Sunday, May 20, 2007

A letter to the newbies

Pride, screwed up as it is, in my town is coming up at the end of June...and organizer that I am, I find my little fingers amidst it. But that's not what I'm writing about today.

I spent my afternoon yesterday with an otherwise sensible, employed, brilliant and kindly sort and a fair amount of the evening chatting with friends and acquaintances in the community...and was minded to write a letter to the newly out and the poor SOB's of all genders about to be thrust into that adventure.

Now, the newly out and about to be out are - IMNSHO - bugf$^k nuts for about a year, on average, from "THE MOMENT". Some are out there a bit longer, some hurry up about the project, and some sad souls are trapped in that state for a very long time indeed. I speak only to the mens side of the community here, not having much experience of the womens, so can't comment of the BFN duration or existence in part of the community with any accuracy.

It may not help during that first year (or perhaps it might, for some lucky sorts). This letter is for the newbies, and those pseudo-newbies who've survived their first year.

To: Newbies & Pseudo-Newb's
From: Been There, Done That, Have the Fertilizer
Re: Gay Man's Basic Life Operation Manual

Welcome to the community - it's not that big a deal, even if it looks like it. The same personality types exist in the community as any place else, if on occasion a bit more flamboyantly and/or with more or less dysfunction as in the mainstream community you grew up in, perhaps a bit modified by intense life experiences. A lot, though not all, of the same rules apply when it comes to staying sane, happy, and socially successful.

Don't buy into the assumptions or the stereotypes. Ask questions, even the hard ones, and don't be afraid of looking dumb. Don't live your life to keep others happy, live your life so you can sleep with yourself at night. Be yourself, but gently. Groups are fiction, individuals are real and can be hurt - generalities are dangerous. Never, ever, mess with the women's community. Be consistent, but have compassion. Don't be afraid of conflict, but avoid unnecessary cruelty. Make sure that you're not a burden to others before you start picking up others burdens. Think twice before getting married, then think again, no matter how cute and sweet he seems. Never get a boyfriend to fix a temporary emotional mess. Boys aren't houses - fixer-uppers and build your own does not work but the attempt is hideously expensive on many levels.

You are the same person you were a year ago with a bit more self-honesty attached. Being a member of the LGBT community doesn't somehow magically turn you into a saint or sinner, and you will find your fellows every bit as screwed up or saintly as you ran across in the mainstream community.

Probably you've experienced either the outright statement or strong implication of "to be a REAL member of the LGBT community, you must be/do ".

This is a crock, and a rather tacky way of taking vulnerable newcomers to the community and shepherding them into the advocates little group or cause. Fact is, you either have gender issues or find the same gender attractive on either a sometimes or exclusive basis - that's the sole membership qualifier for this community.

That said, and stating clearly that being yourself with integrity is important, every community has its sacred cattle and social rituals and giving them some respect where possible within the paradigm of integrity can significantly ease your way.

Don't fret about the drag queens and the leather queens. They've been the canary in the coal mine (i.e., the obvious targets bigots tend to go after first) for years, and have consistently had a major presence at the forefront of the LGBT civil rights effort. You don't have to dress up in leather, do a whips'n'chains fandango (unless that's what thrills you), or put on a dress and perform Cher and Madonna songs - but be respectful of those that do, both out of gratitude and in realization that hassling either group will make your own life far more difficult than it will theirs.

And the old notion "if it weren't for leather/drag, the straights would accept us"? If it was ever true, about which I have sincere doubts, even if every last leather and drag queen were to vanish from the face of the planet in the next 20 seconds....there's enough video out there that it's a lost cause. Fret about something you can actually influence.

No matter how cute the man, conversion jobs are a bad notion. Even if they are raging closet cases that do an unconscious Sandra Bernhardt wherever they go, they tend to go nuts for a year or so after they admit they are members of the community, and particularly when after the fourth double-gin-tonic for both of you they wake up with you and the memory that they *enjoyed* themselves the previous evening.

If you're not a wild-eyed liberal, you're surrounded by them. Pick your battles.

"Men are pigs, some have redeeming virtues" may be an overstatement. However, don't be rushing out expecting to find Mr. Right in the first fifteen minutes of sanity. If you DO stumble across a candidate, don't screw it up...the good ones aren't all that terribly common.

And after that shower of cold Auntie Mame, and LIVE! :)

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