LGBT History Month – Rifts Between Tribes

John Hale

I'm John, I'm 32 and my current guilty pleasure is re watching Buffy from season one. I currently work in fashion management which is a fancy term for saying retail management. I'm a book & movie junkie, I party, holiday and play lacrosse and had 2 bikes stolen in Cambridge.

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So February is LGBT History month and what does this generally mean? Is it a moment to simply say that we are human beings too so quit subjugating us? Kind of. Visiting lgbthistorymonth.org.uk it mentions a whole host of inspirations aligned under a banner of celebrating the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. If we don’t celebrate ourselves, no one else will.

Now I’m sadly not an active member within my local LGBT community, but I find the month very personal and do have a lot to say.

My reflections started when I overheard a colleague make a throwaway statement of ‘that’s so gay’. I was a bit Natalie Imbruglia’d or torn. I was torn between saying ‘do you mind – that’s quite an offensive use of the term’, or to wait and see if she said it again.

I simply let it go. Being the ‘new’ one at work I didn’t want to rock the boat. Perhaps insecure feelings from my youth coming back? But then if the moments of casual homophobia in everyday life remain unchallenged, how will attitudes adapt? Do we all bear responsibility for taking on such ignorance?

Either way, I was disappointed in myself. It’ll never happen again.

Yet, conversations with my friends about my hesitance got me thinking – aside from the hostility the LGBT community gets from some outsiders, there’s also a lot of animosity from within our own ranks. Instead of cliques, we have divisions, Queens, Twinks, Camp, Bears, Jocks, Straight Acting, Muscled, Chubby etc., as Grindr calls them, tribes.

Within this spectrum there seems to be an undeniable negativity and reluctance thrown at the Queen and Camp ‘sects’ of the community. Femmephobia results in some cruel taunts, some of which have been targeted at myself, by straights, yes, but also from certain gay quarters. It probably centred around how I dressed, how I walked, spoke, drank, danced, flirted etc, oh and minced all over the place.

I don’t necessarily want to use the word bigot, but those with homophobic attitudes would target anyone who was explicitly gay, with most scorn being placed on the camp folk. There seemed to be a residual anger and hostility that in being who we are we dirtied what it was to be male. We are seen to demasculinise the masculine.

Compared to this hostility, I think twinks get let off relatively lightly. They are the hinterland between camp and the straights. Many have a fashionable geeky/preppy style, and feed playing the ‘are they/aren’t they’ game. They tend to remain unscathed and welcomed by most when out in a bar.

From using Gaydar back in the day, to Grindr in more recent times, Bears, Jocks, Straight Acting and Muscled are at the other end of the spectrum. Generally they tend to be more attracted to one another and often actively separate themselves from the more effeminate ranks of gay culture.

There’s been plenty of guys that I’ve liked and met who would describe themselves as one of the above – sometimes it’s gone well and sometimes it hasn’t. Sometimes I’ve simply not been their type. What does become apparent when using Gaydar as an example, is some of the vitriol that goes back and forth between a Queen and a Bear in a chat room. It’s clearly visible in bars where, back in the day when having your own ‘clique’ type of bar didn’t happen, the looks of disgust at each other when tribes mingled painted an awkward picture.

Does this stem from the Jocks, Bears and Straight Acting groups seeing themselves as representatives of masculinity in an ocean of sodomy, and therefore looking down on the feminine guys? Or does it simply boil down to attraction?

We are so used to defending ourselves against outside prejudice that the barbs and quips that we use to defend ourselves can be easily redirected to someone just like us. Every time we’ve been hurt because of what someone has said or did you can guarantee the person you’re being unkind too has felt it also. Divisions and diversity naturally exist, but should we not be looking to just get over it?

Next time you feel the urge to judge or tear into someone you know nothing of, merely for expressing who they are within the gay community, take a moment and think of what you are putting them through. That said, if you do know them, and they keep going at you, tear that bitch apart.

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