There's a belief that gets regurgitated again and again within the gay community. I hear it in different variations from gay men.
It often comes with a force of incredible certainty. A short, yet powerful statement.
I don't belong.
Gay men all across this country feel these three words with incredible intensity. This statement plagues the mind, hurts the soul, and causes the heart to ache.
I'm here to tell every gay man reading this: You belong in the gay community. Just as you are.
The thing is, if you don't believe you belong (or even want to belong) in the gay community, you never will.
I can't convince you to believe differently. It's entirely up to you.
Your very belief of 'not belonging' feeds feelings of isolation, loneliness, and of being an outsider.
Thinking you need a certain skin color, massive amount of wealth, or six-pack abs in order to find a place in the gay community is utter bullshit. Even if your past experience tells you otherwise. Stop believing and saying that!
Belonging and finding your place in a community is about finding and cultivating friendships that are life-giving. Friendships that burst with joy, laughter, honesty, care and support.
All of us, myself included, have to get out of this mindset of needing gay men to "give" us something -- attention, praise, or affirmation -- and focus on what each of us has to offer others.
Finding your place in a community, which really means finding quality friends, is not about being thrust onto a pedestal for all to gawk at. It's about living in the trenches of everyday life and supporting each other through thick and thin.
The only person that prevents or keeps you from finding community and connection is you.
There are no gay gatekeepers or goalies that block you from finding belonging. Perhaps you've been hurt in the past. In response, you've closed yourself off, holed up, and kept other gay men at a distance. Sure, you may not get hurt anymore or in the same way. But you also won't feel the love or connection you truly desire.
Our minds are powerful. They like to find and build evidence for why something is the case. Many gay men have evidence of being rejected by other gay men. And that's the only evidence they consider when it comes to belonging in the gay community.
By continuing to feed and cultivate the case for not belonging, that's all you'll feel and experience.
If people do not accept you for who you are, they are not your people! Realize that and let them go. Instead, spend your energy finding people who value integrity, love, compassion, and grace. They are out there.
Use myself as evidence of why you belong. Start there. I know you have a place in the gay community. I believe you belong. I am a gay man and I know you have a place. Just as you are. You have so many unique gifts, perspectives, and quirks to add to the mix.
For every gay man that is shallow, condescending, and vain, there are many more that are grounded, gracious, and kind. Kind gay men are out there. They are everywhere. Maybe you haven't met them yet. Maybe you haven't given them the opportunity to be a friend.
Look, I get that you might have been hurt by gay men in ways I haven't experienced. My heart feels for you and I stand right beside you in solidarity.
My desire is for you to release that pain and hurt. Give it away. Set it free so you can open your heart and life to thoughtful gay men, who will accept and love you just as you are.
Stand powerfully and confident in this truth: I belong. Whisper it aloud right now. No one can take that from you.
Start today. Tell yourself this new story. Give yourself the gift of belonging. It's yours for the taking.