Thursday, 27 September 2012

Seeking the gay community

I have a question for you. Do you see yourself as part of a community? Is it one that you live in? A oft-quoted cry in Britain is that there is no community spirit anymore. So many people are out at work all day and don't know even know their neighbours' names. Another common complaint is with multi-culturalism there is a  language barrier that did not exist fifty years ago.

A Street party for William and Kate's Royal wedding.
Do you see yourself as part of a wider community? I am part of a church community, the community on the estate where I live, and in times past I was part of the community of mums that gathered at the school gates everyday.

But there is one community that I have found myself drawn into over the last 5 years. The LGBT community, both equally loved and reviled depending on your perspective, political leanings and religious interpretation. What is the LGBT community to you? Is it in your club, your local area, national or world-wide?

This definition of the LGBT community is lifted straight from Wikipedia.

"The gay community, or LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community, is a loosely defined grouping of LGBT and LGBT-supportive people, organizations and subcultures, united by a common culture and civil rights movements. These communities generally celebrate pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality. LGBT activists and sociologists see LGBT community-building as an antidote to heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, sex-negativity, and conformist pressures thought to exist in the larger society. The term gay pride is used to express the LGBT community's identity and collective strength; gay pride parades provide both a prime example of the use and a demonstration of the general meaning of the term. The LGBT community is diverse in political affiliation. Not all LGBT individuals consider themselves part of an LGBT community.
Groups that may be considered part of the LGBT community include gay villages, LGBT rights organizations, LGBT employee groups at companies, LGBT student groups in schools and universities, and LGBT-affirming religious groups."

Photograph: Karel Prinsloo/EPA Pride London

Is Pride your image of the gay community?Very scantily-clad men in the Pride parade or the rainbow flag? Or what about Stonewalls's advert on the London buses?

Does the man on the street see the gay community beyond Pride? I damn well hope so, but to be honest I'm not so sure unless you're Mr and Mrs Angry of Tunbridge Wells.

I read a lot of gay press, and when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Partly because I'm a theologian and interested in the sociology of religion, and lets face it, religious leaders have been out in force damning the concept of same-sex marriage. Partly because as gay romance writer I should be reading about the issues that affect the world of my men. One of the criticisms that really got up my nose recently was the accusation that women authors in m/m romance ignore the issues that gay men face. I don't know many authors that don't discuss and research the subjects they write about, and certainly it's not true of me.

Recently I read the brouhaha Rupert Everett caused with his damning view of gay parenting. I won't go into it here. I will hold my hands up and say I have totally changed my opinion on two men bringing up kids over the past decade, partly because I have taken time to research the issue and partly because I know some fantastic gay parents. There is nothing like having your opinion changed when the evidence is there in front of you.

Neil Patrick Harris and his family
Which takes me back to the idea of community. What does the LGBT community mean to you? Is it more than Pride, more than Stonewall? If you are part of the alphabet soup do you live in the community regardless?

Is the concept of family values a heteronormative idea? Certain politicians and religious factions would have you think they are. They can quote scripture, and Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. The rhetoric makes them happy. You will not convince them otherwise. Their minds are so blinkered that they proudly proclaim the results from a flawed same-sex parenting study. I say again, you cannot change their minds.

So why have I got a poster used by a hate group for a political attack? You may remember that the hate group, The Public Advocate of the United States, stole Brian Edwards' and Tom Privitere's wedding photo and used it as an attack on Senator Jean White.

My answer to the question is yes, I think this image shows a wonderful concept of contemporary family values. As does the photo of Neil Patrick Harris and his family. If these people are part of a world-wide community I am glad to be in a tiny part of it. 

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