In this episode I discuss the importance of telling our queer stories and I talk about the importance of not hearing just the stories of affluent gay men. I’d been reading a book that really stirred me up about somethings in the queer community that don’t sit right with me. I’d just finished with Why are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. This book is a collection of essays that share different perspectives on what it means to be queer today.
One essay in particular inspired this episode. It was a piece titled The Soul of Our Work by George Ayala and Partrick “Pato” Hebert. In this essay the authors discuss the early days of the AIDS epidemic and a creative journal called Corpus that explored the socio-cultural context of HIV among men who have sex with men. The authors discuss the impact of the discussion around HIV having been taken over largely by the scientific and medical community. This quote in particular though inspired me:
Our storytelling and efforts must help us better understand one another, not fear or judge one another.
I remember a ritual that Steve Kenson of the Temple of Witchcraft once facilitated that involved everyone lighting a tealight and telling their story or speaking their truth. It struck me the way that the combined light of each tealight representing one person’s story created a bigger, brighter light that pushed the darkness away from our circle of men.
Each one of us telling our queer stories is powerful. For far too long, what it means to be queer today has been defined by affluent, gay, white men telling their stories. Political lobbying groups run by affluent, white, gay men are deciding what the agenda should be for securing LGBTQ+ rights in the US. Much of that agenda has revolved around calming the internalized homophobia of men who desire to pass for straight and mainstream, to not rock the boat.
It’s important for the strength of our community that we create opportunities for each of us to tell our story and for us to listen to one another. When we do this, we can find the commonality rather than assuming that we’re all so different. We can support one another and we can work together to create a more equitable world for all LGBTQ+ people not just the ones that can pass for straight.
Telling our queer stories without judgement
The other piece of this quote, of course, is about fear and judgement. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the classic online phrase, “No fats, No fems”. We’ve divided our community by judgement and by labelling one another. This judgement is driven by fear.
For the man obsessed with “No fems”, this isn’t about attraction. It is about the fear that he will no longer be able to pass as straight and access the privilege of being a straight, white man. They’re afraid of guilt by association. Others might assume his own queerness based on his association with someone who presents as “fem”. This can certainly be internalized homophobia but is probably more about the fear of losing their position of privilege once they are no longer assumed to be straight.
And of course, there are few things today that are more stigmatized than being fat. There’s a fear that if someone is seen dating a fat person, that stigma and shame may rub off on them. Gay culture clings to an image of eternal youth and chiseled bodies that has been sold it us by the advertising industry.
Building a closer community
Telling our queer stories isn’t enough. We have to be willing to hear one another. In coaching, we practice active listening which is often described as “listening without judgement”. When we can listen to one another’s stories without judgement we can begin to understand the wider experience of being queer. From this understanding, we can find new ways to relate to one another. This creates a stronger community. It creates a community of love and support. A loving and supportive community is also a strong community. A strong community can achieve things that we cannot achieve while we are divided.
Telling our queer stories is indeed a powerful ritual.