So, where do we belong?
Looking around at all of the activity on this site, I must say that I am impressed. Not because I didn’t think that people would respond. What impresses me is the honesty and sincerity with which most of this dialogue is happening. And, above being impressed, I am humbled at being part of this discourse. So to everyone who has responded to my initial posting, thanks. I have been a little preoccupied with some personal growth of my own over the past few days so my blogging comes to you a little late. My apologies.
So, let the blogging continue. . . ! Bryan, your comment about the “internal stigma for the person that is living with HIV” caught my eye. I don’t think that I had thought about internalized HIV stigma before. Shame, guilt and anger are some words that I have heard people (on this website as well) use when talking about their HIV. But I have never equated this to self-stigmatization. But it makes sense, how can we expect someone to love themselves when no one around them will? Nobody wants to be the outsider, but somebody always is. For me, this begs the question “is this our way of ensuring our own survival?” As brought up in an anonymous response, one way of creating solidarity is by “othering” those people in order to celebrate and reward ourselves. So then, I am curious, is the act of stigmatizing gay guys living with HIV one way for the rest of us to ensure that we remain part of an exclusive club of “good gays”?
One anonymous commenter pointed out that yes, although we do judge, we wont find all of the answers by looking inwards. To some degree I agree. But I am a firm believer that all stigmas stem from somewhere within. We have argued for decades that homophobic straight guys don’t like us because we represent aspects of themselves that they are uncomfortable with. By stigmatizing gay guys with HIV, are we just trying to remove ourselves from the image of the fag that (homophobic patriarchal) society has painted of us?
I want to thank Brian F for his comment. It really made me thinks about the concept of feeling “different.” Throughout my years going through the Toronto public school system I have always felt different. Choosing hand-tied bouquets over hockey sticks and sewing club over soccer balls I knew that I wasn’t like the other boys. And believe me, the other boys made sure to let me know that I wasn’t anything like them at all. And I often envied them. Of course I was a super-hit with the little girls and built my social realm within their world (god bless little fag-hags in the making!) there was a big part of me that wanted to just fit in. I have found a home now, with other queers with similar baggage and common ground. We share meals, steal kisses, knock elbows and lean on one another. But we do this with a recognization that as gay men of colour there is a mainstream gay world that doesn’t want us. But in maintaining this space that belongs only to ‘us’ we build fences that keep others out. Stigmatizing others to keep what we have is an ugly part of the culture that ensures that we have somewhere to belong. And as justifiable as it seems, it’s still not right. Now, some of us belong and others don’t. So perhaps a more necessary question is where do we go from here?