Most of us remember them from high school those jock, and cheerleader, types whose sole function seemed to be making the lives of the rest of us miserable. Ever notice that same behaviour among gay men. I certainly have. This month I want to explore why those men are like that, and why we don’t need to tolerate it.
I’m not talking about physical abuse, bur rather verbal nastiness, shunning, or shaming. Whether it’s based on age, looks, race, fashion sense, or perceived masculinity, the negative slogging that many gay men dish out is truly shameful.
Just like our high school bullies these men’s behaviour is based on deep insecurity. They can’t feel good about themselves unless they’re putting someone else down. Bullying is usually learned. Someone taught these guys that they had to choose between bully, or victim. Sometimes victims become bullies in order to protect themselves. Whatever the case we shouldn’t tolerate it.
I dealt with almost daily verbal taunting, and sometimes physical abuse, in high school. Eventually I fought back, hard, finally ending the cycle. That behaviour, and anything like it, is unacceptable.
It is important for anyone facing harassment to stand up for themselves. We’re adults, and there is no reason to tolerate abuse. That may be obvious for more extreme bullying, but what about the verbal stuff, the taunts, the laughing?
A few years ago I was at an outdoor party is Palm Springs. I was in line for drinks when a group of guys pushed in line ahead of me. I told them to get in line with the rest of us. Then they started baiting me. “Oh”, the lead jerk said “we just wanted to stand by you because our friend likes you.” I could feel them ready to laugh when I reacted positively to the compliment. I knew exactly what they were about.
I looked at the guy in question and said “Sorry, you’re not my type”. Once I had the drinks he tried to block my path. I didn’t back down. When they realized I wasn’t going to budge all his friends laughed at him. He blushed and let me pass. Nice friends. The hardest part of the episode is that lots of people saw it happening and did nothing.
When a verbal altercation happens it can be hard to defend yourself without making the situation worse. That’s where the rest of us come in. Stand up for people who are being bullied in spaces that are supposed to be safe for all of us. If you’re a regular at the establishment talk to someone about having the offending parties removed. Most bars and clubs are happy to get rid of the trouble makers. That’s what bouncers are for. As gay men most of us have put up with our fair share of bullies. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, and each other, the pattern will never change and we’ll all be victims of the mean boys for ever.