Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LGBT Only Please

I made a comment, only partly joking, on Facebook that I am not comfortable referring to myself as an LGBT person. It sounds too much like something you would order on whole wheat toast at the local coffee shop. A friend replied that if I don’t like the LGBT label, how would I refer to inclusive events? The more I pondered that the more I kept coming back to the same thought – shouldn’t we just refer to them as “all inclusive events”? After all, no matter how many initials we add to the acronym, inevitably we are going to leave somebody out. The problem with simply opening up an event to everyone is that we sometimes don’t really want everyone there.

There’s no easy way to say this. No matter how many gender identities, sexual orientations, affectional preferences, or whatever we add to the list, there is one that is not invited to the party. Heterosexuals. Or at least, heterosexuals who are not friendly to everyone else on the list. Maybe we should just be honest and refer to such events and organizations as non-heterosexual. Then I would know, as a non-heterosexual man, that I am included.

But in this era of post-racial, post-gender, post-discrimination harmony, is there even a need to differentiate between gay and straight or any other sexual identity? Of course there is. For one thing, we are not yet post- anything. Our biases are alive and well if not more subtle.

More importantly, we non-heterosexuals have built a community over the decades. We have our own culture, our own humor, our own heroes and stars and common dreams. Maybe this cultural identity is the product of being marginalized in the past or maybe it isn’t. But it exists. Just as ethnic and geographic communities celebrate and preserve their culture, we should too.

And just as there are subcultures within broader groups, for example, Colombians within the larger Latino community, the LGBTAQXYZ… community has it’s own subcultures. I am a gay man. I identify as a gay man. I frequent locales that cater to gay men. I sometimes like to be in the exclusive company of other gay men and at other times I like to be in the exclusive company of gay men and lesbians. That doesn’t mean I have a problem fitting into broader society but I’m glad I have options.

Which brings me to camping once again. No, I’m not trying to make camping a metaphor for my life any more than I am trying to make the Whacked out Mailman or the Gypsy Sisters a metaphor for my neighborhood. These things just seem to naturally come up over and over.

This weekend I will be camping with my camping buddy and some friends at a gay campground in the Poconos. An acquaintance who had invited himself to tag along has managed to obtain a site of his own and has informed us that he is inviting a straight couple to join him. The camp policy is vague on this matter. They refer to themselves  as a private, members-only, alternative campground which caters to gay and lesbian clientele 18 years of age or older.

It would seem that there is no rule against what the acquaintance has done, but it does seem to violate a general consensus that we have some places which are ours alone and it is not appropriate to bring others in. Well at least I think that is still the consensus. I suppose it could be a fossilized idea that I’ve carried forward from the dark ages of the gay movement when the only places we could be ourselves were exclusively gay and hidden from the rest of the world

I’m prepared to admit that there is an argument to be made that living our lives fully in the open without the need for our own separate venues is a sign of progress. But I wonder how other identity groups would feel if their meeting halls and festivals and private clubs were overrun by outsiders. How would they feel if the identity of their institutions were diluted to the point of irrelevance?

I’m just not ready to give away my gay camping experience yet.

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