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An essay by Josh Kruger

Illustration by NHM

Illustration by NHM

If you’re LGBT today, you’re a member of one of the most widely visible demographic groups in the U.S. You contribute creatively to arts and culture, you run small businesses, you vote in massive numbers, and you now sit in the U.S. Senate and publicly direct Fortune 500 companies. You proudly hold seats on boards of directors commanding community organizations, orchestras, charities and museums.

If you’re LGBT today, you’re also 190 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than your straight counterparts. You’re three times more likely to say you don’t fit into your community than your straight counterparts. And, if you’re a young person, the picture can be especially grim. While your peers in high school say that grades, college and finances are the top problems they face, you – as an LGBT youth – are more concerned with your family rejecting you, being bullied for who you love and (worse case scenario) being outed in an unsafe place. It’s no wonder why gay youth try to kill themselves more than almost any other demographic in the country.

But we don’t always like to read about these stories. And mine is no exception.

A few months ago, I was punched in the face by a man who said he hated “faggots.” While my kneejerk and, frankly, hilarious reply to his slur may have warranted at least some kind of response, it did not give carte blanche for every idiot with boxing experience to give me a run for my money, at least not physically.

What makes the experience worse is that the assault happened in a homeless shelter in Northeast Philly. And no, I wasn’t a staff member – or a volunteer.

I was a resident.

This type of experience, disenfranchisement, poverty, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, assault, a broken social service system more concerned about pensions than actually affording individuals a hand up the social ladder – this is the experience of many of our peers, my peers. Yet, the unpleasant reality facing our community makes its discussion verboten. We’d much rather allow ourselves to be paraded about as though we’re all making six figures, working out every morning, dressing nattily to brunch and adopting Chinese babies with our beautiful new husbands. We’re still kowtowing to the idea that as gay men we’re either good for campy laughs or aping straight culture everywhere from musicals and theater to television – like the old standby Will & Grace and now Andy Cohen on Bravo. These are all depictions of gays that are “pleasant,” if not “safe” for public consumption. But this is not always the reality. Far from it.

And these depictions do such a great disservice to most of us. If one of the gays from the A-List was assaulted, for example, it would make national news. Or Lance Bass gets engaged – hurray! But what about a transgender hooker who gets stabbed on 12th street? Scarcely a whisper.

Even the bow-tied, Ivy League-educated gays with pipe dreams of monogamy, but with anonymous (and hot) Manhunt profiles, are misleading us all.

Sure, if you want to contribute to the social conversation by flashing your Log Cabin Republicans card, I think you deserve a seat at the table. Just keep in mind that the other seats at the table are reserved for those in poverty, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, those without high school diplomas, those who cannot sit there because they killed themselves, drug addicts, alcoholics, transgender folks, and those living with HIV.

I’d love to see more real depictions in the media that speak to who the gay community really is – gay bus drivers, gays on disability, gay men who are underemployed, lesbians who are alcoholics, trans people who live on 52nd Street instead of the Gayborhood – because that’s the reality that I’ve seen.

Is it bleak? Sometimes. But we are the 90 percent.

And some of us are just scraping by.

Josh Kruger is a writer and consultant based in Philadelphia.

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17 thoughts on “The Myth of the Power Gay?

  1. Source for the 190 percent more likely to abuse drugs and 3 times more likely to identify as not fitting into your community stats?

    • Many thanks for the ego check, lady I don’t know. Humanity is, indeed, a joke. The trick is figuring out whether you’re in on it or not. Thanks for reading.

  2. Why can’t you just say you made major mistakes, left a job and created a losing “business”? And stop being so snarky to other people to act smarter than others…

    • “Quotations” are always a good way to act “cryptic” and “all knowing,” but the fact of the matter is that this piece is about the statistics culled in an HRC study on growing up gay in America and the picture facing most LGBT individuals. If it were about me aside from one tiny but practical example, it’d be called, “Na na na na boo boo, I’m smarter than you you” and read by nobody as it would have no value whatsoever.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. That wasn’t meant to be inflammatory but self-deprecating. It’s why I didn’t extrapolate on the reasoning or the background of the assault, and I even take culpability for it. I think the real point here is that part of being human is the fact that mistakes are made, and my message is that being LGBT today puts every single one of us in a position that is more imperiled than our straight counterparts. That alcohol and drug abuse, poverty, hopelessness, these are factors that negatively impact our community to a much greater degree than the heterosexual community. Taking ownership of personal failures is virtue we all strive for, but the message here is about the overall community. I could very well have simply opened up the PGN back issues, picked one of their human interest stories (that are quite good, really, particularly in the two years), and used that person as a jumping off point for the piece. Instead, since I was just punched two months ago, it’s fresh in my mind, so I used that. It’s not a human interest story, though, it’s a public and social policy piece. I’d be happy to discuss any reasonable critique – that’s why I tend to respond to questions and concerns.

    I mean, logically, by acknowledging that I at one point was homeless is pretty indicative of a mea culpa saying, “Hey, wow, I messed up.” I don’t view anyone’s admission to a homeless shelter as a prideful, “Look how well I’m keeping up the with Joneses!”

    • Lumping the idea of power gays & drugs have no correlation (but possibly a few outdated circuit boys and their rich lovers) and to assume this correlation just means you just want those that have worked for it are just bad mean rich people… There are many who are philanthropic towards the gay community. Obviously, you just need to associate yourself with others who would be willing to help and not hang out at a gay coffee house all day thinking how awful others are and moping around with so much contempt of the world. Smile more, enjoy your life and be kind to others. Your “na na boo” comment just means you have no regards to your own situation and how you treat or think of others.

      • Again, this article is not about me. This totally ignores the fact that I talk about youth suicide rates, underemployment, homelessness, ethnic diversity, trans representation in mass media, and poverty as it relates to the LGBT community. These facts were taken from the Human Rights Campaign’s “Growing Up Gay in America,” a study funded in part by the generosity of the gay community. I’m not Asian, African American, a youth, or trans. This piece is about diversity and public and social policy.

        The issue is the representation of the community accurately. Just as African Americans, women, Asians, Latinos, those in poverty, and those with mental illness are underrepresented in Congress, on television, and in mass media, they are underrepresented in overall themes involving LGBT folks, Your gripe has nothing to do with the substance of what is said here, but instead some inability to talk to me directly without the anonymity of comments. Feel free to email me if you have a specific, tangible issue to air.

        Thanks for reading.

  4. Let me make myself perfectly clear. YOU ARE EXHAUSTING, JOSH!! You drone on and on, just to hear yourself talk. Do NOT get it twisted-you are not bringing anything new to this conversation, and AlterEgo could not be more on target. You effed up ROYALLY, and this is your way of “working it through”. GIVE US ALL A BREAK. SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! You give EVERYONE a blazing headache. You are not as clever as you think you are, as a matter of fact, many people think you are a NIGHTMARE! They just don’t want or care enough to tell you….

  5. There are a lot of us working on these issues and trying to make them obvious and urgent to the community around us. In Atlanta, we started an LGBT youth homeless shelter entirely on individual and community organization donations, and in one year helped over 110 people.

    Such efforts may be less visible because nonprofits generally don’t have the funds to advertise and aren’t part of the greater entertainment media conversation about LGBT lives. However, in news media and on social media, it’s there.

    Another person commenting here indicated it’s about who people choose to socialize with, and to a large extent I agree. It’s easy to feel complacent, or think of these community challenges abstractly, when no one you know is suffering or working to improve LGBT lives.

    Which leads me to say that I wished I’d read a “call to action” in your piece. Acknowledging the problems is just step one.

  6. Pingback: The Myth of the Power Gay? « emapwerks

  7. Why are people raining hate on the article? I don’t know Josh but its worth noting a few thinggs: The article is by Josh, about Josh, on a platform Josh developed for an issue he cares about. It seems fairly logical that his personality and life experiences will be interwoven in the story as he really is the main ingredient. So, Far from being an egomaniac, I think Josh pretty courageous in that he puts his human failings on display.

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