Failed Middle School Gay Community Building • The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Hanson Dai | Artistic director

For many closeted gay high school students, college was the beaming light at the end of the tunnel. Confined to small suburban hometowns and suffocated by the ignorance of our young peers, we knew there was a version of ourselves that was just waiting for a moment to be alone. We could finally thrive and prosper in the fruitful and global pop culture of gay life that promised us.

Yet, during my early years at Tulane, I struggled to fit into the gay culture, and despite my active efforts, it seemed impossible to make gay friends. I felt like I knew every gay man in Tulane after spending a week on Tinder.

I had hoped to come to college and meet people organically, but when compounded by an extremely straight party culture reinforced by Greek life, I felt like the only way to meet people other homosexuals was to use dating apps – and therefore to connect.

By year two, the network of who had bonded with who was too big to even follow, and the best way to avoid drama was to avoid “community” altogether. Instead of kissing while I was dating, I discovered that there was this unspoken resentment between all the gay people I knew, preventing anyone from saying a word to each other.

And while I don’t believe my experience is entirely unique, I understand that I am speaking from a singularly limited perspective, defined by my own identity as a gay cis man. That said, I don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself. It is essential to be aware that I live in a privileged place and that the LGBTQ experience for people in university is very different for everyone depending on who they are.

I remember in 2017, during my freshman year of college, several of the gay men I knew shared this piece, “The epidemic of gay loneliness,on Facebook, and it was honestly one of the first times I saw gay people from my college doing something together.

The research mentioned here is astounding. gay men are twice likely to have a major depressive episode and three quarters gay men studied suffered from anxiety and depression after moving to a new city. For many of us, our college town was the first major independent move we ever made.

With that, we had the opportunity to decide who we wanted to be and even how much we wanted our gay identity to influence that. There were choices to be made. If I can’t adjust to the overwhelming masculinity of my all-male floor, should I surrender to gay tropes and identify as a FGB the first group of fun friends I meet? Or, even more daunting, do I join queer groups on campus?

the Tulane Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity deserves endless praise for its commitment to celebrating queer people on campus. Yet it’s easy to notice that these circles sometimes work together, and that a large portion of queer people on campus will never interact with the office during their four years at Tulane.

I do not pretend to be an exception. I think gay men especially fear being associated with the culture of queer activism on campus because they think it diminishes their masculinity and thus can make them less attractive to other gay men.

Kennon Stewart, Senior Senior and former Gender and Sexuality Advisory Chair, said, “As Chair of GSAC, I was the voice of all queer organizations in Tulane while leading one of my own. It was irritating walking into queer spaces and having white students first recoil from my presence.

“They continued to see black students as a threat even though black and brown gay men and trans folxes do most of the LGBTQIA+ programs on campus. It took me a lot of code-switching, forced smiles and intellectualizing my experiences to push through initiatives for my organization.

“There is nothing radical about gay cis masculinity when our popularity depends on systems of racism, transphobia and sexism. People only like us because we’re a more palatable homosexual.

Although our university has created systems to unite us as a gay community, it is rare for many students to interact with them. When I think of gay life in college, my mind jumps more quickly to the pervasive hookup culture and “palatable queerness” than to the genuine activism led primarily by black and brown trans and female students.

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There are several different factors that support the toxicity of gay male culture, particularly that experienced in college, but I think they can be largely synthesized in our experiences of intra-minority stress.

Michael Hobbes, author of “The Epidemic of Gay Men Loneliness”, found that gay men actually name the gay community as the main source of stress in their lives. “The fundamental reason for this, he says, is that ‘in-group discrimination’ does more harm to your psyche than being rejected by members of the majority.”

“It’s easy to ignore, roll your eyes and raise your middle finger in front of straight people who don’t like you because, no matter what, you don’t need their approval anyway. The Rejection from other gay people, however, feels like losing your only way to make friends and find love.Being away from your own people hurts more because you need them more.

Hobbes’ mention of losing your only way to find love is really close to my heart. There is undoubtedly a obsession with masculinity among homosexuals, and I don’t think it’s because homosexuals themselves want to be more masculine. I think it’s because there’s an idea that the more masculine you are, the more attractive you are to other gay men.

I remember thinking that gay people who distanced themselves from other gay people and denounced gay culture itself had an easier time finding other people to connect with. They were introduced as an elite group of gays with whom more feminine men should consider themselves lucky. All of this reflected a deep internalized homophobia.

As we became more and more of the people we thought were attractive, we drifted further and further away from simple friendships with each other. And when there’s a whole straight world out there to make you feel left out, sometimes gay friendship really is all we need.

“Gay men in particular just aren’t very nice to each other,” says anonymous John, interviewed by Hobbes. “In pop culture, drag queens are known for their takedowns and that’s it ha ha ha. But this wickedness is almost pathological. We were all deeply confused or self-referred to for much of our teenage years. But it’s not comfortable for us to show this to other people. So we show others what the world shows us, which is wickedness.

Sometimes I think gay people are afraid to be nice to each other because it can instantly mean they’re in love with each other. We categorize gay people we know into categories: either those with dating potential or those we never want to talk to. We may follow each other on Instagram and like each other’s photos, but we’re quick to say nasty things when that gay person isn’t who we want them to be.

I was afraid to walk across campus and run into another gay man who was mad at me for reasons I didn’t know. I would accidentally make eye contact with one and instantly feel angst, stressed that I had done something wrong to break the unspoken rules between gay men at Tulane. It shouldn’t be normal to be terrified of the people who are most like you. It hurts especially because these people are some of the only people who understand the pain you are going through.

Groups of friends in Tulane can look surprisingly similar, including the token gay friend attached to the female soror team. We share the isolation experiences of being the straight man surrogate at parties, holding each other awkwardly while our friends hook up at sisterhood events, and posing for Instagram photos that award our girlfriends points. influence on social networks. We struggle through so many of the same things, but back down on occasion to befriend each other.

The culture around us leads us to believe that sex (or no sex) is the only thing at the end of the tunnel for two homosexuals to get to know each other. The friendship between us is questioned, by us, by the straight people around us, by the dating apps in which we interact; gay male friendship seems antithetical to everything which have been taught. In college, the question is whether or not to hook up and when your identity may be defined by your sexuality, you may feel like you have to define your friendships by that as well.

There is a fundamental failure in building a gay community in college and it doesn’t really lay the blame on the institution itself. We go from being one of the only gay kids we know in our high schools to now navigating a life where we meet people we met every couple of hours. Still incredibly young and new to this newly discovered life, we may not all have the comfort of sharing it with other people.

Yet all I wish is for gay people to be nicer to each other. This is perhaps the first step to building this community that supports and uplifts each other. And perhaps as more queer people come into Tulane and also question the world around them, there will also be a shift in the way we interact with each other.

More articles about homosexuals and the cultures created for us:

The epidemic of gay loneliness by Michael Hobbes

Dear White Gay Men, Racism Isn’t ‘Just A Preference’ by Philip Henry

Why body image issues are taking over the gay community by Nick Levin

We Need to Talk About How Grindr Affects Gay Men’s Mental Health by Jack Turban

Gay men’s obsession with masculinity harms their mental health by Gabriel Arana

Top 10 Reasons The Gay Community Is So Competitive by Barrett Pall

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