Ask And Tell

Voices From The Glbt Community

Martin Candelaria
11 min read
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Gay Pride Day is kind of like the Fourth of July: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) people start the day by gathering along Central from Johnson Field to San Pedro to watch the parade. All the different GLBT groups and subcultures stand on the street to watch or march together arm-in-arm, smiling and hugging, genuinely glad to see one another. Old friends reconnect or are remembered, new friends are made, groups gather to hear and cheer in agreement with some political speech and everyone is so polite to each other … for one day.

Our community is looked to for fashion, art and beauty, as well as the definition of fragile courage and confidence in the face of overt hatred and prejudice. But what does our community know about itself? What does the GLBT community think are the most important issues affecting the way we live here in the land of the free?

To find answers, I created a survey and asked the following 13 questions to GLBT people of different age groups here in Albuquerque. Obviously, these responses aren't designed to represent a comprehensive cross-section of the GLBT community. From the diverse group of people I interviewed, I tried to draw from opinions that reflect a broader or especially thought-provoking viewpoint.

Is that such a bad thing?

1. Define GLBT culture in your own words.

It means living as part of a culture of men and women, all of whom share a sexual identity that sets them apart from mainstream society, and within which all parties consider each other to be part of a normal spectrum of humanity.

Stuart, age 65

GLBT culture is primarily that of defining ourselves as victims even when there is little victimization. Unfortunately, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, there are some injustices, but they are the exception these days rather than the rule. All too many gay people spend their lives convinced that all of their problems are someone else’s fault.

Jules, age 57

2. In your opinion, what are the most important social or political issues within the GLBT community?

Gay men are overly promiscuous. There is a lack of intimacy for many gay men because they confuse their sexual desires with love. ’Homosexuality' is an entirely evil term because it describes sexual behavior, not patterns of love and intimacy. Who you [have sex with] is simply a side effect of who you love.

Keith, age 28

The GLBT community is almost exclusively politically ignorant. For all practical purposes, so-called gay rights groups are subordinate elements to the Democratic Party. When I lived elsewhere, a guy I knew started a “Conservative Corner” column in the local gay magazine, and there were constant vicious letters against even publishing his column. It had an effect on him, and he modified his column to be primarily liberal though the name didn’t change and the vicious letters continued. Gay people are politically naive, and it is to the advantage of others to keep them that way.

Jules, age 57

Note: Most people responding to this question said gay marriage is the most important sociopolitical issue, but I really asked this question to investigate pressing issues within the GLBT community.

3. What does Gay Pride mean to you?

Just that being part of a “community” is the most important thing. Regardless of what slings and arrows come our way, we are a community. The religious right's near warfare against us is getting scary. A strong backlash, however, does mean that we are on the right track for full citizen equality, and the bullies are getting hysterical that they'll lose their favorite designated scapegoats.

It also means that we could be derailed if we don't press on, regardless. As long as someone isn't against us, they're for us, however timidly and ineffectually, and we should appreciate that rather than denigrate them. Just being gay, in or out, is a political statement whether we want it to be a political statement or not. Not being against us, in some quarters, is actually being quite brave. I know; I lived in the Bible Belt for awhile.

Greg, age 54

It's exactly what it says, pride in what I am and who I am even if other people have problems with that. It's a tool for empowerment. Gay Pride celebrations give us a chance to all get together, to make ourselves known. These events are important because they help create awareness of gay rights and other issues surrounding the gay community.

Pilar, age 22

Gay Pride, to me, means being proud of who you are. If you are gay, you need to tell yourself, ’Hey I’m gay and I'm happy with it.' You are who you are. It’s about being comfortable with yourself. It's about not caring what others think about you.

Matt, age 20

4. Do you know what happened at Stonewall, when it happened or what it started?

I know that in 1969 some drag queens took a stand and kicked some butt and it started a revolution.

Kate, age 19

I was very young at the time of Stonewall (the late '60s), but if I recall, the cops in New York had a habit of raiding gay bars and harassing patrons. Stonewall occurred when the cops met resistance led by drag queens who said enough is enough.

Tony, age group 41-50

5. Do you think Stonewall has had any impact on who you are now?

I believe those few people started the freedom process we enjoy today. I feel that that freedom has given me the ability to express myself, be open and able to coexist with everyone in the world. I've never had fear that being gay would be a problem, and I don't tolerate others disparaging and discriminating.

John, age 35

6. In your opinion, what would a world without Stonewall look like today?

If it hadn't happened in New York, it would have happened somewhere else. Americans of any group aren't likely to stand still for oppression forever. So a world without Stonewall would look similar, just with a different name for the energizing moment for the gay rights movement.

Michael, age group 41-50

7. What does gay marriage mean to you?

American society is always taking what it wants from gay culture and discarding the rest. They put TV shows in the public eye to entertain everyone, shows like “Do You Want to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” But the second we want to get married they slam the door in our faces.

Pilar, age 22

It means freedom to me. America is the land of freedom, and denying us the right to marry who we want is taking that freedom away. Marriage is a way of saying in the open, “I love this man (or woman), and I want it known!” It's a way of telling your partner you want to be with them for the rest of your life.

Matt, age 20

Gay marriage means having the same rights as heterosexuals to express love and receive the same benefits and recognition.

Kate, age 19

8. Do you think there is a difference between gay marriage and civil rights?

No, gay marriage and straight marriage are actually both civil unions. Religious officials are allowed to perform their particular ceremonies with their believers, but the fact is that the state sanctions marriages, not as a religious union but as a civil union. Therefore, the recognition of marriage is a state matter first and a religious matter only for those for whom this is important.

Stuart, age 65

9. What do you think is the main cultural difference between someone of your age group and someone who is older or younger?

The ones in the older generation have gone through a lot more than I have, and have worked their fingers to the bone! The younger generation doesn't realize how much discrimination there is out there toward our group. They have had it easier; they haven't had to face as many obstacles as the older generation has faced.

L.E., age 31

Most likely, someone older has experienced more discrimination. Someone my age or younger is now experiencing a culture which accepts homosexuality much more openly than before.

Kate, age 19

10. Do you feel your needs are being met educationally, socially, professionally or medically within the GLBT community? Why or why not?

I feel that my needs in these areas are being met at least sufficiently, but only because I've worked to make sure they were met. Any deficiency I feel in these areas is my own responsibility. Within the GLBT community, my professional and educational goals are being met, but medically and socially they are sparse and distant. The professional and educational worlds do not take into account my spiritual or sexual practices. Medically, I am considered a “high risk” factor and can be denied insurance, reducing my opportunities for care based on my sexual practices unless I had HIV. Unfortunately, there are no clinics specifically organized for GLBT needs outside of having HIV. Socially, my world revolves around youth and bars, greatly decreasing my opportunities to interact with other gay people if I choose not to go to bars.

Jeremiah, age 26

Note: Most respondents said that their choices in these areas were not based on whether the service was GLBT-oriented. One person said that the closure of Sisters and Brothers Bookstore was a severe loss to our community by significantly decreasing information and literature that may be beneficial to everyone.

11. Do you think “outing” is necessary?

I do not think it is necessary to out anyone else. It is a personal decision, what you want others to know about yourself, and that goes for things other than sexuality as well.

Kate, age 19

Sometimes. If the gay person, by their public words or actions, is harming our community and outing would put them in context, then I say out them. A timely example is the Spokane mayor who is in such hot water right now. He apparently has been very outspoken against the gay community and has worked against us in his government. It now looks like he is as queer as the rest of us and has been playing everyone for a fool. If someone would have outed him, I'd have said good work.

Jay, age 42

12. Do you think being “out,” or open about your sexuality, is necessary?

I think it is for a person's self image and growth. Plus, it helps the world know that we are everywhere.

John, age 31

No. I would define a necessity or need as a thing without which you would eventually die from the lack of it. I do think, however, that being out is a positive thing that makes a more complete and perhaps happier life possible.

Michael, age group 41-50

For me, being out was necessary. It was necessary in that it allowed me to accept myself. You may find it hard to accept yourself when you are not being honest to everyone possible.

Matt, age 20

I've been outed on several occasions, and every time it makes me uncomfortable. It should be totally up to the individual. People don't go around saying, oh, I'm straight or, oh, I'm a vegetarian. You don't have to tell everyone you're gay. It should just be a natural thing.

Pilar, age 22

I think there is a difference between being out to the world and being out to yourself. Circumstances sometimes make it difficult to be out to everyone, so that is not completely necessary. I do think it is necessary to be out to yourself because if you do not accept who you are or if you are ashamed of it, than you are not allowing yourself to be happy.

Kate, age 19

13. Do you consider yourself part of a minority?

Yes, as a conservative gay Republican, I am in a minority. The gay community that is so insistent of tolerance and diversity is not tolerant of people like me.

Jules, age 57

At times I do, when there's a certain vibe. If I'm Downtown on the weekend, then I feel like I'm in a minority. It's a meat market. It's completely straightsville down there. So it's geographical, and it depends on the people around you, the way they interact with you and put you in a comfort zone. If you feel comfortable, then you don't feel like you're part of a minority.

Pilar, age 22

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