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Community? Communities!

When I started this series of commentaries in the Spring, I tried to communicate my thoughts about the word “hero” and the concept of “heroism.”

I spoke about the ways that heroism has been perceived and described historically, and how I believe that word has been somewhat debased and compromised by overuse and misuse in modern society.

In my Summer post, I spoke about the notion that small acts of personal, intimate heroism have the potential to manifest important, soulful change in the world around us.

For this third post in the Community Heroes series, I’d like to shift my attention to definitions of community. It’s a word that is bandied about much like the word “hero” in modern times. Everyone and everything belongs to some version of a “community” whether there’s an objective reality to that perceived community or not. Perhaps most obviously, in the context of this series, is the notion of a “queer community,” the idea of which I have long resisted. It’s my personal position that there is, in fact, no such thing as a singular “queer community” but rather, an interlocking collection of diverse multiple communities that share some similarities while also exhibiting important differences between them.

“Community, like true friendship, is built from shared experience.

The most obvious difference between an acquaintance and a friend hinges on how much shared experience you have between you. Someone you met at the bar last night, no matter how deep and engaging the conversation may have been, can only be an acquaintance until such time as you’ve amassed sufficient shared experience to foster a true emotional connection as friends.

Similarly, lesbians, gay men, bisexual persons of either gender (or non-binary), and transgender individuals of all stripes share much of the prejudice, bigotry and bullying from intolerant members of society at large, but each sub-group must traverse that shared challenge while also navigating their own unique issues. Lesbians must also deal with a misogynist paradigm that demeans all women. Bisexual persons, bisexual men in particular, must deal with prejudice and misinformation from both their gay brethren and heterosexual society at large. Transgender persons remain outliers in queer culture, facing not just misunderstanding from their queer brethren but very real threats of psychological and physical assault.

While there is value in grouping all of these individuals into a singular “queer community,” for political purposes, when it comes to the soul-satisfying experience of identifying with your “tribe” there is a need to sub-divide the queer masses into their own identifiable communities where their unique challenges serve to connect and support them collectively.

“All that being said, at the end of the day, we are all human.

One might make a case that our shared humanity is the most important “community” of all. But the reality is that as humans we are not wired to think or feel our connection to others at such a grand scale. We evolved from extended family units into villages sharing a common purpose (our mutual survival) and on a fundamental level we are still wired to connect with our tribe.

Mass media, and now social media technologies, have made it possible for us to identify and connect with our sociological (and ideological) “tribes” in ways that lend energy to the notion of community while simultaneously creating divisions between us and them (and them and them). Whether those shared attributes are psycho-sexual, political or otherwise, we cling to our identities and find comfort in connecting with smaller groups of individuals whom we can identify as “people like us.”

“There is hope for the future, as we become better informed about the challenges and threats that face all of us whether climate change, populist segregation or technological disruption.

Our existing social programming is an omnipresent challenge to our evolution toward a higher consciousness that allows us to experience the meta-connection that is our shared humanity. By “stepping up to the plate” and practicing some of the simple acts of personal heroism I’ve discussed previously, I want to believe that we can transcend our baser instincts and truly manifest a community of the human family.

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