Vancouver’s Gays: Are We Really The Worst?

Vancouver’s reputation as the laid back utopia of the North West definitely took a huge hit a couple months ago due to the post Stanley Cup riots which led people to wonder if they really know what Vancouverites are actually like. Admittedly, the suburbs and the straights were the bigger variable in this little disaster equation, but, it begs the question: what is Vancouver really like… specifically, the Vancouver gays.

Today, I’m considering something I know all my friends have been told at some point that: “Vancouver gays are just the worst to meet!” At first, this statement seems laughable. Canada has some of the nicest citizens and Vancouver is full of happy smiling, pretty people… right? I’ve heard you can stop most anybody if you’re from out of town and for the most part have a great experience as you attempt to find out how to get the beach. BUT, take a walk down Davie Street (our tiny version of San Fran’s Castro) and apparently this generosity and welcoming nature is thrown out the window…

Actually, I have heard that in general, even us gays are nice people to confused strangers and the lot, BUT when it comes to gay on gay interactions, we: “Are the worst!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the words: “I can’t find any nice gays in this city”, or: “It’s impossible to make gay friends in Vancouver” or the growled: “The cliques! My god, the cliques!” Time and time again I’ve heard it said that going to a club in this city is like going back to high school where you have the cool drug kids in one corner; the sketchy drug kids in another; the older guys sitting over there; the sexually active band geeks at that table… and so on. And, I’ll admit I’m definitely a part of that issue myself.

In fact, I’ve had many close friends get called out as: “One of the Homorazzi guys who always hangout together” and they’ve never even written for the site! But, what matters isn’t who your friends are, it’s how you are to people who aren’t your friends and that you don’t know that I think counts. I totally like to know people when I get out and do of course gravitate towards hanging out with them, but is it at the cost of meeting someone new? …should I even worry about that? Now, I’m not at all going to get preachy, but I will say that when I travel to places far away like Denmark or Argentina and I wander a bit down the “gay streets”, a smile and a reciprocated “Hello” goes a very long way when you’re in a new place and maybe don’t know a soul.

So, having just ordained myself as a saint haha, I will put out there and force myself to ask the looming question that I think permeates most gay interactions: how much does what a person look like matter in the: “Am I going to talk to this new guy” equation? This one is definitely a issue that we all ought to look at. Take a quick look on Craigslist or Manhunt or click on your Grindr and you’ll see countless rants and qualifiers about size, age, looks, race that limits who we’re looking for and who we’re willing to associate it. NOW, before you scroll down to angrily comment, I fully admit that what we look for in bed is hardly a mirror to our willingness to befriend… but, I would posit that often, there’s a level of superficiality that plays a role in all interactions. Honestly, is there not a better chance you’ll say hey to the early 30s, muscle stud swaying with a vodka soda in hand than you would the 60 year old with the lazy eye?

Taking the other side however- as I’m of course a transgressor of this one- I’d for sure admit that as a 28-year old, I likely have more in common with the younger dude than the older gent, so why not streamline by what just fits better right? I’m not saying one over the other is better… I’ll let you hash that one out 😉

Returning to the issue- and perhaps Gay Vancouver’s biggest- of cliques… First off, let’s admit that a lot of gay guys don’t have the greatest high school experience: a lot are bullied or never quite fit in, so once we come out and embrace the gay community, finding a group of guys you fit with can be an amazing and first time experience that you’ve never had before. So, I totally see why so many guys feel comfortable in their groups and safe to finally be themselves. Unfortunately, to the outside world, this has given us a pretty bitchy rep. The amount of inside jokes, knowing smiles and impenetrable histories and stories within Vancouver’s many cliques make it nearly impossible to approach as a newcomer without feeling like a constant alien and 9th wheel. Hell, there’s been nights with my friends that some drama we had going on at a bar made it seem like there wasn’t another person in the whole club and that our storyline was “all that mattered that night”… at least in my memory of it.

Having written this though, I have to wonder: wouldn’t any other metropolis’ gay community be the same? Isn’t New York filled with “in crowd” mo’s…? Doesn’t San Fran have it’s own pretension about it? Why have I heard so often that Vancouver is by and large the worst? While I don’t presume that this accusation is even necessarily legit, I do have to wonder that maybe it’s a little bit because of how easy we’ve had it? Maybe the fact that NY or Barcelona or Johannesburg had to fight to earn safety and respect for their gay communities and that they still remember this fact (losing it bit by bit though) that keeps their gays humble to hatred and “othering”. Maybe, because relatively speaking, our Northwest gem of a city has been so liberal and open-minded for so long (again, compared to other major cities) that we’ve allowed ourselves to forget how terrible denying others can be?

A second and final thought/”diagnosis” comes to mind about this issue is also something Vancouver gets a lot of flack for (and rightly so)… our gay community is SO SMALL. Numbers alone, big city vs. big city, our population doesn’t hold a candle to “real” gay meccas like West Hollywood and NY’s Chelsea though our geography isn’t too dissimilar! For that reason, everyone knows everyone’s business. It’s actually a bit ironic I say this as early reactions by many people who heard my two best friends were starting up Homorazzi went immediately to: “Oh god, so you’re just going to post everyone in Van’s dirty laundry online?!” Clearly, not what we ended up doing (well, for about 99.99% of the content ha), but honestly “in this city”, it wasn’t a totally unreasonable reaction to have!

Very much related to the topic of meanness is the constant concern of gossip. This city loves its juicy breakups, love trysts and rehab failures- but hey, so does anyone who watches a Real Housewives or Celeb reality show and that comprises… well, all of North America 😉 Still, bringing it back to us in YVR, the lack of available gay pubs, clubs and meetin’ and drinkin’ venues makes it so that when you go out, you end up seeing pretty much all of gay van’s scene mo’s. Yes, there’s more non-sceners out there than there is club kids, but this gossipyness (which, I am fully a victim of falling susceptible to myself!) often keeps more than a couple gays at home on the weekend as they just don’t want to deal with “the scene”. Which, really, is super unfortunate, cause a lot of those guys are cute!! Having said all this however, maybe that’s just what I’ve skewed my view of this town to… feel free to call me crazy!

In the end, I’m not putting this thought into the world to lament my personal issue with the matter, but rather to post for so many gay guys I’ve run into or heard talking in passing about this bitchy, queeny gay community of ours. I’d like to think that the typical Canadian friendliness applies even to us homos, but it’s hard not to stop and think about it for a second when there’s so much rallying to the contrary. Don’t forget however, our strong push for education and advancements in healthy sexual practices and huge volunteering population though: important boons to remember when equating how “good” or “bad” we really are. I’d love to hear your comments, be they either way… of course, maybe this is an old issue and I’m the only one still rattling on about it ha. Who knows 😉

  • Jimi

    There are many truths that you can find from this article being someone who is “from the outside looking in.” IMHO, we can learn a few things from our female counterparts. No matter how much we try to say that our lezzies are inundated with Drama, we know for used that they take care of each other and that they CARE in the first place. Theirs is a camaraderie that we can strive for. When we can move past the pettiness and the so-called ‘cliques,’ then maybe we can actually start acting on the actual care that we conflate with gossiping.

  • patrick

    Short general comment: boston is the same way. Its npt that its super cliquy, its just that he city and th gay scene is so tiny thwt the cliques are more noticable. In nyc if womeone ignores me I move on…there are plenty of guys out there hether as a frind or whwtever.!

  • Peter

    I stopped reading after this comment

    “Hell, there’s been nights with my friends that some drama we had going on at a bar made it seem like there wasn’t another person in the whole club and that our storyline was “all that mattered that night”… at least in my memory of it.”

    I’m going to go vomit, don’t get me wrong I’m all for narcissism but you’re just so lame…

  • Haha sorry you didn’t like the article Peter. I’m certainly not promoting that that’s a great mentality but wanted to be honest with who I am! And, sometimes, when you’re with your friends and something comes up like your best friend just got dumped, it consumes your attention and night to the point that you don’t remember what songs the DJ played or who else was there. I’m sorry that comes across as narcissism!

  • jono

    And who perpetuates that stereotype? The likes of you, Adam.

    We know that a lot of the so-called “A List” crowd is filled with small-town and Prairie transplants who came here and started to act like Jack McFarland from Will & Grace. I mean, really? We know what you and your ilk were really like before you moved here. You were just country bumpkins who came here and acquired some bad manners (a few of your cohorts might have picked up something else, but let’s not go there).

    And who are YOU to speak on our behalf? It’s people like you who weep for the state of our community. Next time you do some “soul-searching” and “finding yourself” for some total shit article like this, do us all a favour: when and if you do find yourself, get lost.

  • Chad B.

    I agree with Jono on this one. Homorazzi has played a big role towards the image that Vancouver gays are insular cliques with unfriedly members. And Adam, you have the reputation of being both a douche bag and a drunk. I recall being introduced to you and a few Homorazzi members, and you al looked right through me. And I’m not bad looking or unfit, either.

    Adam, take a look in the miror, cause you just called the kettle black.

  • Jon P.

    Gents, let’s not cut each other down. This is a forum for honesty, but let’s put things into perspective; we have all had difficulty in gay social circles. Mine have been temporary because the brethren I came to know gravitated back to their own cliques. I’m a homebody and a spectator. I honestly wish we were more appreciative of spending QUALITY TIME, not just time, but QUALITY TIME with each other. We can share scintillating conversation, challenge each other’s convictions in a respectful way, and be genuine about how we love one another. Let’s put aside the gossip, the name-calling, the hurt… Let’s show hospitality and stop asking to be put on par with more civil people so we can take the time to put ourselves there by showing our honest love for each other. We are special, we can love so much stronger than we can ever hate; we can heal so much more effectively than we can ever hate.

  • JC

    I don’t know if this sounds sad, but I really question the notion that I should feel a strong bond with people simply because they have the same sexual orientation as me. Don’t get me wrong, if we’ll campaigning for same-sex marriage, or God forbid, coming together after a gay bashing, then I think we should unite in solidarity. But beyond that, I’m friends with people because we share common interests. I attend church regularly and like classical music so I’m probably going to have friends who are religious and who like Bach or Handel.

    A few months to a year ago, I was wondering why I didn’t fit into the gay community. Then I realized that it didn’t matter, that I had many friends who were straight or gay, who already loved and cared for me for who I am. Instead of moping that I wasn’t getting noticed on Davie Street or that guys at the club weren’t talking to me, I realized that I was overly concentrated on friends who I didn’t have, rather than focussing on friends who I did have.

    Again, let me reiterate it further, if it is about gay rights or fighting against discrimination, I’m all for us gathering together to speak against violence or injustice. But in terms of friendship, I have strong bonds with quite a few people, some gay, some straight, some young, some old or elderly. We bond together because we share common interests and can converse with each other on an intimate level.

  • czahn

    how sad. Nico (your very own Nic Opp) is a shining example of Canadia’s loveliest. Gays anywhere will piss you off, its got nothing to do with geography. We’re just bitches sometimes. Why? BECAUSE WE CAN! 😛

  • Robert G

    It seems so high school to me, but I don’t mean that in a mean way. I mean in that way that I felt uncool next to that cheerleader I thought was the bastion of cool and she felt massive insecurities and fear she wouldn’t fit in too. We project on others our insecurities. We can’t call someone a drunk and a douche bag if we haven’t at some point feared our own drunken douchbagness. And it seems to me the only solution is to deal with our own insecurities, find our own love of self, and offer compassion to others, even those bastards who don’t love us enough or notice us when we stand silent, wallflowering, wondering why we’re invisible but not speaking up.

  • wade gibson

    sad but true, i went out, for the first time with my partner of 21 yrs after not stepping in a club for 10 yrs and not one hello, i smiled at people, said hi, and nothing. i have been to may cities around the world and have never had trouble anywhere else. other people i have met in other cities have said that vancouver is stuck up, cliquie, bitch and rude. sad! suck a beautiful cities and many nice people but not in a gay club. if your not gym ripped, hot, hot , hot don’t bother.

  • I will say that it took me several years…several meaning about 4 years to find the close friends that I have now in Vancouver- both Homorazzi and non-Homorazzi friends.

    To be completely honest, we don’t all hang out all the time like we used to and we are by no means cliquey – if that was the impression we gave. We all seem to have our own circle of friends, even though we are all connected by Homorazzi.

    To add to that, when Adam first met me, I found out later that he had originally thought I was a snob because I didn’t talk to him much as we were on the same soccer team…when in fact, I was just super shy. I’m like that when I don’t know anyone, but amongst people I know, I come out of my shell. I’ve since become a lot more social in all types of settings.

    I will say to Chad B. that I think it’s unfair to say that Homorazzi has given you the impression that Vancouver is like this when you have called Adam a “douchebag and a drunk” when you have barely met him (assuming you were trying to talk to him when he was drunk) and when you have written other negative comments about other Homorazzi writers today.

    Just my two cents. As you said, seems like “calling the kettle black”.

    Oh and Czahn, yes Nic is good people. We are happy to have him as part of the site and happy to have you as such a loyal reader. Thank you for all of the continued support everyone!

  • I love this article and the comments. It makes me giggle.

    Get over it people, everyone has been bitchy to everyone at least once. We all have said or done things to someone or some people while we were out a bar and drunk. It happen, we all think were fierce bitches at one point or another. And if you say you have never done that, you’re lying through you caps.

    Who cares if people stick together in a bar? Who cares if they have drama, who cares if they think they are QueenB’s and wannabes. It’s all so silly. If you feel like some people aren’t nice to you, just move along.

    A List gays…haha there’s absolutely no such thing in this town. The best we can hope for is like a C+ list for real. And whoever calls other people that is just putting people up on a pedestal that doesn’t exist.

  • My typing is AWFUL today.

  • Nathan

    I HATE the word clique… should groups of friends not see each other as often or try not to hang out together in bars?? I think that was one of my best memories about Vancouver is how often I saw my friends and how tight (and large/diverse) the groups of friends were.

    When I cam to Vancouver from Calgary/Saskatchewan everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly and I found it one of the easiest cities I’ve ever lived in to have friends in different groups be able to co-exist and get along. That may have changed in the past 4-5 years, but I have not been able to replace the type of friends I was so lucky to find in Vancouver in any other city (to the same degree anyway) and still spend a large portion of my time traveling to spend time with the friends I originally met in Vancouver, even 5 years down the road.

    I think one thing that plays a huge factor is in cities like NYC etc it is already a lot more segregated, so bars often have a certain “scene” to them already that makes it easier for people to mingle and not seem like “cliques”, as the bars usually attract a crowd with similar interests to begin with. In smaller cities it is usually just a big Goulash so you have to contend with a larger variety of likes/dislikes/scenes in each bar setting, which can create competition for some.

    Having lived in a few of the cities mentioned, I can’t imagine this “reputation” being true and also on my last visit home had many friends from LA in Vancouver who loved it and made friends easily and thought the locals were fantastic.

  • Mouse. Goulash.

  • JC

    This isn’t a jab at Vancouver per se, but I have noticed that the gay community in general is heavily geared towards extroverts. Then again mainstream society is no different. Jonathan Rauch is an introvert and a gay man who wrote an article in the Atlantic about this subject: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/

    With the exception of small discussion groups, most events, especially related to gay pride, are heavily extroverted: (the clubs, the parade, the bars). It isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that not everyone thinks that a good time means navigating through hundreds of people you don’t know. If there were events and activities that were more broader in scope and did not require a lot of money (Let’s not forget that Vancouver has the highest cost of living), then the community could be a lot more diverse and inclusive.

  • Stephen

    It BAFFLES me that Adam is becoming a psychologist. Adam, you probably find Vancouver people are bitchy because your actions, articles, and general values are absolutely terrible. What’s more? You bring it 100% onto yourself. Based on your writing alone, I can comfortably say you’re actually a terrible human being. Why on earth homorazzi let’s you represent them any longer is beyond me.

  • john

    I find this to be true in most cities I’ve been to. I don’t think it’s just about Vancouver’s gay community. It applies to MOST gay communities and it’s something that’s clearly displayed in most gay bars……very mean girls, very high school. Great Read!

  • Good read.

    I would actually say Vancouver gays are way more welcoming and proactively social to new people than Toronto gays. But i think it also boils down to what you put out there in the universe. If your looking for bitches, heathers, and plastics than yes you will find them.

    If you look for friendly amazing interesting people you will find them in the Castro, Queen West, the Village, SOMA, Kits, or the West End.

  • Michael

    Having just moved to Vancouver 2 months ago & being one of the new kids on the block. I’ve noticed the cliques or groups of friends. However, I’m pretty sure they didn’t miraculously form overnight. My guess is someone had to say something at some point to form the friendship in the first place. So far Vancouver has been awesome! Maybe I’m just pushy? If I see a group/clique I might get along with, I’ll cross the border into their territory. If If I get a chilly sup?… “Just passing through boys”. Not to worry Vancouver, the “welcome wagon” is doing just fine.

  • Jake

    Personally I’ve found the UK to have the cliques that are the worst. Anyone would think they are all proctologists the way they seem to be so far up their own ass.

    Anyone trying to even integrate may well have 6 heads and twelve legs with how they are welcomed unless they are exceptionally good looking. Alien visitors would stand a better chance of being accepted there. To give an example there was (still is) an event there that supposedly welcomes all those from the bear community including admirers…having been there I can tell you I was (along with others) made to feel as welcome as a turd sandwich at a picnic.

  • Dino

    For what I see in this forum many gays have a hard time accepting tangible reality. I congratulate the writer of this article, though all of our experiences can and do differ to some extent and there are exceptions to the rule, he has made a pretty accurate description of what I have experienced myself . Yes, a lot of Vancouver gays are bitchy, insecure, gossipy, racist and judgmental. Suck it up..! you have worked hard shaping your bad international rep.
    Is it just a coincidence that gay tourism has decreased in the last years? I do not think so. Of course delusional Vancouverites blame it on the” lack of budget”. Delusion is part of the cultural trait in this city.
    From the gay businesses and their unfriendly staff ( with exceptions of course), to the average gay whose sense of self importance is as big as his own imagination. I fortunately have moved out of that hell-hole.

  • seeya

    l’ve been back 8 years. Still haven’t found any quality friends or even had sex for that matter. Ya, Vancouver is crap.

  • Anon

    I totally agree im actually kinda of depressed just to think about… There is no real quality people here with ambition other than smoke pott and go to those dirty stupid bars on davie

  • Anon

    I completely agree with you…. I have lived in few different cities and Vancouver is the worse i ever seen…. The gay guys here are very bitchy, not friendly at all, snob and racist.. I don’t know the point of it, since they are not highly educated and professional… This is a city that where everyone is from somewhere else and they go on grindr and describe on their profile “white guys only”
    I am kind of depressed and def have gave up to find someone here

  • Anona

    Indeed!

  • Izzy

    Very intriguing blog. I can fully relate to this post, and what’s funny is I have had a clique to some degree but it was very short lived as “the scene” got old and it’s upsetting because I’m still in my prime. Hate to admit it, but im one of those guys who decided to watch netflix over going to davie. As I have stated on my plenty of fish bio:if you’re looking for a hookup, have a walk down Davie, take your pick!

  • van2

    really?

  • Frank

    Alright guys, I know I’m late. Over the past 3 months of moving to Vancouver, I’ve noticed two things: 1. guys here flat out lie about their penis size, I’ve met 5 inchers who claim to be 8; 2. they like to abruptly end an intimate session cuz they simply don’t feel like it, and they seem to struggle with reciprocation. These could happen anywhere but, they seem to be a theme since I’ve been here. Just my observation, not rosy but it could be the water, weather and whatever medication they take.