a rant/indictment/appeal by Zak Kirwood
Everyone knows it but few talk about it openly. There are a quite a few gay men at this school. A lot, actually, compared to other schools. And we have a reputation for that. I know that Wesleyan’s mythical amount of gayness was at least part of the reason I came here. But there’s no community. Zip, none, nada. I’ve been talking to a lot of gay men lately and the opinion is unanimous.
The problem doesn’t extend to all queers on campus. Female-bodied queers –and stop generalizing them as lesbians because many of them don’t identify that way – have their shit together, at least more so than the gay men here. I’ve been to many queer events on campus that have had dozens of queer girls in attendance from every class year and from all social strata, but as for the boys, it’s usually just me and a handful of others. No, the queer girl community is not perfect, and I’ve heard lots of complaints about it. Nevertheless, there is some community there, whereas there is none for men. So what is the problem with gay men on this campus that stops them from coming together as a community?
It’s not like this everywhere. Gay men have a rich history of getting together as a community – to organize, to talk about what it’s like to live in a heteronormative society that casts you as not quite human, not quite citizens, not quite men. At Catholic colleges like Fordham University, gay men stick together, not as an exclusive clique but as a community of friends and people who generally like each other. But not so at the queer utopia that is Wesleyan.
And let’s talk about this myth of Wesleyan as a queer utopia for just a second. It’s not. Yes, there are lots of queers here and the atmosphere is generally accepting. But that doesn’t mean that homophobia doesn’t exist here. Try dancing with someone of the same sex at a frat and tell me you don’t get stared at, or even asked to leave. There are lots of gay men who don’t even come out until their senior year, perhaps later, and that’s a problem. The fact is that Wesleyan is still overwhelmingly straight, and a lot of social life centers around straight hook-ups and courtship that inevitably (but not necessarily maliciously) leaves out queers. We are still Others in this microcosm of society that is Wesleyan. So again, I ask: gay men clearly still need community, but why is there none?
I think a lot of it is about gay men not realizing what being gay means in this world. What’s wrong with a guy that just wants to be a “normal” guy who just happens to have sex with men? A lot, actually. We live in a highly heteronormative society. The mere fact that we are gay means that our relationships and our sexual encounters and our very existence itself will always be misfitting, strange, anomalous to the flow of society, QUEER, if you will. No, we’re not all the same. But as gay men we share a unique positionality in this society, no matter how much you want to just live a normal life.
I’ve talked to some people who try to pin the problem on the fact that “the gays just want sex.” Not only is this a huge generalization, but it’s just silly. The problem isn’t that many gay men want sex. Sex is good. Sex with as many people as possible is good. But when it lacks any kind of personal connection, any community formation is hampered. It’s my personal belief that you can form some of the deepest connections with another person by sleeping with them. But too many gay men on this campus seek to avoid any personal connection with other gays at all costs.
And this is SHAMEFUL. In a world where gay men are still beaten, murdered, decapitated, excluded, and oppressed generally across the world and in our own communities; where HIV infections are still on the rise because the government just doesn’t give a damn about gay men (and they could stop it if they really tried); in this kind of world, all people who don’t conform to the procreative heterosexual order of society have to stick together. There has to be a community. Otherwise what are we? Just people who like to have sex with members of the same sex. And as I’ve already pointed out, being gay means a lot more than that.
So what am I calling for? Guys: keep fucking each other. That’s great. But stop pretending that sex ends at the body. Sexual connections are a great opportunity to form deeper interpersonal connections, and that’s what community is all about. And it doesn’t have to be sexual. You can be friends with another gay guy without fucking them, believe it or not. So instead of gossiping on the ACB about who’s a slut or who’s an ugly bitch, why don’t we try to like each other, socialize with each other, organize with each other? Maybe then we can have a real community and not be a disappointment to every queer freshman who comes to Wesleyan. Don’t pretend that you didn’t feel bitter when you came here and realized that there was no gay community, just a complex clusterfuck of catty, cliquey, and isolated homos.
We can be a community, but we have to talk to each other first. And then we have to tap into the expansive set of resources for the queer community that we already have here. Did you know that there is a queer intern who gets paid by Wesleyan to organize queer events? Did you know that there are queer community meetings, potlucks, and all-inclusive parties pretty regularly? Did you know that Open House is supposed to be for the entire queer community at Wesleyan, not just the female-bodied? There’s no machine at the front door that checks if you have a penis and throws you out if that’s the case. And stop saying that you don’t go to Open House because only queer girls go there. That’s bullshit. If you keep telling yourself that (and everyone else), then no guys will go and it becomes a vicious cycle.
I know this sounds abrasive but goddammit something needs to change. And that change starts with you. We need COMMUNITY in our lives.