Community and lack thereof

I didn't know Ryan K. Robertson. I don't even remember the name of the cute guy I used to see at The Cobalt Cafe who killed himself in Volunteer Park. Besides suicide, they had something in common. They both felt that the gay community's fixation on sex and image prevented them from establishing meaningful relationships. In some respects, I agree.
Recently at dinner with Risa and Keith, Risa asked me to explain why I didn't really like one of her sister's gay friends. "I don't think you would understand unless you were a gay man," I said.
"Well, try me," she responded.
And I didn't know how to put it into words (maybe because I was on my second martini). The mere fact that I would relegate this living, breathing, complex human into 'them' status because of his speech patterns, the way he dresses, and his values--well, at least my perception of them--says a lot about the current state of the gay community. How can we prevent someone from taking their life if we quickly label them and put them on a shelf?
At brunch with Geoff on Sunday, we were having a similar conversation. He went to a house party and there were some Chelsea-boy types there. They held no interest to him and trying to have a conversation with one was out of the question. In some respects, this form of intra-minority stereotyping is similar to the "blue-veined" mulattoes and full-blooded blacks that was pervasive from the turn-of-the century to the 1950's. However, theirs was a class stuggle and desire to fit into the white world; ours is an adolescent struggle to define our very nature. I don't need to say that this stuggle is divisive--it is literally killing people; yet, it persists.
I think, in a lot of ways, we are ill-equipped to solve this problem. As gay men, we socialize much later in life than heteros. When straight people are fifteen or sixteen, they are copping a feel in the back seat of their dad's Buick. If we are lucky, by the time we are in college, we'll finally start sexualization--many of us have even longer to wait. Add to that overcoming the societal stigmas of being gay and, by the time we actually realize there is a community, we are too jaded to actually participate in it and contribute to it.
Gay men are more likely to attempt suicide than straight men. I know of two who have succeeded. I know of two who have failed--one of those is me.
I don't think I'll ever try it again. I don't think I'll ever feel that kind of despair again. Even though most of the gay guys I meet are insipid and vain, I don't think I'll ever quit looking for 'the right one'. Maybe, I'll even come to place where I can reconcile the dichotomies of anonymity/recognizability and lust/love that are inherent in the gay community. Right now, I don't have the solutions for these heady struggles which have claimed the lives of so many of us, but I hope I can, at least, open a dialogue so that we may one day save ourselves.


durban said...

Excellent post! Thanks for sharing that. I think it's important for us to let others know (sometimes) what we go through. Most people think that kinda stuff only happens to "those other people" when, in fact, it may be happening to someone they are very close with.

Hopefully this will help someone else.

Chad said...

Amen! I'm going to miss Ryan's smile and laugh. :(

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