THE BLOG

'I Am Because We Are,' but What Are We?

05/28/2013 01:55 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Confession: Most of the times I write a post, an idea races from my heart to my head and then to my fingertips. There is little pause between the different moments in this process. The exceptions are posts like this one, posts that are not about anger (or only anger) but fear or profound sadness, posts that requires me to confront the dark and the parts of me that hurt. Those posts are often a little messier, because I am working through something or working something out, but they are also more honest.

We are told that the truth shall set us free, but we are not often told that the process of being set free can be painful.

Truth: We queer people are living at a time when the LGBT rights movement is making incredible strides, and, unsurprisingly, there has been a backlash taking shape in horrible rhetoric, physical violence and legislative efforts to keep sexual minorities as second- and third-class citizens.

Another truth: We queer people are living at a time when the LGBT rights movement is making incredible strides, but whether we really have a "community" is highly debatable.

The Huffington Post's Lila Shapiro wrote an article about the New York City march in protest of the recent surge of anti-gay violence, and what stood out to me were the following two passages:

At times, the rally felt more like a social event, with marchers strolling along without signs, chatting with friends. "It's a somber moment here," one man to two friends, laughing. "But I'm cruising for dudes."

And:

"The frivolity of this community is so toxic," Babriella Sonam said. "A beautiful young man was murdered and everyone is laughing. It was making me cry. [...] I'm old enough to remember when we were a real community. Now when I hear references to the gay community it upsets me so much. [...] People think that just because we can get married in 20 percent of the states, the fight is over. It's not over."

After reading those statements, my mind flashed to the It Gets Better campaign and how less publicized videos were posted contesting this notion on grounds of separatism, videos pointing out that, for some of us, it doesn't always get better, but you can become stronger. (At least I like to think so.)

I wonder how we can tell the younger generation that it gets better and not prepare them for the stones that will come from the hands of their "community."

Then my mind flashed to last weekend, when a friend and I were two of only seven black people in a gay club, because this club is known to be for the bear/leather scene and, well, a gay club, meaning "white." I remember thinking that if we had gone out on a Friday, we would have gone to a different club, Mags, because Friday is the de facto black gay night at that club. Then I thought about how this is not rare or limited to the city I live in. Yes, we often fracture off and socialize according to our attractions, but we also segregate in many areas along lines of race and gender, and what frequently happens is that racialized sexual minorities are lumped together in a few spaces scattered across cities. (Now, I know that I am making sweeping generalities, and one can easily say, "Well, there are racial minorities who come to our bar," but I would ask whether they are the exception that proves the rule.)

I then thought about how much attraction seems to govern gay culture (not that I think that heterosexual culture is not governed by attraction as well; I am just not as invested), and I took a drink. I swallowed a shot, because I was in a bar and feeling a little too much like Larry Kramer circa The Tragedy of Today's Gays at that point. But it still stuck in my head, that observation about the unspoken rules governing our interactions and the invisible fences of our "public" spaces.

I titled this blog post with a variation on a quotation I saw on a friend's Instagram page. He was reading Huey P. Newton's Revolutionary Suicide (I have not read this yet) and posted a photograph of the quotation to his Instagram feed. When I saw it, I smiled, and then I thought about Sonam's implicit charge that we are not a real community. I wanted to say, "Yes, we are! That gay boy over there is my brother; she is my sister; we are family. I am we, and we are me." But I couldn't, because if someone asked me what "gay culture" or "queer culture" is, I could give a detailed answer, a history lesson, but if they asked me what the "gay community" is, I don't know what I would say. I fantasized about it once. When I was a wee gay boy, not yet calling myself "queer," I had this naïve idea that after accepting myself and coming out, not only would I get stronger but things would get better for me and those who looked like me, and I would be embraced by this community. I would finally fit. That seemed to be the unspoken promise. But, as I said, I was naïve, and it was a fantasy, and I don't know who even made me this unspoken promise of community; most likely I made it to myself.

One last truth: I love my people: the disenfranchised, the freaks, the queers, the gays, the bois, the boys, the girls, the gurls, the z's, the racial minorities, the bodies that do not fit, the bodies that are looked over, and those I cannot name because language is inadequate.

A belief: I am not sure that we are not a community. We may be fractured and splintering, but we hold within us the possibility to be a community, a great community. We are working for a revolution -- at least I hope we are. A true revolution does not aspire to simple freedom or the truly troubling and vague idea of equality. No, to become like the oppressor is not the goal of revolution, nor is it the goal to dissolve the ties that bind us one to the other. Revolution seeks to show the oppressor(s) new and better ways to perform the act of living.

This summer is my 10th year of being out and proud.