In the United States, it is estimated that only 3.5 percent of adults openly identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. I am part of that minute percentage. As an out gay man, I have experienced the gay community first-hand. I have encountered my fair share of homophobia over the years. Not everything about being gay is rainbow flags and unicorn horn headbands—it is truly a struggle, both physical and emotional. Even in a country as progressive as ours, gays are not widely accepted due to biases formed from religious beliefs, the AIDs epidemic, and various stereotypes respectfully. Regardless of prejudices, I believe gays have never been in a better standing with society. The overall disposition of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) members is far from perfect but there are noticeable improvements. While society as a whole is advancing through use of cultural diversity and modern technologies, so is the gay community.
Phil Bartle, author of What Is Community? A Sociological Perspective, states, “… [a] community does not fit into a nice, neat package.” This could not be more true when it relates to the gay community. The gay community is a very diverse but close-knit “family,” meaning that everyone in the community can relate to each other when it comes to certain experiences. For example, lesbians are a sub-group separate from the gay men but we claim each other as part of the whole. The phrase itself “gay community” is more of an umbrella term covering all homosexual people. Although I identify with the general LGBT community, I specifically belong to the gay male community. Many gay men share similar views, but my personal perspective is unique as an individual.
I would like to focus now on the gay male community and their obsession with nightlife, while also speaking on hardships and triumphs that shaped us as we know it today. The gay nightlife is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of my culture. To paint a picture of this scene, imagine loud, pounding music, dark sketchy clubs, and drugs. My first time in a gay club was eye-opening, to say the least. Beforehand, I imagined it to be a little more wholesome than what I witnessed. What I saw were half naked men dancing on each other and boys in tight underwear passing around Jell-O shots in return for one dollar bills down their shorts. The music was so loud that when I left, my hearing was impaired for at least ten minutes. The first gay club I went to was called Splash in downtown Baton Rouge with my ex-boyfriend Daniel. Daniel was a bit older and was well known in the Baton Rouge gay community, so he knew everyone in there, whether they were behind the bar or dancing. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was told to never go into the bathrooms because there was going to be an abundance of sex and club drugs. Drugs and promiscuity are unfortunately a large part of gay culture. I was surprised to hear this at the time, naively thinking gay men around America were as wholesome as they appeared on television. The whole night I danced on the dance floor to bad remixes of popular songs while surrounded by drunk sweaty men. When leaving Splash, I was run into by a drag queen known in the area as Lady D Andrews and her “drag sister”, Amanda Rose Andrews as they were coming out of the makeup room. I was introduced to them by Daniel. They bombarded me with cheek kissing, a commonality in the gay community, which I’m not super fond of. Drag queens are a major part of today’s gay culture. If there is one thing about Splash I love though, it is drag shows. My first experience in a gay nightclub was one to remember, but to me, being gay isn’t all about clubbing and the “nightlife” experience. I do not enjoy the club atmosphere as most would expect me to. When I compare myself to the gay community, I consider myself a conservative in many ways. I do not judge other gays who have opposing opinions though, as I hope they would do the same for me.
June 12th, 2016 is a date that will live in infamy for gays and Americans alike. This was the day 49 people were killed inside Pulse NightClub in Orlando, Florida during a hate crime rampage. An additional 58 people were wounded as a result of the attack. These people, the majority of whom were gay, were doing nothing but enjoying themselves when the shooter mercilessly opened fire. They weren’t inciting any violence. They were attacked for no other reason than their sexual orientation. Homophobia is a problem we face in everyday life, but sometimes it turns deadly. As an American, I know I have a better life than gays in different parts of the world, but it is unsettling to think large scale violence can happen here at home. Whether one is pro-gay or not, the Pulse shooting has left an impression on all Americans. After the attack, it was humbling to see how many people came together in solidarity for the victims. Straight, gay, and trans individuals supported each other and it opened many hearts and minds alike. The event, although tragic, earned us some respect in society and brought our community closer together.
Other than our club scene, there are other things we take pride in as well. Pride is the gay thing to do. The entire month of June is dedicated to it! Parades, drag shows, conventions, parties, music, food, art, and charitable fundraisers are just some things to look forward to. Sadly it doesn’t get promoted by mainstream media too much. Pride is a month for us to celebrate who we are as homosexuals. We reflect on our accomplishments and celebrate them. During Pride Month on June 26th, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court made history by making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. This was a momentous feat for the community. For years we have fought for marriage equality and finally we are able to marry whom we love. We could make our love official just like everyone else. For the first time we had the same privilege as heterosexual couples. This would immediately start arguments from right wing conservatives saying it was a “slippery slope,” and it would lead to incestuous marriage or bestiality. These homophobic claims were made without fact and I found them, frankly, immature. I remember when I first heard that marriage was legal for us. I had woken up late from a long night at work. I grabbed my phone first thing that morning and on the screen was a notification headline stating “U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Marriage Ban.” First I was in shock, but once I accepted the news, I actually wept. I felt so much joy and optimism for not only my future, but for all gays. I imagined I would need to get married in Canada. Never did I imagine I would have the convenience of marrying in my own country, my own state, or my own city. After I found out the news, I messaged a former teacher that was close to me and jokingly asked if she would come to my wedding now that it would not have to be in Canada anymore. Pride isn’t just for the gay community; Pride is for every single member of the LGBT+ community. Every lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and everyone under the spectrum celebrated Pride that year more passionately, for we had won a major battle in our fight for equality.
During Pride events and the gay nightlife, we use social media to create events at the local dive bar or night club, or post specials during Pride month. Facebook, twitter, and Instagram, are all platforms to stay informed and in contact. There would be special Facebook groups for the sub-communities in our community. Social media is the way to connect with everyone in the gay community. Apps have been developed exclusively for the gay community: Grindr, Scruff, Gowlr, Chappy. Most users utilize these apps to find potential sex partners or long term relationships. Social media has made it so much easier to connect with one another and stay informed. It is hard to imagine that at one point in time the internet was unavailable. The use of internet has propelled humanity into the future and will continue to change the lives of all of us, for better or worse. In my opinion, the internet is a great tool to use, but should be used responsibly. Since there is so much information at our fingertips, it’s easy to develop new views on topics you would otherwise be ignorant of. I’m hopeful that technology will continue evolving in the gay community’s favor, along with the world’s view of homosexuality.
Through the gay community may not be seen as a community to a majority of humans around the world, that does not mean that we do not matter. We have been through the same things any community has. Our triumphs, heartaches, technological advances, and ideals may or may not have similarities to other communities, but I firmly believe that we are the same as any other community. We may be bashed for who we are, how we use our technology, or how we act, but that does not make us less than another community. As a community, we are in the adolescent stages of acceptance. I cannot speak for every gay man, but I can say I am proud of who I am.