May 13, 2016

An Open Letter to Gay Millennials

There will always be animosity and strife within the gay community, but over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly dumbstruck at the vapid, self-righteous mentality of younger gay men in the United States.

We quickly ridicule those who are brash enough to give the LGBT community a critique, even those who have historically fought on our behalf.

Even as a progressive, gay liberal who has been out of the closest for the past decade, I can guarantee some social justice warriors will pick apart my beliefs. They’ll center on the fact that I had the nerve to call out unsavory behaviors that reinforce stereotypes and push those who could contribute to our continued struggle further into suppression.

Our generation should be driven towards intellectual development and social advancement, building on the tireless work of activists throughout American history. We need to question our peers, allowing for the cloud of superficiality to be lifted. We need clarity on the things that supposedly mean something to us.

Have you ever asked a friend why they admire Britney Spears? Write down ten things that you admire about her and the impact she’s had on the gay community. I’ll go first:

I admire that it only took a half dozen people to write the masterpiece, “Work Bitch.” I also admire that she’s pretty and fierce and rich and famous and, like, tons of other reasons. Did you note my sarcasm?

Similar to heterosexual Americans, we are so consumed by social media and constructing a world for others to envy that we float along with a distorted view of the world. We’re not aware of why we feel things, and as Donald Trump has continuously exemplified over the past few months, it’s now seemingly acceptable to make extremely general claims while giving no merit to these respective statements. This is shocking to me.

It’s also disrespectful to the first amendment to the United States Constitution.

Have we shifted to a culture where simply having a thought is good enough? More so, where an opinion is valued solely because someone has a view on a topic? That’s scary and detrimental to all, no matter your political affiliation or sexuality or gender.

We need to question ourselves and actions daily. We need to question others, even things that appear trivial.

That said, it’s not my intention to scapegoat gays who love Ms. Spears, but at 27-years-old, I think I’m getting to a place where I can say that some behaviors of the gay community are embarrassing; not because I’m a self-loathing dude with a bone to pick with those who exemplify stereotypes, but rather because we’re moving away from the strong, intellectual community of gay men that I thought existed.

It’s a pretty well-known fact (especially on social media) that if you’re providing gay men with unsolicited advice, feedback or insight, then you better be prepared to deal with the wrath of this alarmist group.

This behavior could be subconsciously rooted in our upbringings, as our lives were typically hidden from family, friends and peers during critical developmental. Positive reflections of the LGBT community for most Millennials came as we were entering young adulthood, usually a time when many American’s center on activism and finding their voice, especially for those who go on to attend college.

The internal battles during our youth has allowed us to become outspoken advocates with deep rooted emotions, but that is sometimes misdirected as we gang up on those who analyze our behavior, oftentimes labeling genuine people as “homophobic,” or grouping them with individuals who are actually evil and have an agenda against our community.

Similar to black and feminist Millennial activists, we’re sometimes misguided in our approaches to shaping the dialogue on social justice issues.

Rose McGowan, an long-time advocate for LGBT rights, drew ire when she made generalizations about gay men during a podcast with Bret Easton Ellis in 2014, starting that the gay community has “fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange speedo and take molly [MDMA]."

While she said the gross over generalization was fueled by her belief that gay men are more “misogynistic” than straight men, she added that her point still stands.

“Could have articulated my frustration in a better fashion? Undoubtedly. For that I apologize, but I stand by my overall point,” she tweeted. And I agree with her.

While it’s supposedly cute and new age to claim that “being gay is only a small part of me,” that’s not necessarily true. It’s completely, utterly entwined with one’s existence that it impacts almost every component of life, just as it would if one were heterosexual. Ironically, it’s possibly one of the reasons that we, as gay men, take things so personally.

Urban, privileged gays in coastal cities pick apart celebrities, who often have valid points, while hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of gays throughout the world wonder if today is the day they’ll get a bullet in the back of their heads.

Our collective behavior of endless shirtless selfies and blatant racism is a slap in the face of older gay men and women, who literally had their lives destroyed, or in some cases, ended. In the 1960’s, brilliant folks from the LGBT community were forced to take a stand, knowing their revelation would ruin their careers and social standings.

In the 2010’s, it appears as upwardly mobile gays (usually white, educated Millennials) float through major cities with their privilege and superiority, forgetting about our less fortunate peers within our community, in addition to other suppressed groups; particularly women, who have helped drive our quest for equality from the beginning.

Similar to McGowan, I’m fueled by anger, too. Please wake up. Obviously, my concerns align with the larger issue of a shift in American culture and how we perceive “reality,” but as gay men with growing power and influence, we need to continue to have a dialogue in order to develop unity in this trying time for our nation.

There’s nothing wrong with dancing on a float. If I had more rhythm, I’d probably be up there (although not in a speedo). There’s also nothing wrong with community activism, volunteerism and using our clout as an opportunity to lift up others.

Did I generalize? Maybe. Are you mad? Quite possibly.

Put on a shirt, close Instagram and write a rebuttal. A wise woman once said, “work, bitch.” And there’s a lot of work to be done.

#InsteadOfShirtlessSelfies, I write. What do you do?