Dear Pigeon Guts: Why Are Gay People So Mean to Each Other?

This week: The gay and bisexual male community has its share of bitches. Is it just us? And is there anything the rest of us can do about it?

A Note From the Author: Lots of advice columns claim to have “the answers” about life, but this one really does! How can I be so sure? Because these aren’t merely my opinions: they’re the actual wisdom of the universe, which I discern, like the mystics of old, by peering into a heaping pile of pigeon guts. But not to worry: these pigeon guts are gay, gay, gay.

Need gay-related advice about life? Contact me here (and be sure and include your city and state and/or country!)

Dear Pigeon Guts: Gay people in the Philippines are accepted in society, but mostly as comic relief. But I think there’s discrimination among gays themselves. Gays here have different types or names. There are bisexual (likes both sexes), discreet (manly gays), effeminate (easily noticed as gays), transvestites/transsexuals, and others. If you are effeminate or trans, you are not supposed to be attracted to bisexual and discreet gays. So finding a partner among gays here is very difficult. It’s like there’s a hierarchy among gays. Is it a common practice all over the world or in your country in particular? I’m 27 now and still single, and I am really bothered now, because I think I’m not attracted to the people that I assumed who would accept me as who I am. Based on the types that I have mentioned, I am the effeminate type, and it’s really hard for me to find a partner or a boyfriend here who is attracted to me. Enlighten me. – JoJo, Philippines

Dear Pigeon Guts: With all this media attention on “It Gets Better” and anti-gay bullying, I want to point out the bullying within the gay community. I shall be specific: the gay Asian community here in Toronto, Ontario. It happens to me because of clothes I wear, my weight, and my intelligence. I have luckily met others like me, in my escape from the community. But why is this happening? It’s this endless cycle of gays hating gays, and it’s sad and depressing.
John Doe, Toronto

The Pigeon Guts Speak:

Is it really true that if you put a bunch of rats in a bucket of water, they’ll claw each other’s eyes out in order to save themselves?

It doesn’t really matter, does it? Because it’s still a great, if incredibly depressing, metaphor for what members of different minority communities have been doing to each other for ages. It’s not just a question of the amount of oppression a group is experiencing; it also has something to do with the degree to which the majority is willing to accept certain “acceptable” members of that minority.

And it only makes sense: the oppressed are the ones with the motivation to do what it takes to get ahead, at least if there’s a chance of getting ahead, right? If you’re already rich and comfortable and accepted, it maybe matters a little less if you move a notch or two up on the social ladder.

But if a person has been the object of jokes and prejudice all his life (or if that person has long feared he’ll be the object of jokes and prejudice if people ever find out the truth), well, of course that person is going to be more willing to do what it takes to move ahead – even if it means selling out other members of his community when the opportunity presents itself.

We all know this. We all went to middle school, right? We know how social hierarchies work. We know from first-hand experience how even your best friend since the second grade will make fun of your cheap tennis shoes if it means he gets to sit at the cool kids’ table. Or maybe we’ve been on the other side, and we know how incredibly liberating it feels to finally be picked first or second while picking sides in P.E. after all those years of being lumped in with the losers.

And when it comes to GLBT people, there’s another even more insidious factor: we grow up with everyone else, internalizing all the negative messages about what it means to be gay. So not only do we get ahead if we pretend to hate other members of our community, sometimes we’ve so internalized the dominant mores that we really do literally hate each other.

Basically, much of this is about self-hate. That’s ultimately why gay people can be such bitches to each others. Not to go all queer studies on your ass, but we’re all basically just acting out the scripts that the dominant culture has written for us – scripts that are designed to keep us hating on each other, and keep everyone and everything in its exact place.

The sad part is, we’re usually not even aware we’re doing it.

And here’s another complicating factor, something the queer theorists sometimes leave out of the picture: most GLBT people don’t really have anything in common with each other except our sexual orientation. And sometimes we just plain disagree about certain issues (and sometimes some among us are just outright idiots!).

Sometimes some GLBT people do things deliberately designed to provoke and offend. Am I selling out my community if I choose not to defend that or if I argue that it’s counter-productive or outright offensive? Am I merely trying to win the approval of straights if I say that non-monogamous, non-HIV-tested people who bareback (or argue it’s all a question of “personal choice”) are irresponsible dickheads?

Basically, John and JoJo, it’s all one big, complicated mess.

Still, I’m an optimist. How do we change the world? The first step is easy: we start by changing ourselves. Ask yourself: how have I contributed to the bitchiness and negativity in the GLBT community? Then ask: is my presence in our community making it a better place – or a worse one? (May I answer for the producers and most of the cast members on The A-List: New York? Because I just might have an opinion!)

As for you, JoJo, here’s a small reality check: while you’re understandably upset that some people don’t find you attractive because of your mannerisms, are you sure you’re not guilty of doing the same thing to other people? One way to solve this problem is for you yourself to try to broaden your definition what’s “attractive.” You’re worried about being pigeonholed and stereotyped? Then start by doing everything you can not to pigeonhole and stereotype others. Do that, and you have immediately literally changed the world.

The world of oppression and bitchiness and self-hatred only works when we all agree to participate in it. So let’s all stop participating. Now.

From now on, let’s let the bigots do their own dirty work, okay? Because, frankly, I’m pretty tired of so many of us doing it for them.

Next Page! It’s not just gay people who are mean! Plus, “I’m worried about my ‘first time.’”

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