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The Myth of the "Gay Community"

Are you a regular guy having trouble connecting to gay community? The trouble is not within you - it's due to the unfortunate fact that the gay community doesn't exist. At least, not in the way you think it does.

The term gay community arose as a political term in the 80s, to describe a class of increasingly visible and vocal citizens and voters. And it was true that many queer folks then (and now) feel united in the common struggle for equal rights, basic respect, and the freedom to be ourselves with impunity. There is tremendous power in numbers, and in presenting a unified front. No doubt, fighting against discrimination as well as the AIDS epidemic created a sense of closeness among older generations of gay men.

I hear from my clients all the time about their yearning for this mythical gay community - a group that is safe, welcoming and supportive; where everyone is connected and shares a common identity (or at least a common enemy), where people are accepted for who they are and not judged, and where they can connect on multiple levels. I completely understand and deeply empathize with this need. Wanting to be an accepted part of a community is in our blood: It is a timeless, constant, archetypal feature of our essential nature as humans. We are incredibly tribal, social animals, and we always have been.

The problem that many gay men run into today is that the "gay community" - which is often represented superficially by the culture of gay bars, clubs and online forums like Grindr, Scruff and ManHunt - often feels like a pretty unwelcoming place. With exponential growth in mainstream acceptance and integration of gay culture, the vast improvements in medical care for guys with HIV, the encroachment of the digital age, and the ageism-related intergenerational "forgetting" of the way things used to be, gay culture these days can feel overwhelmingly materialistic and sex-obsessed. (There is nothing wrong with sexual liberation, of course, but if it comes at the exclusion of other viable ways of connecting, we have a problem.)

The Good News

So what's a gay to do? First and most importantly, do not try to make this status quo work for you if you know it doesn't. Trying to assimilate into Castro culture if that's not your thing is only going to make you feel worse in the long run. Stay true to yourself, and here's how:

(1) Recognize that the gay community of generations past has splintered and gone underground, but it's still out there to be found.

(2) Identify what you're looking for - friends? Activity partners? Professional networking? What are your interests? This will help narrow your focus.

(3) Wrap your head around perhaps doing something outside your comfort zone - then take a risk!

There are hundreds of local groups, clubs and activities that have cropped up to fill the need for community that has been created in the last 15 years. Consider the California Men's Gathering, or find your local chapter of the Radical Faeries. Find a group on Meetup. Discover meditation with other queer folks. Check out your local LGBTQ centers (The Center in SF and The Pacific Center in Berkeley are great options, and both offer support groups as well as tons of local resource information). Take a risk! All it takes is a few good fits clicking into place, and the rest will take care of itself.

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