I have been doing queer activism for a number of years – 11 from when I first tried to form a GSA at my middle school to today, where I work for a national LGBTQ Youth Organization, with lots of stuff in-between, from internships to conferences to, you know, actually having a few relationships.
And time and again I am struck by Just How Small the queer community is. People will often get annoyed when somebody says “oh, do you know Jennifer in Boston? She's queer, too!” and your reaction is not “No, not every queer person knows every other queer person” but instead is “Jennifer Smith? Yeah, we presented a workshop together a couple years ago.”
The world can start to feel really, really tiny after awhile. Of course I don't actually know every queer activist in the country – that would be a ridiculous claim. But I do know a lot of people, all over the country, and some internationally. And in many cases I have known these people for much of my adolescence.
This applies to a lot of groups – high school, college, community centers, etc. I feel that queer youth and young adults (and adults too, I'm sure) often have to be a little more aware with things like dating, discussing other people, and just in general with friendships because chances are that, at least within whatever specific community you are in, people will know other people.
How have you handled the realization that the queer community seems to be about the size of your back yard some days? Even when, logically, you know that it is larger you repeatedly run into the same 4 people time and again.
Practical example: There is this one girl, M, who is originally from Texas. I am originally from California. M and I have been doing queer activism for around the same amount of time (she is a couple of years older than I am). We had a big, blow up fight when I was 14 and she was 16. When I was 19 we both ended up living in DC for a year. When I was 21 we, completely inadvertently, ended up interning at partner organizations in neighboring buildings in Boston. Last year we were paired up to be presenters at a conference that we didn't know that the other would be at. It's been over 9 years, and we are perfectly fine with each other at this point. But that taught me, more than anything, that you can't burn bridges in your communities if you want everything to be smooth.
So what are your tips and tricks for making sticky situations smooth out so you can still be happy and function well in your communities of choice?
-------------------- Hey folks, my name is Andrew and I was a mod here for awhile a couple years ago. I'll be here for a couple weeks while Heather is out and the site is even more short-staffed than usual Posts: 441 | From: Boston, MA | Registered: Dec 2010
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I think your comment about not burning bridges is very true. When everyone in my queer community is someone I know, an ex of someone I know or at least someone whose face I recognise at every gay event...it's important to be careful about how I talk and who I talk about. Like really cutting down on the gossip and slagging people off. And to be friendly even if you don't have heaps in common except for the queerness, because you know you're going to be seeing these people over and over again.
-------------------- "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."
I used to be shocked by the mutual friends I have with other GLBTQ identified people on Facebook. There are the strangest coincidences. "The Chart" on the show L Word really does ring true for me, but not in a dating or sleeping together sense... more like knowing tons of positive folks who do activism work or speak out in their communities. I agree with eryn_smiles. I try to keep it positive since it's a pretty tight little community. Keep that drama from rearing its silly head.
-------------------- - "And when everyone is super, no one will be."
-Syndrome, "THE INCREDIBLES" Posts: 116 | From: Olympia, WA | Registered: May 2007
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I did worry about this recently. Every single person I mak friends with, I find out after to be queer like me. What worries me is, is this an example of cultural segregation between those who identify one way, and those who identify in other ways?
-------------------- ~ Saffy Scarleteen Volunteer
To my Abuser: I'm seeing stars. I bet you can't do that. Posts: 1265 | From: England | Registered: Oct 2010
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It's an absolute minefield, a perfect example happened today with a friend of mine. She was getting her hair cut and talking to the hairdresser about how small the gay ocmmunity was, when the hairdresser started talking about another client of hers who was telling her about how awkward it was seeing her ex girlfriend out and about. It turns out the other client was my friend's ex girlfriend. Awkward!
I think you do have to make sure to keep at least on civil terms if at all possible with exes and try and minimise drama in that situation. You don't have to be bessie mates with them but if you can get to ap oint where being in the same room is ok then it's probably best for all of you.
In terms of professional links though, I thnk it's great that I have so many contacts and probably find an LGBT activist in any corner of the country i need to within one or two phone calls!
Posts: 896 | From: Europe | Registered: Nov 2001
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