What Are We So Proud Of Now?

In A World Where HIV Is Treatable, Marriage Equality Is Ours, And “Gay” Is Okay, What’s Left To Bind Our Community?

Throughout my twenties and thirties, I was practically the embodiment of Gay PRIDE. So proud to be an out-of-the-closet homo was I that my 1995 Honda Civic had a rear bumper enameled with every rainbow sticker I could find, which was a lot. Rainbow jewelry, rainbow magnets, rainbow attire — my PRIDE had me looking like something a unicorn had barfed up more often than not. But I remember those days so fondly!

During those years, though, my day-to-day was lived under a different set of circumstances. I was a young, white man, tall, and though I rarely saw it myself, relatively thin and attractive by conventional standards. My friends and I were forever driving from city to city to experience all that gay life had to offer us by day and by night. We, as a community of queers, were united by the ongoing AIDS epidemic. We rolled up our sleeves and joined hands in supporting our community through fundraisers like the AIDS Walk, and we were politically active in fighting for equal rights, anti-discrimination, and the right to marry. We were by any definition the proudest gay men anyone could have hoped to be.

It seems there’s little for me on dating apps or websites other than being willfully ignored, or, as happened to me just this week, being blatantly told to “stay in [my] lane”.

Enter the 40’s. As if someone reached in and pulled a chain to turn off the light that had illuminated me all my young adult life, suddenly I began finding myself standing like a big, old island in a sea of increasingly entitled and unfriendly twenty- and thirty-something young gay men. It became harder to relate to them, harder to integrate myself into their crowds, and harder to respect them or the exclusive behaviors they exhibited. Slowly, PRIDE celebrations became dreaded and going out to clubs to mingle started feeling less and less like fun.

On a daily basis I come across infighting among gay men from different generations. There is no shortage of opportunity to feel flatly rejected while trying to meet new people. The competition for attention has grown into something ugly and mean spirited. Unless I spend all of my time, money, and energy trying to metamorphosize my physique into one that more closely resembles itself at age 25, it seems there’s little for me on dating apps or websites other than being willfully ignored, or, as happened to me just this week, being blatantly told to “stay in [my] lane”. That latter bit of hurtful advice wasn’t hurled at me by one of the vapid young queens that occupy every inch of gay real estate online, either. It was given to me by an attractive 48-year-old man who has clearly supplemented what was surely a fortuitous genetic predisposition toward being more fit and defined with the aforementioned time, money, and effort that someone our age has to invest if he wants to earn himself the label “Muscle Bear”. Mad congrats, asshat. I’m pulling out of traffic altogether.

I was invited to go up to Seattle this weekend to attend the city’s annual PRIDE festivities, and I immediately declined. The instant feeling of anxiety that erupted in me was a sufficient premonition of the way it would feel to be hemmed into crowded bars full of revelling young gay men and their beautiful cohorts, many of whom have already made it quite clear that they want nothing to do with the likes of me. What’s there to be proud about in our community when a huge cross-section of it has devolved into superficial, narcissistic, entitled little shits who proudly adopt the Mean Girls mentality and are quite content to relish the benefits of this 21st century gay life that was paid for with the blood, sweat, and tears of old, unattractive homos like me? Not much. Not much at all. 

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