How ambiguous the phrase “gay friendly” is was shockingly brought to my attention by the following situation. The surrounding gay community boycotted a gay acquaintances hospitality business and mine. His business is welcoming to all but cater primarily to a mainstream clientele. A group of gay visitors felt they were being discriminated against because the owners required them to behave in a way that was conducive to a mainstream family clientele. The group believes that by virtue of the business being gay owned that acceptable behavior at similar gay only establishments should be allowed there as well. My acquaintance was accused of not being gay friendly because of his policies, and me because of our affiliation. This prompted me to take a closer look at this phrase I had taken for granted and more closely examine the equality goal of the gay community.
Gay is a term used to label homosexual men and as a catchall term for “LGBT society”. Friendliness of a person or group of people can only be gauged by our personal experience or the experience of those with views that we know to be aligned with our own.
When we hear a phrase used by someone with whom our views are not necessarily aligned, and we apply their usage to our understanding, we unknowingly alter our meaning of the phrase. The varying interpretations of “Gay Friendly” have resulted in it becoming a very ambiguous phrase.
“Gay Friendly” is typically used to describe new attitudes, feelings, inclusiveness, or level of acceptance of our culture, which is striving to affect a huge social change in the world. Change does not occur easily. When it involves social development and realignment of the social order it is a long and difficult process. This process invokes personal attachment, passion, and emotion. The goal of advancing LGBT culture can easily become compromised when emotions are allowed to influence decisions and actions.
Lack of understanding when presented with information different from the norm further complicates the advancement of LGBT culture. Changing the norm can be interpreted as a threat. Those that are more progressive do not feel threatened. Individual’s understanding and rates of growth vary, and so will their degrees of “Gay Friendliness” or progressiveness.
Progressive describes that development is occurring gradually or incrementally. In the context of gay culture it tells us there are new ideas and ways of doing things that encourage societal change. It indicates advancement and reform from an existing condition or norm. Progress indicates evolution and when we talk about people in society evolving it is human nature that they do so at different rates.
“Gay Friendly” is static and does not give us any indication there may be varying degrees. Most think of “Gay Friendly” absolutely. The truth is several levels exist. Treating society with the expectation that everyone is evolving at the same rate is harmful to the change gay culture is seeking. A growing culture cannot afford to live with disdain for the society it is encouraging to evolve for its benefit. We will invariably come across people who feel threatened by differences and express it inappropriately. Evolution is a state of flux, which does not occur uniformly. It is essential that we are positive and practice the very acceptance and compassion we seek. We need to meet others where they are without judgment. This does not mean that we have to like them.
LGBT culture has been stigmatized as being only about our sexual orientation. Our culture has no more to do with sex than any other culture, be it African-American, American Indian, or Asian, etc. If we are mindful of our personal presentation and the manner in which we interact we can better move our culture above the negative perceptions that now hinder our evolution. It truly is not about what we do, but how we are perceived. LGBT society is not that different from the rest of society. We are a cross-section of the population that has different looks, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and standards. We want to be respected for who we are, not as a stereotype. Playing into the stigma does not benefit our fight for personal freedom, civil rights and acceptance. We need to respect society as a whole using the same standards of respect that we want to be treated with. We won’t all see eye to eye but through mutual respect we might agree to disagree.
We need to ask ourselves these questions:
Where do I stand on “Gay Friendly”?
What is my level of respect for all members of LGBT society?
Do my actions show pride in my culture?
How might my actions negatively affect my society?
What is my level of respect for mainstream society?
Do my actions match my words?
How am I setting the tone for the worldview of LGBT culture?
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