Thursday, June 30, 2005

Topic Swapping

Comments from the last post amazingly kept creeping away from the initial topic of gay men's addiction to crystal meth, and self-image issues, to meth labs and rural issues of drug use, despite Tricky's attempts to point back to the issues in the blog.

Gay 101
First of all, I'd like to thank Michael (Tricky Tricot) for first posting the Village Voice article and his valiant attempts to clarify the issues. He has fast become my favorite blog to read for a number of reasons, and I have had personal correspondence with him over the last couple of days letting him know I am in total agreement with the ideas he has stated.

Second of all, I wanted to address some of the concepts of living as a gay man in this society. And I will speak only from my own personal experience. From the various comments, it is clear there are folks that have no clue of what it's like, and others that are pretty clear about what they do and don't understand.

There are a number of ways that I was barraged as a youth with messages saying that I wasn't okay:

1. Personal attacks both verbal and physical
2. Generalized homophobia displayed by folks using words like fag, even when they meant it as just geeky or feminine
3. Institutional homophobia displayed by organizations like the catholic church and the government

Personal Attacks
Whether on the playground in grade school, or having folks yell "faggot" out their car window while passing a gay bar or physical attacks such as Matthew Shepherd (which happen a lot more than most folks will ever hear about), all these are very clear, and very direct messages that being different isn't acceptable or sometimes isn't even safe. I personally don't think there is much that can be done about this except taking instances of ignorance as opportunities for education.

Generalized Homophobia
Like Kathy, I found some of the comments about "being okay" very patronizing, but it's hard to tell the tone of a message without hearing it directly from someone's mouth. As mentioned in the Village Voice article, gay men are either ignored in the media, or shown very one-dimensionally. Even shows like Will & Grace, and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy reduce the humanity of gay men by using them as modern day minstrels.

When I hear gay-disparaging words, I have come to learn to quickly categorize them as either good-natured with no intention of hatred (you'd have to be a very close friend or gay yourself for me to hear it this way), ignorant (which is the opportunity for education) or hateful (which can sometimes be an opportunity for education, but usually is an indication to run away quickly).

Institutional Homophobia
When the cardinals in Rome send out missives indicating that gay men are less than in any way, it is a very powerful message. When principals of high schools allow physical and emotional abuse to continue based on a student's actual or perceived sexuality, it sends a very powerful message. When corporations allow their married employees to take advantage of benefits that committed gay couples can't, it sends a hurtful message. When the president of the United States says that he wants an amendment to our country's constitution to specifically discriminate against gay men, it is a clear statement of how illegitimate we are in his eyes.

In those instances, I work to change where I can, support those institutions that embrace equality, and specifically withdraw my participation from those organizations that would have me be less than other (if I can).

I do believe that personal responsibility is a necessary component to recovery from any addiction. However, I think it's also very important to know what factors were in place to make a person susceptible to addictive behavior.

I do blame homophobia in large part for the high numbers of alcohol, drug and sex addiction in the gay world. And I certainly see homophobia as a factor in all that I am today (including any addictive behavior), and to ignore that would be foolhardy. Taking responsibility for how I react to my environment is how I can recover into a more healthy human.

I have completed the collar and sewn up the shoulder seam and started the first sleeve of the wool/hemp pullover.

Pictures, and more knitting content in future blog entries.