Most of us have been there. You see someone walking toward you on 14th Street.
The human reaction that is expected when you see someone you even vaguely know is a polite smile, maybe you even stop and chat.
But for too many gays, that basic human response does not occur. As your paths are about to intersect on 14th, you outstretch your gangly arm or ready a wry smile to say “howdy-ho neighbor.” At the moment of truth, though, he walks straight past you as if you were Patrick Swayze from “Ghost.”
“Minnesota Nice” is not always alive and well in much of the D.C. gay fiefdom.
So what makes gay D.C. different from our straight brethren who inhabit the same city? And what makes D.C. gays different from say Brazilian gays apart from the cut-line of our swimsuits or the size of our parades?
First, unlike straights, our first awkward dance to Limp Biscuit did not occur in the 6th grade unless it was with a member of the opposite sex. We didn’t exercise poor judgment by buying two tickets to “Jurassic Park Lost World” with our first boyfriends. If we saw Lost World, it was with a girl who was on an accelerated puberty track, several feet taller than us.
In short, except for the brave few among us who spoke their truth and came out as teenagers, many of us entered college or even the start of our careers without the level of romantic socialization that our straight brothers and sisters enjoyed.
We may have been spared the “birds and bees” talk from our parents, and our 5th grade health teacher explaining, at great pains, the ins and outs of same sex love-making. But that is at a cost. We started on what was a lonely place in high school, where we may have tried to lower our voices an octave or two, or bruh out by joining in “locker room” talk.
Some of us even played golf. Yes, golf.
This was all an elaborate disguise in order to fit in. Today, in D.C., that feeling of being alone on an island has been replaced with an embarrassment of riches: gays are in bloom, they are everywhere, even at Navy Yard.
Faced with this bounty and still remembering the feeling of not being completely accepted in our earlier years, some of have us “have done unto others, as they have done unto us.” We who were socially ostracized by others are now often guilty of ostracizing those most like us.
So where does this leave us? First, let’s commit to not pretend to not pretend to see one another.
No, that does that mean you have to make knowing eyes to every gay person walking past you, but you can flash a thumbs up, a double-cheek kiss if you’re feeling Euro, or at least a faint smile.
Second, let’s commit to expanding our social cliques.
No, that does not mean you offer to host a secret Santa gift-exchange with a perfect stranger, but it does mean that even those with fewer than 1,000 Instagram followers may still make a killer friend.
We can all do better, myself included. We can show that we are community of several shades, not one that is known, from time to time, of throwing it.
Blake Narendra is a D.C.-based writer.
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