How about joining a community organization?

What's that? You don't do that kind of thing? You're out and happy and proud and you had to do it alone so they will too? Right...

TrickyTricot said...

Wow Ted - you're pretty judgy.

I can't speak for anyone else here, but I do my fair share of volunteering in our community - both formally and informally. I think that's regardless though - your comment makes it seem as though we can't ask these questions and that these discussions aren't useful. I'd argue the opposite - talking about gay-ness was something I loved doing as a kid and love now.

Ted said...

And I guess right now I am judgy. I'm sorry, and apologise to everybody.

When I came out, I desperately needed somebody to talk to, and I was treated by members of the gay community like a total freak. It did more to drive me away from the community than for me to want to belong to it.

And I think it's fine to talk about things and explore them -- and I would encourage that. I'm sorry if you beleived, from reading my post, didn't I didn't think that; I obviously didn't express myself well. But, simply talking about issues isn't necessarily going to make it easier for anyone else who's struggling -- with whatever they're struggling with -- to feel welcome and accepted. Depending how their questions are received and responded to, it may leave them feeling very unwelcome.

Buzz said...

To paraphrase " the gay world is a shallow plastic trench, where pimps and thieves run free and good men die like dogs" The world is what it is, and only we make it better or worse.

Frank and I had a long talk before he posted that article and I did indeed ask him "why do you care if the A-list gays don't like you? Would you even go to thier parties if they asked you?"

Our Nazi-like idolization of the clearly flawed beautiful people we worship is deeply troubling. I see it even here in this discussion

We live in a world apart that only we can control. When we start to "yearn" for something like gay acceptance or straight approval, that gives someone else control over us.

I for one am completely happy without that. I am who I am, and work every day to make my world the best that I can. And yes, I spend a great deal of it "outside." I bike, I go to the gym, I go to the library, I go to the lake...all these things I can fill my hours with. I don't need some guy to complete me, or some group to judge me and validate me. Fuck that noise.

The joy of being queer for so many years had always been that we lived by our own rules. Now it seems that not only are we giving up that control to breeders, drugs and our own infighting, but we seem to think this is somehow normal? Who cares of everybody does it to everbody else? Are our standards so low that we accept that?

The truly great people of the world, the thinkers, the politicians, the inventors, the artists, the doctors, the writers, the teachers...they all aspired NOT to convention, but to innovation, self-sufficiency and a singular lack for the need of approval from anyone.

We indeed are at a significant crossroads in the gay world. The drug issue is a symptom, not a cause. Do we want acceptance and approval, or do we want to go "mainstream?" What do we gain, what to we loose? And who among us is strong enough to step forward and give up the comforts of convention in exchange for the freedom of a life of our own choice?

David said...

Wow. What a fantastic post. It makes so much sense to me. I spend about 10-15 hours a week at the gym to maintain the kind of body that will gain admission to the A-list, even though I have met the A-list and despise them. Fortunately for me the gym is my meth, so I never went down that destructive path. But I have certainly felt that alienation, that sense of being on the cusp of belonging but not making the grade.

It is sad but true that what should be a welcoming community is often a cruel and unfriendly community. And you are right about the Bears. I'm a hairy guy, but since I don't want a gut, I am persona non grata.

I don't see this cycle ending anytime soon. The younger generation seems to be just as vehement as we were in their pursuit of surface beauty while neglecting their inner charm.

But thanks for putting it out there.

JoVE said...

I was thinking exactly what Colleen was thinking. Women do this to each other all the time. Or at least het women. And it does do nasty things to your self esteem. Glad you have found a place to be accepting of yourself. I know how hard that can be. and I'm glad you felt confident enough to put that rant out there for discussion.

Dan said...

Franklin,
This is an amazing post. It resonated with me on many levels.

I remember when I came out (at 26) the best advice I received was to take my time. The professor I came out to, who was also a counselor, told me, "Take your time. Don't think that you need to understand what being "gay" means to you immediately. Take your time exploring what it means to you." Something like that. I am so appreciative of that advice. It didn't save me from heartache, but it did reframe the entire thing as the start of a discovery point.

I remember feeling very disturbed that I had spent so many years kicking and screaming to come out of the closet and then came out to a community that had all these cliques with their little uniforms. (Clones, Leather, Country, etcetera) and I was very much turned off. I mean I didn't come out as an act of self-definition to lose myself in some new one.

Over the years I personally gravitated toward the Radical Faeries because they seemed to be the ones questioning gaiety. "Who are we and what are we here for? What's our cultural identity?" I had a chance to study with Harry Hay and his partner John Burnside in the years before Harry died and that became a beacon of sorts, for the tremendous reservoirs of love and joy that reside inside of gay men if they could just get past all the accrued crap that we've found ourselves buried in.

As for similarities for het women, well, I can't speak for the experience of het women. But I do know that as gay men we are all coming out of an erasure of history and culture. Het women have centuries of accrued history and roles to either accept or rebel from but for Gay men we only have the paltry last 30+ years of history -- in which we've tried to shake our heads out and figure out just who the hell we are and what we're here for. So it is different. And difference is good and well and reality. But it takes finding other gay men on the path, those who share your heart for being honest and committed to finding the way of loving.

You know, in my other guise I help edit a 15 year old reader-written Gay Men's magazine called White Crane, www.whitecranejournal.com, and our next issue is on "State of the Gay Body."

In some way we're trying to have a discussion of where we are in light of the recent stories of health (meth, new HIV cases, etcetera).

I'd like to ask you to consider writing something for this issue. What you shared was powerful in honesty and insight.

You can find our call for submissions on our website at
www.whitecranejournal.com/submission.asp

-Dan

birdfarm said...

Whoever said "except straight men".... do you really think they are all attracted to the same kind of woman, all like sports or cars or beer? I don't.

Think of a straight male computer geek or crossdresser. Think of a straight guy outside a major city wearing a color besides brown, navy, or forest.

Straight men are under pressure to like those cookie-cutter women, enjoy sports, drink beer--to look "tough" and "manly," etc. Do you really think a life filled with "conversation" about sports statistics is a satisfying existence?

Just like gay men, lesbians, straight women, everyone feels constrained by identity, feels like they have to like certain things and act certain ways.

Why do you think straight men are so mean to the women they date? Maybe because they are afraid--of being judged "not man enough" by their girlfriend, or "not dating a hot chick" by their male friends...
Straight men might even be the most constrained, most alienated from their own feelings and identity. They aren't even allowed to take a fucking bath, for chrissakes, without having their "manhood" called into question! And don't forget, I think they're also the most likely to kill each other...

But Sir Edwin is right, this is all connected. Because why do they kill each other, why are they afraid? They don't want to be seen as "fags," meaning more than something sexual, meaning "not a real man," a profound feeling of self-annihilation sense. Why? Because... the ultimate not-man, a woman, is the absolute worst thing you could be. Why?

All of these form a hierarchy because without hierarchy, without fear of slipping down the domination ladder, without a desperation to crawl up the same ladder....... we might actually get together and make our lives more livable, which would involve rejecting about 80% of all the products that we buy on a regular basis, which would collapse the economy unless we also found a way to restructure our whole economy and society.

Which is why I'm a socialist. Because the alternative is that we keep producing and consuming more and more and more useless things that maintain and support the "identities" we're so afraid of losing...until we burn up the environment and die.

But perhaps this is the wrong blog for that, as well. Sorry Franklin.

goblinbox said...

All of that about pretty boys is true, but I have no idea how it will ever be surmounted. MEN ARE VISUAL. Period. Y'all are hardwired that way. Expecting the gay community to embrace normal-looking men rather than sleek gods is neigh impossible.

And I'll be shamefully honest: I prefer to look at beautiful people myself, even if they do make me feel ugly. When I pick up a catalog for, say, plus-sized clothing, I have a visceral rejecting reaction. Why should I need to look at a less than utterly beautiful model? I've been examining this reaction in myself for decades and as un-PC as it is, it's real. It's like the kind of reaction one might notice in oneself when confronted with someone who is deformed or mutilated... Beauty says "health" to the human brain, and non-beauty says "non-health." It's a disgusting observation about the human condition, but there it is.

I tend to prefer European movies because the actors and actresses often have extra weight on them, or English teeth, or other flaws that make me feel more comfortable about myself, but it only works in drama where I can be invested in the people emotionally. In print ads, I react poorly to normal-looking models.

On the subject of speed: speed feels great, period. Speed makes sex AMAZING, period. Speed is also utterly and totally unreal, and healthy folks know that. If you can be in the inner circle when you're high, you can be in the inner circle when you're not high. Period. Perhaps the lack of acceptance in your community helps create unhealthy people, but meth use only lasts in those who aren't strong enough to realize it's totally artificial... and totally deadly. (Anyone whose done the shit more than twice knows it will kill you.)

Note that meth is not a gay issue, per se. Meth use is rampant in the straight community too. I live in rural Iowa, I know people who cook the shit in their trailers in front of their kids. I've seen cars parked on the sides of gravel roads with labs in the trunks. The stuff is epidemic because it is a shortcut to psychological "health" used by weak people - I mean, why slog though your issues the hard, painful way when you can instantly be perfect, sexy, smart, and bullet-proof?

And Dan: thirty years of gay history? That's it? I'm confused by this reference. I mean, the Greeks. No, gays haven't had legal recognition like hets, but is there seriously no history? Just curious.

And Birdfarm, I applaud your compassion for the life of the utterly straight male. If there's a more constrained group I don't know who the members are. To be a middle class, white, straight male looks like pure hell to me. As a female, I can at least go out and get drunk and kiss my friends if I want to without destroying my entire identity.

The kind of alienation spoken to here isn't gay, it's universal. Different factions can argue that other factions don't have it as bad, but it's not an issue of sexual orientation, it's a human condition. We're all alienated. Look at the way we live! We don't even know our neighbors. Surely there's no harm in agreeing it's exacerbated in the gay community - being subject to, say, beatings because you prefer boys to girls is certainly not trivial - but I think it's everywhere. I can count on less than one hand the people I've known in my life who never felt ugly, undesireable, awkward, or outside.

Dear Franklin: kudos on a KICK ASS POST.

goblinbox said...

Oh, P.S. Your co-workers are total bitches, talking about you like that. You're adorable. After all, there's nothin' cuter than a handheld model. ;-) I hope they get rabies.

Colleen said...

"Whoever said "except straight men".... do you really think they are all attracted to the same kind of woman, all like sports or cars or beer? I don't."

I don't either. When I said "except straight men" I was responding to a comment about how gay men can be so bitchy to one another. I then responded that "you've just described a room full of women."

Then, Sir Edwin responded "honey, we all do it" and proceeded to describe pretty much everyone except straight men.

It was at that point that I responded "except straight men."

And, in that context, I stand by my statement.

Dan said...

And Dan: thirty years of gay history? That's it? I'm confused by this reference. I mean, the Greeks. No, gays haven't had legal recognition like hets, but is there seriously no history? Just curious.

My using thirty years is in reference to the modern gay rights movement that most historians consider started with the Stonewall riots of 1969. Certainly there were earlier permutations of gay organizing (Mattachines, Daughters of Bilitis) but as for the Greeks or Romans, that's all things we can barely make out through the fractured historical record. Its bits and pieces. Certainly people we'd call "gay" today have always existed, but as far as their cultural history, the majority of it is lost to us. Therefore the important work of recovery.

Joyce said...

Franklin, I appreciate your insightful and moving post. It is a reminder of my responsibility to be a good ally to the GLBT community.

birdfarm said...

Colleen, no offense meant--your words just started me on a train of thought. I am sorry that my post looks like I was yelling at you personally, but I didn't mean it that way.

Mushlette, it's true we're conditioned to respond to certain visual stimuli. But, as we probably all know, this is just conditioning. People in other places & times have had other ideals of beauty, as can be seen in the vast array of different depictions of the human body in different art forms around the world. The only sexual preference anthropolgists have concluded is genuinely biological is a preference for the appearance of health in a potential partner, which manifests (curiously enough) in a preference for symmetry (of limbs and features). The size--of nose or hips or lips or breasts--is not biologically hard-wired; that's just conditioning, and actually, can be changed.

And have you seen the catalogue "Making it Big"? I love that one because the models (definitely very plus-size) actually look like they're sharing a laugh with the photographer the whole time. It makes me want to be at that party. There are a lot of plus-size catalogues where the models don't look very happy with themselves. I wonder if it's that that you're responding to, perhaps in addition to the actual images?

Franklin, you've practically started a newsgroup here, with your insightful and thought-provoking posts! I don't think I ever added my voice to the others here saying that your coworkers are insane--I always thought your face was very handsome--still more so now that you seem more peaceful. Love you!

QuietdanMN said...

Excellent post Franklin! I could relate to this myself, and will refer others to your blog to read it.

Finding one's place in life is always a challenge, especially when the group(s) you try to be a part of aren't accepting of people who may not fit their idea of who should be a member of a group. It's really hard to have a "community" when people aren't open to welcoming people into the community.

Your co-worker's comments make me so angry! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and they definitely exposed that they are really ugly people.

Be well!

Liz said...

Add me to the chorus that wants to extend your post to apply it to the hetero community as well. My husband is short and bald (with the secretly nice build as well) and a complete nerd who got a PhD and therefore was not out in the "real world" until his 30s. It was obvious that his mother still bought his clothes. It was hard for him to date because he's a nice guy and most girls would rather date a good-looking guy regardless of whether or not he's a complete jackass. As for me, I'm short and dark and, while not overweight, I'm buxom rather than willowy. It always amazed my tall, thin, very blond cohorts that I had more dates than they did. Not being a total bitch from hell to the guys paid off!

Helen said...

I think this need to belong is universal.
As is, alas, the "in crowd's" apparent need to exclude others.

I don't get snubbing. I've been snubbed a plenty, and hope that I've never snubbed someone I didn't disklike because of who they were inside (insipidly annoying people with vacuous minds -- I snub after a while).

My daughter is on the "outside" these days -- and is lonely and sad because of it. I wholly understand her side. I just do NOT understand the mindset of the folks who do the snubbing. WHY do they reject others over hair styles, or clothes, or body fat ratios, or height, or hirsuitness, or hair color or sexual preference or skin color or ...... nose shape? Do they fear being pushed out that much?

Wondering -- what is it like on the "inside"? Nothing is worth what the insiders do to those on the outside.

Anonymous said...

To be loved for being yourself is the greatest and most intimate. And the most real kind of love there is.

You have no idea how many people you have touched through your blog, people who love you.

Thank you.
(Sorry to be anonymous, but I still can't figure out how these damn things work.)
Ruth

ciddyguy said...

Franklin, I caught this on LJ and find it a wonderful post.

To be perfectly honest, I've never liked nor strived to be like the "ideal" gay and part of that was I didn't recognize and come out as a gay man until my mid 30's, past the time when most people should be mature enough to see through this kind of crap.

Sadly, not all do and within the past 3 years, I decided I rather like many elements of the bear community, namely not afraid to be who they are, furry and all that but I've never strove to be huge as I never was and may never get all that huge due to my metabolism - and that's OK since I am more otterish, the guys I find most attractive are similar and the ones who've cruised me the most are also of similar build and again, that's OK w/ me as I'm growing to really like myself more and more now that I'm in my early 40's.

I will agree that what we are seeing in the way of cattiness stretched across all groups, gay or straight (or anywhere in between).

And another thing, except for a few exceptions, I generally don't fall for the young guys. Most of them just don't catch my attention visually AT ALL - and the clothes so many wear...

Yes, that does sound like I'm dissing the young set, and in a way I am. I am because I know how they act and they need to be given a rude awakening if they want to ever succeed in this world IMO.

I do actually applaud the young ones who are mature enough to see beyond the crap and be who they are. Brovo.

Angie said...

I don't know if I can add anything to this excellent post and lively discussion. I can't know how it felt to have the perception that I would be welcomed into the community and then so very not welcomed, but I can echo that we are all rejected by the "beautiful/in" crowd by our own peers and those that we would hope to attract, such is the way of the world unfortunately. How to fix it, I wish I knew...

Lynae said...

I started reading this post, because I have a new neice whose biological parents were meth addicts, and had their own lab.

I continued reading because it was very interesting, and also because I have two children ages 9 & 7. The question came up yesterday "what is gay?".

As a hetero parent, the answer "boys who like boys" and "girls who like girls" leads to SO many more questions that I have a hard time answering. Most of my answers to their questions were focused more on being accepting of people NO MATTER WHAT.

My 9 yr old isn't in the "in" crowd, but my 7 yr old is, and I can already see the heartache and differences that challenge the 9 yr old daily. It is weird to see all of this start so young.

dragon knitter said...

if it hadn't been a work situation, and i had been there, i think i would have told htem "well, it doesn't make you any less of an asshole." what creeps.

and while i am a hetero female, i can empathize. growing up in boondock, nebraska, if you weren't a jock, or a cheerleader(girls only, but girls could be jocks if they were still overtly feminine) or rich, you were shit. i was short, poor, and smarter than 90% of the rest of them, and i NEVER fit in. some people say they'd love to dohigh school again. not me.

to hell with them. we love you. and we don't care what you look like, or what you do for a living, or where you live. we love you for you.

Sarah said...

This post and the discussion it has inspired has been interesting. I would also like to add my voice to those who have written that this is universal. I wish I could better express my thoughts.

Mel said...

I think this is why I tend to hang out with lesbians.

Actually, being a less-than-A-list gay boy was just one in a long string of ways I didn't fit in. I grew up in a trailer in the boonies instead of in a split level in the subdivisions. I was one of "the smart kids". I was overweight for a lot of my childhood. I played flute instead of trumpet or drums. I never had the right clothes or the right hair, never listened to the right music, or anything else that would make me fit in.

So not being A-list is just one more. But it's such a self-destructive, superficial and cannibalistic subset of the community, that I never much saw the appeal of it. Most of my friends don't fit into that world, either (you can't live in both realms), but I'd rather be around people who are decent to each other.

I would agree, though, that it's not a phenomenon that's exclusive to "the gays". In fact, it's not even exclusive to our species. What I've come to realize is that how we act, to a large extent is very primal and not terribly different from other social species. We may be better at dressing it up, but it's really no different from the prettiest peacock getting more hens.

To answer Ted's question, I'm heading to North Carolina tomorrow to represent the Lesbian & Gay Veterinary Medical Association at a veterinary student symposium. It's not much - students there have organized a reception and I'm going to be paying for the refreshments and schmoozing a bit - but it's certainly more than was available when I went to the same symposium in Alabama 15 years ago with a pink triangle sticker on my nametag.

Arlette said...

I'm hearing a lot of people saying "Oh, (het women/straight people in general) are catty, too," but I don't think it's the same. Loneliness is universal, yeah, but using meth to deal with it isn't, and meth is hurting gay men most. When something that destructive is the easiest answer to a problem, something is seriously wrong.

The way to get rid of the gnawing hunger for acceptance is to learn to love your imperfect self. There's a whole lot more of that message going out to women than to gay men. How do we get it to those who need it?

Sophie said...

Franklin, I'm sorry to hear you have to deal with such a bunch of idiots.
Actually, I'm sorry that I had to deal myself with quite a bunch of idiots for my whole life(as a white female, I was never pretty enough, never blonde enough, never esaygoing enough, never shallow enough...)
And I'm sorry to believe that we'll just have to deal with more and more (and older) idiots, all the way through.
Life is tough and mankind is deceiving. That's why we all need drugs. (Myself? knitting and xanax)
Cheers from Belgium and
thanks for your excellent posts !

Rachel H said...

There are so many thoughts right now I'm not able to gather them properly to put in writing here. So let me just say that I'm very glad you decided to post this, and am very much enjoying the thoughtful and respectful discussion in your comments.

So thank you, Franklin, and thank you everyone who's commented.

And thank you, C, for that first comment. It's lovely, and it makes me happy that this intelligent, thoughtful, creative and lovely funny man I have come to care deeply about through this blog has you in his life.

Jeff said...

Gosh, about the Boston thing you can be so correct. I'm young, 24, and though I've been working for a while I still consider myself a new young professional. Since young professional wages are prohibitive to South End rents, I have to live in an area like Allston. Personally, I love Allston but when you're meeting guys, you do know you're being judged. You know they're thinking "Well, he definitely doesn't make enough money to satisfy my needs"

I've been nothing but lucky to have a strong power of being discerning. Or snobby, whatever is more appropos. I can make Allston seem like the new mecca. I've been able to fall into artsy groups, literary groups, crafty groups, science/geeky groups- anything other than the mainstream. I've met a fantastic variety of men. I worry about my body for my health and so that I don't miss out on fun but only to an extent. But the whole time I always let myself wake up every morning and believe that I truly do rock.

We can't change this mainstream culture right now but we are in control of our immediate response. If we let this have too much of an effect on us, it prohibits us from forming meaningful relationships. Some of the best men I've met haven't been that perfect body or filthy rich or anything but they've also been completely neurotic too. They let the culture get to them- whether it be gay culture or a culture that dictates everything is inherently wrong or right.

My response is to just alienate myself even more and be my own group. I wear crazy knit hats, pretend I'm on America's Next Top Model, act like I'm in a French movie with Chao Manh doing the soundtrack, and study Chemistry for fun. I choose to be boldly original and disarming- just like you Franklin!

Jeff
jnotjeff@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Franklin,
I admire your voice, your passion, and your talent. Thank you for the thoughtful post--I didn't read it as a rant at all. From my perspective as a gender studies profesesor, I would like to say for the record: blame the patriarchy. Seriously. It is damaging to women, to straight men (more than they even know), and obviously to gay men as well.

KLP (Knitting Library Person) said...

So, what you're saying is that the gay community can be catty and nasty, or supportive and nice, or ... JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? What a concept. "Gay people" are just like "us".

___desdemona___ said...

Ok, so the question should maybe be: Why do we do it? Why do we look down on people who are different?

Beacuse we can. At a lesbian gathering I spoke up in front of a lot of the women and said "I liked the weekend, I enjoyed myself but I never felt I could be _me_ because of the whole debate going on about bisexual women being allowed to the meetings or not. Because I am bisexual." on my way back to my seat two women look at me and one comments to the other "Now she knoes what we feel like every day" And all I could think was I feel that way all the time, too. Go on, go on a date and tell a guy you're bi. Either he'll run or he'll suggest a threesome! Your female friends get weird, your male buddies get weird and telling your family... I guess it's not much different than telling them you've joined a cult and decided you want to be slaughtered for your new god.

The thing is, we all feel pretty low a lot of the time. Maybe it's a natural human state, who knows. So we strive to feel better, and we do that by finding someone who's even less "worthy" than we are. We look for someone to look down on. And the smaller the group we belong to the more viscious we get because there's so many more people looking down on us. Because it's easier than saying "I'm fine the way I am." because it's hard to say "those other 5 billion people are all wrong." because really, what are the chances of 5 billion being wrong and one being right? So we try to belong to the 5 billion.

Rachel said...

Franklin-
I don't know which I want to do first- give you a high five for being so centered, or give you a hug for being so awesome. I am active in my own city's sex-positive community, with my own personal goal of drowning out the elitist vibe that you describe. Thanks for the reminder that everyone needs community.

Vanessa Hubbard said...

I don't fit in to the "2.2 kids nuclear family" ideal here either.

Whoop us!