Do campaigns appealing to our sense of community work? Or does stigma get in the way?
I’ve always been a Pollyanna kind of guy, simple-minded even, mostly believing in the goodness of human nature. Much of it I blame on Sunday school. The Jesus part didn’t stick, but all that stuff about being kind to each other did. So HIV prevention campaigns that aim to get us to look after ourselves and our community appeal to me. Particularly the bit about community.
It’s a bit like the PRIDE parade. Many people say they get a bit choked up when the PFLAG contingent goes by. I do too. It’s hard to say why; but the sight of all those beaming moms and dad sandwiching their gay offspring touches something very basic in me. One, because it’s just so damned good to see the kind of family ties that I never had. Secondly, it speaks to me about community and how encompassing that concept can be, when we want it to be. For PRIDE, at least, our community includes moms and dads and all those TTC drivers and Mounties and firemen and bankers and rainbow flag-carrying cops. Just for the day, that one day perhaps, but they seem part of our community. And it feels good.
Or at least it feels good to me. We are all different of course. I know for a fact that some folks actually like brussels sprouts! Hard to believe, I know. It’s a strange world indeed!
I know some will say that we gays are not so much one community but rather a community of communities. There are issues of exclusion here too, which can’t be ignored.
But a campaign that focuses on stigma, like this one, tends to spotlight our collective flaws. True, there are messages about community to be had here. The cute guy in the black t-shirt that everyone sees when they first access this site even addresses it. He’s appealing to our basic inner goodness, of course: “Lets learn to keep each other safe” he says. “Help unite our community“. Good stuff. But there’s also the implication that we aren’t in fact keeping each other safe, that we must learn to do so, that our community isn’t yet united on this. Hard to argue with that, I guess. There’s work to be done and tackling stigma - which is, let’s face it, as divisive as hell - is a good start.
I’m curious though. Do you think appeals to us gay guys as a community resonate? Can guys get in to that, or do some of us feel too marginalized for it to work? Or is it all just too damned altruistic for words? Or simplistic, even? If you don’t feel part of a community why would you want to strengthen it? I don’t know. Does it recognize enough that we are all flawed? I don’t know that either.
If you’ve read my blog a few times, you’ll know that there are in fact a lot of things I don’t know. But I do know definitively about brussels sprouts. They are, of course, the devil’s spawn. And that’s a fact!