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 ;)