Neither/Nor (Part 2)

I have been struggling lately with the idea of belonging.

I’ve not only struggled with belonging in terms of a religious community, but also in terms of the LGBT community.

I don’t wish to associate myself with a religious community primarily because it feels inauthentic. How can you feel comfortable sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with strangers with whom you associate merely because you spend an hour or two with them every week? I share my struggles and reflections with people I know well, with people I trust. Religious gatherings have always given me the impression of inauthenticity – to one degree or another.

The LGBT community is a different matter and one which is more difficult for me to judge since, although I am a member of this community, I have considerably less experience with it than I do with communities of faith.

I want to check my words when speaking about the LGBT community since it is an oppressed community whereas Christians are in a position of power in most of the United States.

What’s been most troubling for me is that the LGBT community is, more or less, a lot of the purportedly horrible things I was taught to believe as a kid. At least the gay male community – I certainly cannot speak for lesbians or the trans community so I’ll change my wording to “gay community” rather than “LGBT.”

I also don’t want to paint with too broad a brush. Certainly there are many different experiences of what it means to be a gay man and I hope that my words won’t be used to mis-characterize or mis-represent.

On the group level, which again is in acknowledgement that there is plenty of room for individuals to behave differently, I don’t feel comfortable within a community that tells me that sex is something that isn’t really a big deal, that I shouldn’t be concerned about the integrity of my monogamous relationship, that sex can happen whenever you want without feelings attached.

Of course we should also be clear that these are all things which may be said of the heterosexual community as well.

I think that the difference comes in with the way we as gay men are catered to by people who want to sell us sex in any form whenever and wherever we want. Hookup apps, hookup websites, you can carry them all around in your pocket with you wherever you go.

Apparently we just can’t control what goes on in our pants – and we’re supposed to accept it because restraint and self-control are no longer things we know how to appreciate.

I’ve spent years raging against my conservative evangelical upbringing to find myself adrift between two camps I want nothing to do with. The clear cut, black and white world of my youth has its appeal in that it is a very comforting system but I don’t think the world works as a system; I think it is a far more complicated, far richer and messier place than that. The freedom and lack of judgement in the gay community is nice, but you are only given the freedom to fit within certain prescribed rolls. Sexual freedom is nice, but what is freedom without restraint but a new form of enslavement?

I struggle putting these thoughts down knowing how they might be perceived as hateful or as some sort of “Aha!” for homophobes to use as damning evidence against us. They’ve been floating through my brain for months upon months. I share them not to cast judgement, but in the meager hopes of understanding my own mind a little more precisely and, more boldly, in the constant hope of finding others who can relate.





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2 responses to “Neither/Nor (Part 2)

  1. Julia Smith


    Joel, do you think sex is marketed more to gay men than to straight men? I only see fringes of the “gay tourism” industry which does seem to be pretty hedonistic. As gay marriage gains more acceptance, do you find that there’s more acknowledgment even on the part of marketers perhaps, that monogamy is basically good for all of us?

    I wish you could come to the GCN conference.

    All the best, Julia


    • I don’t know that sex is marketed more, but it is definitely marketed differently. Based off of my purely subjective observations, sex is marketed to straight men in a way that glorifies the “ideal” woman – through pinups, models, pornography, strip clubs, TV ads, and Hollywood in general.

      Sex is advertised to gay men from an experiential point of view. Grindr, Scruff, websites for online sex and hooking up. It’s less a glorification of an ideal and more a glorification of a carefree, attachment-free approach to sex when and how you want it.

      For the second question, I’m hard-pressed to come up with the answer. By the way, I realize that straight folks growing up and going into their 20s face similar scenarios of casual sex so I’m not trying to call out gay men for being more loose or anything. My observation here is that straight folks tend to – in general – hold more of an ideal for their monogamous relationships than gay men do. Perhaps marriage will begin to change that. I think that many gay men are also fairly keen on changing what exactly marriage entails as well. Probably the most damning words I’ve ever said about the gay community but there you have it. (And, let me emphasize once more, these are my very subjective takes.)

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