I am a Gay man in my late thirties. I have been out, opcnly Gay, for twenty-one years and I want to talk a little about what my life and that of my friends is really like. One thing that I want to make clear, though, is that I am speaking as a Gay man, and I am going to talk about the Gay male community. The Lesbian experience is so different from mine that I would not presume to spcak about it. The stereotype of the Gay male is of a white, sexually predatory, neurotic, rich or upper middle class man. Another aspect of this stereotype is that we are not secn as all that oppressed even by ourselves. A result of this perception is that when we do run into discrimination or harassment it tends to be seen both by oursclves and by others as a minor problcm that is personal rather than political. Certainly this has been my experience. I have been beaten up twice. The first bcating was by drunken college students, the second by sober "Christian" missionarics. Neilher time were the Gay people with me even minimally helpful. Afterwards the attitude of my friends as wcll as the pólice was that it was my own fault. Bcing opcnly Gay is still secn as a crime even by Gay pcoplc. I have been verbally harasscd and threatencd moreoften than I can count. Somctimes this has consisted of boring, offensive jokes. Sometimos it has been serious threats of violcnce. Until a few months ago I would have said that these incidents and the beatings had vcry little long term effect. I was wrong. In January I was threatencd in connection with my union activities. I was approached fairly late at night on the strect and told that I "should" stop my union activities. When I asked if this was a thrcat, I was assurcd that it was. I had been expecting some kind of effort to shut me up and did not really think that these two people were going to harm me. But I was surprised at how fcarful and angry I bccame. Even today it is scary for me to go somcplace whcre I might encountcr one of the people involved. Fcar like this gets into your blood and docsn't go away. If society tclls you that it is your own fault, the fear is worse. The following is a list that I bcgan kceping several ycars ago. All of these men are Gay or Bisexual men whom I know, or who are close to close friends. Mare, dead, effects of long term drug abuse. Michacl, suicide af ter losing his job due to political activity. Bill, murdercd. Jimmy, dead, drug overdose. Dave, murdered. Chuck, suicide. Torn, suicide. Willy, dying from long term effects of drug abuse. Riek, dying of A.I.D.S. Allen, crippled after suicide attempt, now a drug addict. Bob, partially disabled after an attempt on his life. Dave, Torn, Torn, and Dan's little brother, rapcd. Jim, robbed and beaten. Harry, beaten. Mike, John, Eric, Charles and many many others, alcoholic or addicted to other drugs. Torn, Charles and Allen, hospitalized repeatedly for depression. Bruce and Don, scarcd Ihat they have been exposed to the A.I.D.S. virus. Roger, ruined financially due to long term drug abuse. An interesting patten) emerges as I study this list. Very few of my frierids have been affected by A.I.D.S. (This would bc different if I lived in a big city, but I am talking about my life.) A much larger group has been scriously affected by violence. Murdcr, rape, robberics and bcatings seem to affect us much more than the general popuiation. But by far the largest catcgory of problem is that of selfdestructivc bchavior. Alcoholism or other substance abuse, depression and suicide are the problems that really devástate the people I know. Does this mean that Gay men are more neurotic than straight men? Does this mean that there is something intrinsically sick about homosexuals? No, I don't think so. In some job discrimination cases, the absence of certain groups in certain jobs is uscd as evidence of a pattern of discrimination. If there are no women managers at a particular company, discrimination can be assumed. If there areno Blacks, or only a few above a certain lcvcl in that company, again, discrimination can be assumed. I think that the same kind of assumption can be made about the over-representation of Gay men in certain catcgories. I can sec the footprints of oppression in the high rates of suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism in my Gay friends. But wait. I hear the howls of protest already. Arcn't there Gay men who live sober, happy, ordinary lives? Of course there are. I know many of them. But what I am saying is that I know more Gay people than I should who have had these problems. Besidcs, docsn't it teil us somelhing that the highest aspiralion of our community is to have a stable ordinary life? If this wasn't such a rare achievement, such a difficult task, we wouldn't pnze it so hïghly. There are many problems that Gay men need to work on. We nced to try to change the laws that still allow us to bc discriminated against. We need to work on the problems of ho w we relate to the strugglcs of other minorities, women, people of color and handicappers to name a few. We need to continue the very fine work that so many people have done around the A.I.D.S. crisis. But I want to suggest that there are two areas in which we need to do much more work. We need to make a much greater effort to deal with the social isolation and displacement that are the roots of our problems with drugs and depression. I think we also need to créate a network to deal with male victims of rape and violence. If, as Gay men, we were to take a lead in this, we might lay the cornerstone for a real men 's movement.
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