It's not difficult to find a gay man who has been hurt by another gay man.
Sure, there might be different degrees of hurt. Some offenses were probably more subtle, while others were more blatant and outward. Regardless, they all can leave a mark.
The reality is that many gay men are carrying past hurt with them day in and day out. The experience and wound gets re-opened each time they think about the look, insult or slur that was thrown their way. Instead of healing, the wound gets sliced open over and over again.
On the other side, there are gay men out there who continue to hurt other gay men. Their view of the world is narrow and self-absorption is a way of life. Their self is the center of the world and they swing violently throughout the bars, beaches and community, much like a wrecking ball (cue Miley Cyrus).
All of this creates a recipe for long-lasting grudges, cycles of hurt and monumental barriers to forming a sense of community among gay men.
Is this presence of skepticism, paranoia and suspicion of gay men toward other gay men an old phenomenon? Or is this new? Is it something that wasn't ever talked about or acknowledged before or are we facing a brand new beast?
What I don't hear a lot within the gay community is the concept of forgiveness.
Merriam-Webster says to forgive is to "stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong)" and "to stop blaming (someone)." To "stop feeling anger about (something) and "to forgive someone for (something wrong)".
While there are certainly pockets and moments of love shown between gay men, there is also burning rage in the hearts of many -- especially those who have been hurt time and again.
Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi spoke strongly about forgiving others. King said, "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love." And Gandhi boldly proclaimed, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong".
It's safe to say that most gay men have been hurt by other gay men at some point in their lives. What would it look like for you to forgive the gay men that have hurt you in your life? Is it possible for you to let go of that hurt you've been carrying around for days weeks, months or even decades? Do you believe reconciliation is even possible?
Maybe forgiveness is a muscle we've allowed to get flabby and weak. Maybe we've been holding out for an apology from our perpetrator that may never arrive. The truth is that when we refuse to forgive others, we only imprison ourselves.
Every gay man reading this gets to decide: Will I carry anger or love in my heart? You can't carry both.
Yes, we need to educate our fellow gay men and be bold in confronting racism, classism, ageism and other -isms that too often go unaddressed in our community.
I fear, however, that without an element of forgiveness, our posture toward one another will continue to harden. The distance and divide will increase and the toxic words we throw toward one another will become increasingly sharp and pointed.
There's very little hope of cultivating community and friendships when we can't stand one another and when we won't forgive.
Forgiveness is messy. It's complicated. Maybe we're afraid to air our "dirty laundry" to the larger world. If we're real honest with ourselves, gay men are not at all immune to hating one another. Perhaps a part of you hates other gay men in this very moment.
While writing this, I came across these powerful words from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking, but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end, only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.
Will gay men step forward to choose forgiveness? Will I? Will you? What will be your first step toward forgiving your fellow gay men?
May we strive to be a community that demonstrates to the rest of the world what authentic and messy forgiveness looks like.