“Are you positive this is a friend?…The captain grimaced those are cliffs of rock ahead...if I'm not mistaken.”
-Tori Amos, “Jamaica Inn”.
Everyone gossips. We all do it. I am probably one of the worst offenders I know. Gay men especially, love to talk shit. About what someone’s wearing, how drunk so and so was at a bar the night before, how bitchy so and so is being because of how fat they’re getting and so on. It never ends and it never will and I know that because I help perpetuate it. As most of our parents told us, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. So I ask, at what point does idle gossip become plain cruelty?
One of the most gay-positive things I ever heard from my family came from my stepmom. She said that it seemed to her that gay men were naturally more intelligent than straight men. She worked at the phone company for years and apparently had always been able to have intelligent discussions with her gay constituents. Her comment shocked me. This woman has not always been my biggest advocate, so it was a surprise to hear this come from her. I began to think about this observation, and it seemed reasonable enough. Of course we all know some dizzy queens who could put that theory to rest by uttering a single syllable. That’s not the point. The point is, there I go again.
As a community, we all want things. Some of us want the right to marry. I would venture to say that all of us want to be treated equally, that most of us in the field of HIV would like to see a universal healthcare system. We have these ideals in common. Yet so often, gay men especially, behave like vicious teenage girls one on one. We can mock someone’s voice, what they’re wearing and joyously slice the Achilles heel of one of our own all before lunch. Why do we do that? Are we so “intelligent” that we have to be the one with the last laugh? And if so, who has that last laugh? The reality is that it’s nothing more than a vicious circle that is often quite unfunny.
We say we want equality, but we refuse to accept each other as equal on an individual level. How do we believe that we will ever gain mass acceptance when we can’t even lift each other up? How can our community possibly mobilize effectively while we are all preoccupied with which shoes so and so’s wearing, or speculating if someone we all know showed up to an event totally cracked out? What purpose does that serve?
“You have to promise you won’t say anything to ANYONE. Seriously.”
If you have even bothered to utter that sentence, you may as well barricade yourself in your house for the next couple of days. Chances are, everyone you know or don’t know will hear all the dirty details you have divulged, sometimes before you’ve even finished your thought. I recognize that gossip is a human thing, not just a gay thing. Gay men just happen to be extra good at it and extra merciless. Why? Is it from adolescence where some gay men were outcasts or molested or disowned from their friends, families and church? Is it because we all wanted to be Broadway stars and we aren’t? Is it our co-dependency, our chemical dependency, our family circumstances, our abusive partners? Is it desperate insecurity, low self-esteem, lack of faith or poor body image? We all have gone through one or more of the aforementioned. Since so many of us share that common (back)ground, you'd think we'd be more compassionate, more empathetic. We don't seem to be. If anything it appears we've become more calloused, telling people to get over it and that we've all got problems.
The hardest part in all of this is the lack of trust. Some things really are meant to be for one person only. It is painful to want to have that one confidante, someone who WON’T say anything to anyone. It can be devastating to discover that you really can't count on the ones you thought you could. To realize that you are no more sacred to them than the person they bitched about ten minutes ago. The feeling of a true bond, an actual connection in a disconnected society, is so rare. Then, it dawns on you that you have been spilling your soul to an avatar.
It is easy for me to sit behind a computer and say these things, and know that I won’t have the balls to translate all these pretty words and ideas into action. I will want to be in on the joke at the expense of someone else’s feelings. I may even start that joke. So, when I feel lonely or isolated and I don’t know who to trust...well I really have no one to blame but myself, do I?