By Susan Jordan
What do we all need from our Rochester LGBT community? What makes us feel safe and comfortable with each other? What makes us feel that someone has our backs?
Can we all agree that we love Pride, ImageOut and socializing at Equal=Grounds and/or the bars? What else brings us together and lets us venture outside our safe inner core of friends – our neighborhoods — to the larger group?
Sometimes it is something negative, like losing the marriage equality vote or witnessing a gay bashing. We get fired up and suddenly the differences drop away, for a while at least, as we truly understand the discrimination and oppression we all face and our need to support each other politically and emotionally.
Sometimes, though, we turn on each other – which may often be due to internalized homophobia, a.k.a. self-hate. In the most extreme cases, we internalize the negative messages we get from those who hate all of us, and end up believing, “anyone who is like me can’t be any good,” or, “any organization that represents me can’t be any good.” Or as the great Groucho Marx put it, “I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member.”
What is a community, do we need one, and how do we build it?
Can we talk?
- How would you define “community”?
- What do we all have in common as LGBT people? What unifies and connects us?
- What are some of the differences that divide us?
- Do you feel that racism is a crucial issue that many white gays don’t want to confront in a meaningful way? If not, why?
- What kind of support do you need from your community? Have you sought support in the past (for issues like discrimination, hate violence or any others)?
- What does the Rochester community need that it doesn’t have now (please be specific)? Are you willing to help bring this about?
- What does the community have now that you value (please be specific)?
- Are you willing to question your own prejudices and change any negative attitudes towards queer people who differ from you? If not, why not?
- Would you volunteer to work with existing community groups, or to work on Rochester area LGBT visibility projects, or to start a new group or project, or to help organize welcoming social events for LGBT families (or others)? If not, why not?
- “United we stand, divided we fall.” Are gays so well accepted by society that we no longer need to stand united? If not, in what specific ways can we strengthen unity?
- For older gays: What kind of community do we want today’s young LGBT people to inherit from us? What did we need when we were teenagers that we didn’t get?
- For youth: what kind of queer community do you hope to see in another 10-to-30 years? How can we get there?
- Would you be willing to attend events of non-gay allied groups to show support for them and also show a visible gay presence in Rochester? If not, why not?
- Has internalized homophobia – a feeling that “no one like me could be any good” – been a barrier for you to connecting with other gay people? Have you felt isolated?
- Can you suggest specific ways to build community?
Mail (EC, 875 E, Main St. Suite 500, Rochester NY 14605) or fax (585-244-8246) your written responses to this print version of the forum. You can also contribute online at www.gayalliance.org or our Facebook page. Responses will be printed in upcoming issues of the EC and posted online. Please keep responses brief (under 300 words); abusive comments will not be printed. Responses may have to be edited for length in print; the full responses will be available online only.
And let’s keep talking!