Words to Live By: Community

By : Rick Claggett
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Rick Claggett

Rick Claggett

My entire life is gay. I work in arguably one of the gayest offices in town, my gay friends and I mostly hang out in the locally gay-owned watering holes and I have played on gay softball, bowling, kickball and volleyball teams.

In fact, I even turn what’s straight about my life into something gay. My best friend, Jen, and I have lived together for almost 15 years.

Although she is heterosexual, I can count on one hand the number of times Jen and I ventured into a straight bar together. I drag her with me to almost every event I cover for Watermark. She is such a part of my gay life that most people assume she is a gay herself. Playing along, I just tell them she is a gay man on the inside.

Even my straight brother cannot escape my gay world. About five years ago he joined my gay softball team in the Central Florida Softball League and continues to play in the league to this day. Recently we joined a straight league together but managed to stack it half-full of gays too!

One of the gayest things about my big gay life is my fabulous friend, Lucky.

Lucky is flamboyant, fashionable and dashing. He is the kind of guy you find yourself saying “gurl” to over and over again while clutching your pearls. I recall a time when we were down the road getting fast food from a national chain restaurant. Lucky was being his normal, hilarious self while ordering his dinner. The cashier seemed to gaze at the spectacle in front of her for what seemed like an uncomfortable amount of time before exclaiming to him, “You are the gay!”

Although we laughed for years about this, I’m taken back to that moment when I hear derogatory remarks made towards gay people, especially when it is dished out by other gay people.

I’m not just speaking of the caddy remarks that fly around more frequently than glitter on a go-go boy, but the actual distain that some gay people show toward their more effeminate male peers and masculine women.

It surprises me how many times I have had this conversation. Usually it accompanies some event that has national attention. Chaz Bono comes out as transgender and is the butt of endless jokes. Seemingly every fall the newest sitcom has a character that’s too over-the-top gay for “normal gays”.

The same question enters my mind every time, “What’s so threatening about their behavior?”

Are we more worried about what that person is doing and saying, or more worried that people watching them will think that’s how we all behave? Are our own insecurities being projected onto them? Seems silly to me.

Of course our community’s internal discrimination isn’t limited to gender mannerism. In Ken Kundis’ ‘Preaching to the Converted’ column in Watermark‘s last issue, he shared his view that men in their 40s aren’t age-appropriate if they spend their time in gay bars or clubs. Other generalizations claim gay women will U-Haul their way into relationships, gay men can’t hold a relationship because they sleep around, bisexuals can’t make up their minds, drag queens are bitchy and leather gays are perverts.

I don’t believe a word of that to be true, at least not as a whole. You can find a cliché in any group, but over all I doubt the validity in generalizations.

I choose to embrace the community as a whole in that we all serve a purpose. For a long time the most visible in our community were the drag queens, leather daddies and militant gays. It was the deplorable treatment of drag queens that catapulted the gay rights movement into mass action. Let’s honor their achievements in our history and celebrate their current contributions.

This issue Watermark takes a very in depth look at the state of the Leather Community in today’s society. I encourage everyone to check it out, especially if you are predisposed to think negatively about anyone involved in leather. Electric shock to my junk may not be my thing, but if it’s yours then you have my blessing and support.

As we finish our time of reflecting on what we are thankful for and head into a new holiday season, keep this in mind: Embrace each other. It takes courage to be a stereotype. Hell, it takes courage to be who you are.

Whether you are the community leader on the soap box screaming at the elected official or the community leader talking behind the scenes, each of you have great value to this community.

Twinks, bears, lipsticks, bis, questioning, allies, business entrepreneurs, transgender, community leaders, openly gay elected officials, puppies, daddies, queens, kings, butch, fems, vers, tops and bottoms—we will always fit into some kind of category and have our place.

As the saying goes, it takes a village. But sometimes it takes the Village People.

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