Rather than offering any substantive ideas, this post is a string of more or less related musings on the nature of demographic “community” as it exists for some of us. On one level it is nonsense to speak of an LGBT “community” — there is no more a communal solidarity between these disparate individuals than there is among straight people. This language is presumably used simply as a more euphonious synonym to demographic grouping.
Nevertheless, on another, structural level, society is still a straight community, and some sort of LGBT equivalent is a more pressing demand for those not supported by this structure. In North America and Europe at large, there still seems to be three basic social stages through which social life passes (albeit in differing time frames). One starts off separating from one’s family and primarily socializing with friends. After a period, this transitions to a significant other and children, and social life again becomes primarily familial. This changes again later when the children leave home and social life turns outward again from just the family, but perhaps with the addition of grandchildren as a focus. Of course, this path is not followed by all, and timings vary, but it is by and large still a dominant social pattern in the four countries I have lived in so far.
Despite fairly recent advances in legal marriage and adoption equality, this pattern by and large still does not apply to the LGBTs. (There are a number of causes, outside the present concern). The effect of this is that while in the increasingly tolerant social world, LGBTs quite often can be fairly integrated in the first social phase focused on friends. However, they get unintentionally marginalized in the second phase, when their straight counterparts become focused on familial relations (children, etc.). They are also out of sync with the third phase, without the same relations with adult children, grandchildren, and in-laws.
The result of this is that LGBTs are, in fact, in need of an additional source of social community. Unless or until it becomes more normative for their social life stages to match the straight pattern, social isolation is a real structural product. This is true even in places that are LGBT-friendly; the reality in more oppressive locations is of course more dire.
For various historical reasons, the so-called LGBT community is ill-equipped to provide this social structure, or so it seems to me. Most focus and effort is directed towards support for coming out, or for various public health campaigns (STDs, mental health, etc.). The reasons for this are self-evident and still very pressing. Yet results include that once one hits the stage in life that straight people are focused on their young families, one is left at the margins of the social structure. “Community” in a stricter sense of meaningful and closer relations is non-existent.
One can particularly understand, then, why previous generations (and some younger people in more conservative areas) attempted to conform to the dominant model, despite all the stress it caused: at the very least, the appearance of a normal family provided a set of socially inclusive relations. The increasing dismantling of this form of dishonesty is to be applauded, but it has yet to be systematically replaced with an alternative — a proper LGBT community (or so it seems to me).
I don’t have any idea what such an entity might look like. And perhaps my perspective is more bleak as a result of long-term transnationalism. Recent discussions with several friends, however, have tended in this direction. What can we do about this, without devaluing families (which are indeed very important) and without socially segregating people along lines of sexuality (which is also undesirable)? Moreover, I suspect straight people without families or children also face a similar structural situation. There may indeed actually be no real large-scale solution, being something individuals must try to negotiate on their own in their own particular situations.
To bring this post into dialogue with the overall title of this blog, I can note a lack of tools for this topic in his corpus. In an entirely separate context, Kierkegaard wrote of the “single individual,” the “knight of faith,” who subverts the universal/ the ethical to achieve the highest relation to God. In another place, he takes pains to explain the divine nature of marriage all the while justifying his “suspension” of taking that decision for himself. Indeed, Kierkegaard has powerful reflections on the nature of being as oneself—and even of love in various forms—but he typically falls down when it comes to community with other humans. His scheme of placing the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious in hierarchical relations does not leave much meaningful room for how to authentically relate to others (at least so far as I have read him and remember what I have read). He considers the stultifying effects of society in several ways, but has little to suggest how to build community.