My Gay Duty, and Other Vague Misnomers

As a gay guy, I often ask myself: how much personal responsibility do I have in the lgbtq community? I have read books, watched movies, and looked up organizations on-campus to volunteer with when I return to school in the fall. Through this blog I have shared some of my experiences. And yet, I still lack a clear definition of how much I need to do. How much of the weight falls on my shoulders? What is my gay duty?

Answer: It doesn’t exist. Sort of.

Speaking of lgbtq movies, I would highly recommend The Normal Heart, a drama that focuses on the onset of the AIDS crisis in NYC in the 1980s. Bring tissues.

Speaking of lgbtq movies, I would highly recommend The Normal Heart, a drama that focuses on the outbreak of the AIDS crisis in NYC in the 1980s. Bring tissues. Image via sodasandpopcorn.com.

The same concept applies to individuals who identify with an oppressed group or care about the issues they face. As a woman, how much time do you need to dedicate to feminism, the Hobby Lobby ruling, and the intersection of gender roles and mental illness? As a non-white individual, how much should you contribute to spreading awareness about your culture and fighting racism? As a straight white male who happens to care about women’s reproductive rights, who draws the lines when it comes to your support?

After awhile, I reached the conclusion that every individual should create their own standards. You should dedicate as much of yourself as you want, otherwise, your efforts will either fall flat or feel unfulfilling.

I do not advocate selfishness. Rather, we should strive to develop a sincere, intrinsic love for what we fight for – defending the cause for the cause’s sake – rather than forcing ourselves to volunteer, picket, or campaign just because we assume we have to. Many ways exist to support lgbtq rights and how people perceive us; they range from working for the Human Rights Campaign, to proving that gay men can succeed in several different professions, to donating money to a trans organization, to mixing in lgbtq advocacy and awareness into our daily lives. And, no matter how much we argue for the causes we believe in, people will push back – case in point, Macklemore – which just proves the importance of internal motivation.

Basically, don’t let gay – or female, or black, or fat – define you. Free yourself from preconceived notions and duties. Do what you want to do to improve yourself and the lives of those around you. Don’t let gay define you.

Define gay.

I do not think anyone, gay or straight, should feel obligated to like "Same Love." Still, I appreciate Macklemore as an ally, irrespective of what others think.

No one, gay or straight, should feel obligated to like “Same Love.” Still, I appreciate Macklemore as an ally, irrespective of what others think. Image via instinctmagazine.com.

What do you guys think? I have been pondering about the ideas in this post for awhile, and I still feel a little unsure of how I expressed them – I also believe that we can develop passion for different issues by educating ourselves and then taking action. Do you feel obligated to fight for any causes you don’t feel too strongly about? Also, I’d like to hear more people’s opinions about Macklemore, because maybe I’m just missing the boat on why he’s not the best ally.

Also, if you want to check out my thoughts on Fan Art by Sarah Tregay, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, or Ashfall by Mike Mullin, you can do so here, here, and here respectively. Hope you’re all having a great week!

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18 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

18 responses to “My Gay Duty, and Other Vague Misnomers

  1. I think there are many who don’t have the energy to “support” by action or participation. In the same regard, it takes an awful lot of energy to hate. The best way to support is to be tolerant, accepting, and open to differences and variations of the human spirit and existence. My duty is to be the best person I can be and in my opinion that means don’t waste energy on hate. Or create problems for others.

    • I agree, for those who do not gravitate toward activism, being accepting and open to difference is a good mindset to adapt. I also feel like the energy to support action can be developed in different ways, but yes, I see what you’re saying here. Thank you for reading and commenting, Colleen!

  2. I really love what you’re saying here.

  3. You always write the most thought-provoking posts!

    This is actually something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’m a fat, female, vegan, liberal atheist in the Bible Belt – there are definitely a lot of causes I feel I have to fight for! I’ve also always been a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community. I feel guilty all the time because I feel like I should be doing something for all these causes. But as a straight white woman, I’m also not sure how much I can really do in support of communities I’m not a part of without it seeming like I think I know more than the people I’m trying to support. I clearly don’t know what it’s like to grow up as part of a racial minority or as an LGBTQ teen or a non-binary person or someone with a mental illness (although I’m actually starting to question that last one, but that’s a matter for a different time). I completely get why people would be upset that straight white people (usually men) seem to still get all the attention.

    But at the same time, don’t we want support from other groups? I love seeing men identify as feminists. I would love to see more thin people accept the idea that fat doesn’t make someone a bad person, or more meat-eaters stop making fun of veg*ns, or more religious people say, “Hey, just because you don’t believe in my god doesn’t mean you’re an evil person.” So I think we all need to support each other. Yes, step back and let the people who know what they’re talking about to most of the talking, but still take the support we can get.

    I think that’s part of why I love being a writer. So much of how we view other people comes from pop culture, and a lot of people form beliefs about people without even really noticing it. By writing about all different types of people, I like to think that I’m doing something for all my different causes, even if it’s not much. I still want to find more things to do, but for now the writing will have to be enough.

    And it turns out I wrote practically an entire blog post in this comment. Sorry about that. 😀

    • This is a fabulous comment, Katie! You’re right that sometimes it’s difficult to speak out for certain groups or causes when you’re not necessarily a part of them – for example, in about an hour I’m going to publish a post about feminism, and while I was writing it I felt a little concerned (will people react to this well after knowing I’m a guy)? But, as you write in your comment, everyone should use whatever voice or platform they have to speak out for what they believe in; if you intrinsically support a cause, it’s better to show your solidarity than to rest in silence. For example, with Macklemore, it is a little unfortunate that he gets a lot of gumption for speaking about gay rights even though he’s not gay, but hopefully his part will help people be more accepting and listen to actual LGBTQ individuals.

      100% agree with your sentiment about writers and writing. I feel like reading and writing force you to open up your eyes and to exude empathy in your work – it’s a noble, valuable sentiment, and of course we already know that books have changed the course of history many, many times.

      Please do not apologize for the length of your comments, it’s a pleasure to know that something I wrote could inspire such deep and insightful thinking! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. Very thoughtful, eloquent post.

  5. Good post. Now you made me think. I think I’m going to defer answering your question for now, and answer on my own blog. Thanks. 🙂

  6. Now this is an excellent topic for discussion. As a gay man I actually worry some times, ‘do I not support my gay community enough?’ I watch documentaries where people fight for their gay rights and I realized that some times in this world you have to stand up and really push against inequality to make changes. So should I be doing this in some way?

    I agree with you, we need to come to these battles in our own time and if we truly feel compelled towards them. If we force ourselves to fight, our efforts will “fall flat or feel unfulfilling” (as you said).

    But I do think there is something to be said for who society will listen to on certain issues. I have a straight female friend who is a feminist. She makes a good point. She always says that even if an educated, well spoken woman stands before a crowd or class and advocates for a woman’s right to abortion (for instance), she will be viewed as having her own agenda. After all, she has a uterus. Now if a straight, white man stands before that same crowd and speaks out for a woman’s right to choose, then he is treated with more respect. For two reasons, 1: He does not have a uterus and so he has no agenda. 2: Straight, upper-middle class, white men seem to have the most respected voice on all issues in our society.

    I bring this up to say that, as gay men, if we fight for any gay issues we will always be seen as having a skewed agenda. Regardless, fighting is necessary, if you feel called to fight.

    Great post! Thank you for making me think about this issue!

    • You raise a lot of great points, Adam, especially about the skewed agenda. You’re right that people might assume a bias toward certain groups if they speak out (which is a little unfair, because as a gay guy, obviously I am at least a little more aware of the struggles we go through than straight people) but at the same time it’s good that we have allies who will speak out. After reading your comment and others’ views I feel like we need to think of it as a process: even if at first people will only listen to those in privileged positions (for example, straight white males), we should hope that those voices will open up the path for more varied, diverse voices to come in and share their stories later on.

      Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful comment!

  7. Pingback: What is my gay duty? | Colinology

  8. I do agree with you when you say that there are various ways to support minority groups and that individuals should do it out of love and not selfish motive, but the question i’ve been wrestling with is if what i’m doing enough– as a minority myself and for other minority groups I ally with. If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we can all say there’s always more we can do.

    I go back and forth about this. To me, getting to that “realization point” sounds like its driven by convenience…you know, like, whenever I so happen to talk to a minority, read an article, or when a social issue arises about a Christian craft store. I understand that it is still the first place to start, and of course it would be naive of me to assume that all people are like this. But, unprivileged individuals live through cruel realities every day. They’ve been waiting, and fighting, and waiting for more support from allies and other minority members, and fighting…

    So back to the chicken and the egg, I don’t know. What’s next? Jump on the next movement? Keep on reading? Still trying to figure out if there is more I can really do, instead of thinking that I am doing as much as I can when I could be doing so much more. Now that elicits some genuine introspection. Thanks for opening up the discussion, Thomas!

    • Elayna, you raise a of great points in this comment, and you definitely delve more deeply into the introspective side of determining how much we’re all responsible for. I think you’re right that while it’s great that we read a lot and empower ourselves with knowledge, there comes a point when we should use that wisdom or empathy to empower others as well – acting as an ally in several ways can help accomplish that. I would also love to hear you ruminate on this subject on your own blog too; perhaps it will inspire genuine action from both of us.

      Thank you for reading and commenting, as always.

  9. I do think about these type of questions too. Like I am female, so should I learn more about feminism? Read more books by female authors? (But, tbqh, I just really don’t care about gender when it comes to books – a good book is a good book) Also, I enjoy reading LGBT books and/or books with POC characters, and talking about them on the blog, but I don’t do this to raise more awareness or anything… at least it’s not my main goal. I just want to talk about what I like and while I’m happy if it makes others pick some LGBT books up, it doesn’t feel like “taking action” to me…. I guess, I’m just not the activist type.

    Anywaaaay, I see that you have read Fan Art!! Sorry it didn’t work for you 😦 I do agree with your points but, well, sometimes I just don’t care if the characters are stereotypes. Fan Art is mostly “just” fluff but it’s the kind of fluff that works for me when I want to turn off my brain, Haha 😉

    • It’s great that you recognize the motivations of your actions and that you’re comfortable with doing what you like to do. It’s wonderful that you know what makes you happy and while you’re aware of some of the good effects of your actions, you don’t preoccupy yourself with doubts and worries about whether you’re doing enough, because you already know what you want to do.

      And yep I read Fan Art, and I appreciate your comments on my thoughts even though I didn’t enjoy it as much as you did! I don’t necessarily regret reading it – every book has value in some shape or form, and I’m glad that you liked Fan Art a decent amount yourself. Thank you for reading and commenting on this post!

  10. A good post, and I love all the comments, too. I really think I should get a Tshirt with a great bit ALLY on it: as a straight white female, I have those struggles, too. But I love when men identify as feminists, and I try to show support, inclusion and equality in my daily doings.

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