In a community built on a foundation that we all know what it's like to be different and face some sort of discrimination, why do we feel the need to constantly cut each other down?
Since I have come out, I have encountered many different types of gay men.
Like all communities, no one is exactly the same, and within our broad gay community, there are, in fact, subcultures that exist, just like any other large community.
However, what has boggled my mind is there seems to be some sort of hierarchy within the gay community, or at least a never-ending amount of cliques.
You know, those things that existed in high school.
Here are a few reasons why this community is so competitive:
1. We have a second adolescence.
We did not get to date like our straight peers growing up and experience sex, drinking, drugs, etc., with people we found attractive.
It's basically like we go through a second adolescence.
We often move to a big city, where gay is okay, or at least more so than the small suburbs and rural farms we grew up in.
We finally get to find out there are people like us, but also many who still aren't.
2. We separate ourselves into subcategories.
We have our wolves, otters, bears, daddies, babies, twinks, twunks, jocks and a never-ending list of categories that ultimately say one thing: we aren't equal, we are separate.
We may cross paths, but often, we tend to stick to those cliques that match ourselves, which makes sense from a sociological perspective.
Comfort comes from understanding something, and we tend to understand ourselves better than someone we don't know.
However, we are reverting back to an immature notion that because someone doesn't look like us, we don't understand him or her, when frankly, this is not true.
3. We struggle with notions of masculinity and femininity.
We are using outdated versions of what it means to be masculine and feminine to classify a group of people who do not fall strictly into either category, as most don't in today's world.
We create an internalized homophobia based off how “masc” or “straight-acting” someone should or should not be, when in fact, both of these terms are ridiculous.
4. We are obsessed with looks and perfection.
So much of gay life revolves around appearances: what you look like, what your friends look like, where you are hanging out, what you are doing, etc.
Sure, there are different personality types, different interests and different activities groups like to partake in, but it all seems to stem back to a classification system. Finding the most “fabulous” and perfect versions of each of these things seems to be the goal.
5. No one explicitly knows our past.
Unless we decide to share it, but even then, it is a one-sided version of what happened.
When you grow up and have friends from childhood, there is a basic understanding of who you are.
However, when you grow up and move away from everything you knew, you get to start over — for better or worse.
If we were more honest about our pasts, we would see we are more alike than we could ever imagine; we all faced the same discriminations and bullying.
6. Success makes you unpopular in a world where popular is apparently still a thing.
As gay men, we work so hard to prove to others, and ourselves, that we are, in fact, amazing.
We were told by ourselves and others for a period of time that we were anything but.
However, once we get to the place we dreamt of for so long, we often find those who were not so friendly become extremely friendly for self-serving purposes.
Furthermore, you find the better you are doing professionally, romantically or whatever the case may be, the more everyone else in the community has something to say about you.
7. We create prejudices and separate ourselves.
We often create a level of competition that becomes so fierce, it hurts us as a community rather than pushes us forward.
We create subgroups within subgroups to classify our own community.
It's not just the wolves, bears, otters and the rest of the animal kingdom.
It's ageism, professionalism, racism, interest, neighborhoods, etc., that shape how we look at one another.
8. Everyone is every kind of possibility.
Whether it be sexually, romantically, friendly or professionally, we can all fill each others' needs in multiple ways that do not exist in the straight world.
We often come into a new group with the thought that maybe one of these guys could be my boyfriend, or at least someone I'm into.
However, someone may find you attractive, but you do not look at him the same way, so the dynamic is thrown; you would rather be friends while the other person would rather have sex.
Thus, your purposes do not match.
9. Everyone is connected.
This has become something that is more prevalent in today's day and age because of social media, but literally every gay man seems to know the other gay men in his community.
And, if for some crazy reason you do not know each other, there is probably one degree of separation.
Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn suggest you know X person because well, he's gay. However, this just means we all "think" we know each other.
10. Our exes and friends can date each other.
To build upon the idea that everyone is connected, we can date each other's exes in a way the straight world will never experience.
We can become each other's partners, sexual conquests, best friends and ex-boyfriends.
Our ex can date our best friend, who was someone we, at one point, could have been dating.
The relationships that exist within the gay community are so complex and run so deep, it feels like we are constantly surrounded by no one new.
What we need to remember is none of these points should be used as an excuse to cut each other down.
We need to remember that we all face the same discrimination.
We want the same rights, we want success and if someone in our community is doing well, we should applaud them, not gossip like children.
When someone else succeeds, it doesn't mean your chance for success diminish. Rather, it means your chance at success is lit by a light even brighter than before.
Jealousy, bitterness and gossip stem from an ugly place inside all of us that simply says, “I wish I could be doing what that person is doing.” “I want what that person has.”
Well, the thing is, you can. You just have to get out of your own way, stop focusing so much on others and live your life for you and no one else.
When you find your authenticity and get over the cliques, what you find is commonality.
We must go back to being a brotherhood before it's too late, and claim our pride in a new way.
Let's lose the labels; they perpetuate stereotypes that were put on us to make us look bad in the first place.
Let's lift each other up. Let's make each other proud. Let's define a new way to be gay.