10 Commandments for the LGBTQ Community
By: Brad Kneeland
1) Thou shall learn and understand the history and struggles of our people.
The LGBTQ community is full of people who have made amazing contributions to our nation and the world. It is incumbent upon us to have an understanding of where we come from, of the people who have blazed trails and knocked down doors for us to follow. Even more importantly, it is important for us to understand the tragedies that have affected our community. We should celebrate Anderson Cooper being the first openly gay man to moderate a presidential debate. We should celebrate Tammy Baldwin being the first out-lesbian woman to be elected to the United States Senate. We should also learn the names and the history of people like Matthew Shepard and Leelah Alcorn and Tyler Clementi and Harvey Milk and answer the call to preserve their legacies and shine light on their tragedies so that we may all have a better understanding of the struggle our community has endured in order to be a part of a more perfect union.
2) Thou shall give back to those in need if thou are in a position to do so.
Nobody can do life alone. What makes our community so powerful is that we are more than a community—we are a family. Somebody helped you get to where you are in life, and if you are able to, you should do what you can to help those less fortunate, who might be going through the same struggles that you were going through. This can be a monetary donation, but it can also be something like volunteering at your local shelter or donating to a food bank or volunteering at your local LGBTQ center or even mentoring LGBTQ kids. When we work together and support each other, we make it a little easier for the next generation to live fully and honestly to achieve their God-given potential.
3) Thou shall know their sexual history and their status and always be safe.
This one is self-explanatory. Know your status and get tested often. Sex should be sober, safe, and consensual; and you should always be open and honest about your sexual history. Don’t share needles, don’t do drugs, and never do anything you or your partner doesn’t want to do without an audible and unequivocal “yes.” There are many LGBTQ centers who do HIV/STD testing for free (Planned Parenthood is another great option), and they give condoms out for free. Be smart and be safe—you owe it to your partner and yourself.
4) Thou shall not body shame.
For many in the LGBTQ community (especially gay men) body issues are a persistent issue. Much as the media has created false and unattainable standards of beauty for women, the media and popular culture have set the same standards for gay men (ie: you must be 6’2”, have washboard abs and perfect skin, and live at the gym). These standards are unrealistic and are discriminatory for a large section of the LGBTQ community. Everybody is different, and every body is different. Celebrate them, and if all else fails, remember this: we all sag and die eventually. So love yourself and the body you were given—you’ve only got one.
5) Thou shall not be racist or discriminatory.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve logged onto a dating/hook up app like Grindr or Tinder and seen guys with profiles that say things like “Masc 4 Masc, no fems, into white or Latino guys ONLY, no old guys.” Everyone has preferences, and we’re all attracted to different people, but by saying things like “only white guys” or “no fems,” you are being not only racist but also homophobic by promoting socio-normative gender roles. You can spin the “white guys only” line any way you want, but I’m gonna spin it right back at you—lines like that are racist and never ok.
6) Thou shall not out others.
You never know the battles that someone else is going through. Everyone has to come out on their own time schedule, and outing someone before they are ready to come out is not only rude, it is downright dangerous and could have harmful (even deadly) consequences (please reference Nico Hines outing Olympians in Rio this past summer https://www.queerty.com/people-still-mad-nico-hines-yet-apologize-whole-olympic-grindr-outing-fiasco-20160906 ). If you’re out and everything is wonderful in your life—that’s fabulous, but that doesn’t mean that is necessarily the case for everyone else. Be respectful and be patient. Having to come out shouldn’t be necessary, but until society adopts that mentality, it is an unfortunate expectation.
7) Thou shall not live up to stereotypes or societal expectations.
Stereotypes are hurtful and unnecessary. I can’t tell you how many times I have been expected as a gay man to be interested in fashion or makeup or know all of the words to “Rent.” If you are gay and interested in all of that, that’s awesome! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but when people place you into that box as a societal expectation, it is hurtful and limiting to your true identity. Don’t feel obligated to appease stereotypes and those who perpetuate them. Be yourself and follow your own blisses. What makes our community so fantastic is our diversity—we are truly a melting pot that is welcoming and accepting to everyone, and that should be reflective in our individual interests and pursuits. Don’t let people put you in a box when you were born to run free.
8) Know how government works and be a part of the process.
One of the great things about the LGBTQ community is how we organize to get things done. If there is an issue on the ballot or a candidate running who could advance or harm our interests, we mobilize, we organize, we legislate, elect, and advocate. You should be informed on the issues and the candidates and understand what decisions are being made and how they effect us and our community. Brush up on your party’s platform, learn about who is running for office, and remember that, while national elections (House, Senate and POTUS) are important, a lot of what effects us is on a local level as well—city council, county commissioner, and state legislature/governor races are just as (if not more) important. Register to vote at https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote and be a part of the process.
9) Thou shall not hate those who you perceive to conform to hetero-normativity.
Everyone is different. Those in our community who want to get married and have children and live a life of domestic bliss should not be ridiculed for what you perceive to be conforming to hetero-normativity. As I’ve mentioned above, to each their own. Someone else’s life should have no bearing on your life decisions and vice-versa. Much as society has ridiculed women who don’t want to get married or have children, society has tended to have the opposite effect on the LGBTQ community by ridiculing those who WANT to get married and have children. You don’t have to agree with their decision, but you should respect and fight for their right to make it. As the wise Amy Poehler once said about people making different lifestyle choices than she would make for herself—adopt this mentality and practice this creed: “Good for them—not for me.”
10) Thou shall live their best life.
You are a constituent of this planet—of this universe—and you are entitled to all the happiness and love you want. You have every right to live up to your God-given potential, to follow your bliss, and to find all the success and beauty you want. Remember that when times are hard and when society is cruel, you have a community of millions here for you, with arms open, rooting for you. Eat healthy, exercise daily, give back when you can, eat a burrito, donate some money, don’t be an asshole, and always remember to tip your waitress. You’re here, you’re queer, and I’m ready for that second margarita.
Love you, mean it.