Saturday, November 1, 2008

Open Forum: Do We Have a "Gay Lifestyle?"

LGBTQ people are quick to be on the defensive when someone invokes the word "lifestyle" with regards to LGBTQ lives. Sometimes the term "gay lifestyle" is used to disparage LGBTQ people and insinuate that our sexual orientations or gender identities are but a mere choice. Anyone with some common sense knows that nobody chooses to be gay. Nobody chooses to feel isolated for years, face discrimination, and live as a second class citizen in a society that does not regard you as an equal.

The notion that we choose to be queer is illogical. However, the question as to whether we live a "queer lifestyle" is legitimate debate in my opinion. Living in a gayborhood, reading queer-centric news/publications, being an LGBT activist, going to an LGBT church or house of worship, going to gay clubs, restaurants, inns/hotels, choosing queer books and films, and socializing with other queer folks. At some point one has got to wonder, does a huge chunk of my life revolve around queerness? If it does, wouldn't this constitute as being a practitioner of the "gay lifestyle?" Thoughts?


Nick said...

Those of us lucky enough to live in 'gayborhoods' do live a daily lifestyle and those of us paying attention to current events and gay trends will patronage or boycott as needed or deserved in the business world.

However there are more disturbing aspects of our 'lifestyle' that I would like to bring to light. We are so concerned with our particular letter in the alphabet soup of the queer GBTLRDX or whatever that we are a fractured people. We could have marriage rights by now if we weren't at each other’s throats all the time. The bitchiness, the gay vs dyke, the queer GOP vs the queer Democrat’ is a nightmare. We have no solidity. In my area our queer resource center fell to pieces when the guys got mad at the gals for some reason I can't remember and then boycotted the center itself. It was the downfall of this area's queer center and it has never recovered.

Whenever I start to want to get involved in political gay issues and gay rights, I find petty bitchy people pointing fingers at each other and get frustrated and leave. We are our own worst enemy and we hold ourselves to ridiculous stereotypes. How many times have I, as a 'stone-butch', have heard from the 'modern granola dyke' that if they wanted a man they would be straight? Condemning me for who I am. How many times have we been 'freaked out' by the FtM or the MtF and insist that they have 'jumped ship'. Or better yet, the assumption that any queer who is also Christian, or does not support the Democrats or Obama specifically are traitors to the community?

We represent diversity to its fullest extent in humanity and yet fall prey to the bigoted ideas of the straight society around us to discriminate against each other. Assuming that we can be categorized or that we have a particular 'lifestyle' that we should adhere to or be called traitors.

So in answer to your question, yes we have a 'lifestyle' that most of us unconsciously cling to, to the detriment of others in our community. If we can't solve this problem we will never be able to solidify our rights as uniquely diverse peoples within a straight society.

Queers United said...

Nick I agree with you whole heatedly and thank you for such a well thought out and thought provoking post. I think that there is way too much division which is a detriment towards accomplishing our goals. We all want the same thing, acceptance and equal rights, we have different ways of getting there and that is ok, but we must be united in our vision of achieving that fundamental goal of human rights.

Your post also makes me think, can we broadly call anything "the gay lifestyle" can we really lump the gay activist, the gay christian, and the gay pornstar under the same umbrella of lifestyle when we all live such vastly different lives? I guess the three have in common the notion that they are queer-centric but all have vastly different ideas of what it means to be gay and how they choose to embrace their queer identity.

QueerRose said...

I don't think there is any such thing as a gay "lifestyle" - for the reasons outlined above and the fact that many of our community are hidden / don't have access to the things listed in your post. Also, re that list - if you exchange the word gay for straight you get a description of a straight lifestyle? I don't think there would be any argument that there isn't any such thing. QRx

Nick said...

I think there is such a thing as an overall queer identity. The Christian and the porn star and all in-between will have a tendency to all contribute to rights campaigns, boycott homophobic businesses and hire the queer real estate agent. Put us all in the same building and we fight. Sometimes we march down the street together but reserve that as the only time we would be willing to be seen in public with each other. We expect tolerance and are yet incapable of showing it too each other. It is the bleed-over of straight society. We have no strong history to cling to that we know as well as that of our country or race. We have no core identity other than our non-straight or traditional identities.

On a side note, I disagree with the idea that our queer community is a different sexual identity. It implies a limitation to our existence, personalities and realities that restrict a true understanding of who and what we are. Our lives are about so much more than who it is we want to have sex with. Or who we want to marry. It is not about what we are, it is about who we are. What we do every moment of our lives; it effects the decisions we make from what kind of car we buy to what we consider ‘dressing up’. It is why I use the term queer. It is as close as I can get to saying, “other than the norm.”

Scot said...

My lifestyle, deep in a suburb of the reddest state, involves getting the kids ready for school, getting them to karate, helping with homework, work in my lab, maybe a date night here or there with the husband if we can find a sitter, and so on. I get a chuckle out of our opponents going on about how horrible the gay lifestyle is, when, to me, it's nearer leave it to beaver than most anti-gay activists I've known ever get in their personal lives :-).

But, at least in our local gay community, we're all brought together by our need to defend ourselves. It wasn't always like this. When I was a kid coming out, I got guff from some in the gay community for not having more of a "gay lifestyle". In fact, I left activism for many years because of it. Now though, things have changed. Boring gays like me can stand next to the Gay Christian and Gay Porn Star. It may not be a shared "lifestyle", but there is an undeniable sense of camaraderie and respect for the choices of others in our queer family.

Nicky said...

It's like that with the intersex. Now you have transgender people who are trying to step in the turf of the intersex and say to the intersex, that their choice is similar to the intersex, which in turn infuriates and often get's heated and at their throats.

It's been an on going battle because intersex don't want anything to do with the transgender and transgender who want to co-opt the intersex and try to force their way into the intersex community.

Queers United said...

Nicky - Trying to stay on topic with the notion of whether we live "gay lifestyles" and responding to you. I would say that this is exactly the division Nick is talking about that seems so apparent in our lifestyle. We are all gender and sexual minorities and need to be united in one front. Also, you live one lifestyle and another intersex person lives another and may have different views. You can't paint a broad brush, many intersex people like joining alliances with the LGBT movement. It does not mean intersex is the same, intersex and trans are different. Sexuality, and gender are different as well. That doesn't mean you can't have an intersex transgender gay person. Those 3 attributes can apply to one person. That queer individual may or may not live a "gay lifestyle" I think it depends on how heavily those variables influence decisions in other arenas of their life.

Nick said...

I can see why transgendered folks, like myself, would want to define themselves as intersex. I have wondered myself if that might not be a better term for transgendered. How do we know that there are not chemical and biological differences within our genetic makeup that has caused this transgendered identity? Would that not qualify as intersex? Biological differences that may not be as apparent as having the physical attributes of both sexes? Yet medically speaking, if many of the transgendered peoples are actually chemically and biologically different than the gender they 'seem' to be on the outside than that would make them medically intersex.

Take myself for example. I have the physical reproductive system of a female and yet my chest is incredibly tiny, my frame is large with broad shoulders, large manly hands and feet, square jaw and a deep voice. I knew I would have rather been a boy from the early ages of 3 and 4. I am in almost every sense of the word a male in my personality and overall looks and always have been. I even went into menopause at the age of 34. I honestly feel there is something biologically different about me.

FYI, I have never taken any male hormones.

Regardless of any of that, these arguments are what divide us as a people. If we are all in agreement that we are born the way we are and that our way of life is not a choice then we are a people. A distinctly different kind of person than ‘straight’ people.

If we could get it together and learn to accept one another, we could change the world. Think about it, in every race and in every culture there are those like us and even within our infighting we come together blind to race and fight to purge the male/female stereotype. We bring together not only the male and the female but also the various races and cultures. Almost as if we are the one constant in the diverse peoples of the world that make them all essentially the same. They all have us and most all of them despise us as freaks.

The fight against the ‘gay agenda’ has brought the Evangelical and the Mormon and the Catholic together united under one cause. What if we could somehow flip that to make the cause acceptance, freedom and peace? I have often dreamed that if we could truly unite as one people, we could be an example to the world as an entity of tolerance and acceptance and peace. A people with a message to the world. There is no other thing or issue on earth that has brought such a diverse crowd of peoples under the same cause as the ‘gay agenda’ has. Across borders and cultures, this single issue unites us as we feel fear for the Iraqi queer being hunted down; the Iranian queer being put to death in the street by the government; the Alabama queer left for dead in a ditch. They are all one of ‘us’. A queer just trying to live as they are meant to be. Imagine the power we would have if we could truly come together as one voice.

Wow…am I long-winded or what!

p.Johanna said...

i term lifestyle like a vegeterian. this is where it becomes tricky, I know that we don't chose who we love, but I do chose to go watch gay films, watch gay tv, watch gay comics, buy gay books or magazines, go to the gay hoods, hang out at the gay bars, because that is where i am most comfortable. i want to go watch the lesbian sports teams play and i like to hang out with the lesbians, so in essence that is the lifestlye i chose, BUT that DOES NOT mean that we CHOSE to be gay, that is something completely different.

Seth said...

I think that queer folks can and do bring unique traits to the table when it comes to culture/lifestyle. I don't think we should strive for a homogeneous culture of any kind (based on hetero norms or on what one group defines as "queer"), but I believe we should make space(s) for queer people to express themselves in whatever way comes naturally to them. Personally, I feel the most at home with what the radical faeries have done and are doing in this regard.

Anonymous said...

RE: Nick

It's so true about the non-inclusionary attitudes of the gay "lifestyle" and community. It's generally just as clicky as High School but twice as bitchy. When I was in my 20's and tried both the gay bar and gay dance club scenes when I came out, I found myself largely rejected and treated very poorly by my "community" because I am husky (don't have a 28-32 waist) but by no means am overweight. But since some other 20-something gay's at the time didn't want to bed me then I was treated like dirt (and YES, I am a generally socially friendly and outgoing person).

Then on the flip side when I turned 30 I tried to join a gay support group for gay men who have different types of heart conditions and they wouldn't let me join because they perceived me to be to YOUNG to join (as if health issues only stick to certain ages)!

I finally found a niche through gay speed dating groups, I almost always get around 3-5 guys who want to have a date afterwards, but what sucks is that it can sometimes take many years for a gay man to find a niche within the gay community, and if you don't fit a perceived clicky "lifestyle" you are usually scorned by the group, sadly like high school students but these are men from their 20's to their 50's.

queen emily said...

I don't feel like my girlfriend and I have a particularly gay lifestyle. Despite the bookshelves heaving with queer theory, we're very much homebodies, live in the suburbs and don't get too many GLBT events.

What we are passionate about (and what signifies anyone with a queer political orientation) is rights, marriage rights, immigration rights, rights for trans people.

rosstart said...

To imply, let alone say outright, that there is one, authentic gay, queer, LGBTQ (what have you) lifestyle makes about as much sense as saying there is one black, African-American, person of color (what have you) lifestyle or one (fill-in-the-blank of any disenfranchised cultural/ethnic group) lifestyle. In Sociology 101 the college freshman learns that there is more variation WITHIN a cultural group than BETWEEN cultural groups, so to think that any group of people who share some characteristics which may identify them as a subculture of the so-called "norm," in fact share EVERY characteristic imaginable is, to be polite, naive, but is in truth, just plain ignorant.

I completely agree that we, meaning the LGBTQ community, are as diverse as the mainstream culture, and inherent in that diversity are the same seeds of racism, sexism, age-ism, size-ism, and every other -ism you can think up. We are a microcosm of the world, with all its faults and foibles. And statistically alot of us ride the fence, or the door jamb, if you will: one foot in the closet, one foot out. Our visibility is fluid. Feeling out, and being out--ACTING out--are not necessarily the same thing. Not that it's not perfectly fine to be out in your own way; each to his or her own. But there in lies the problem, doesn't it? We each have a definition, an IMAGE, of what it means to be out. And come hell or high water, you better live up to MY image of outness or you're going to hear about it. Which of course only serves to make the rift bigger.

I worked on Pride for 5 years, and every year the ED and I commiserated on how it felt more and more like a @#$%ing happy little beer bash, often during the wee hours of the morning when we felt most productive and most vulnerable. Ultimately, we concluded that regardless of our feelings, if Pride helped some folks feel connected to other LGBTQ people for the first time--that, "Hey, I'm not alone; there are others like me" feeling--then it was worth all the late nights, drunken brawls in the beer garden, and a$$h@les having sex in the portapotties. Our mantra was "Come from love...there's enough hate in the world."

Anonymous said...

However, the question as to whether we live a "straight lifestyle" is legitimate debate in my opinion. Living in a straightborhood, reading straight-centric news/publications, being a protect marriage activist, going to an straight church or house of worship, going to straight clubs, restaurants, inns/hotels, choosing straight books and films, and socializing with other straight folks. At some point one has got to wonder, does a huge chunk of my life revolve around striahgtness? If it does, wouldn't this constitute as being a practitioner of the "straight lifestyle?"

nuf said..

Queers United said...

Anonymous - You make an interesting point but while straight people are the majority they can't really help but be surrounded with straight images. It is us who are a minority that choose to surround ourselves with gayness. However, someone dedicated to promoting straight culture and fighting gays, ie: Americans for truth about homosexuality, they are choosing a straight lifestyle (although we all know it is probably not all too straight).

Old Salt said...

Queers are, regardless of sex, a bunch of bitchy cunts. When you are sensible enough to admit that flaw you'll have enough intelligence to stay in your place and not try to pull the uppity crap on society.

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