2 min

Be that model

Open up in public, make Vancouver a friendlier place

Credit: Xtra West files

I’m sitting in a café when this guy I’ve known over the last 10 years or so comes up to me and says hi. Before I’m able to utter my friendly response, he starts in on how miserable his living situation is.

“Sounds like you should consider moving” I say, knowing that a solution isn’t what he’s looking for. Over the years I’ve experienced his litany of reasons for why he shouldn’t have to do anything to remedy his situation. He has no role in his unhappiness so he has no responsibility to make things right. It’s always someone else.

My friend Eric advocates using the Reality Check in this kind of situation. He’s big on holding up the mirror and reflecting back what he sees, so the individual concerned comes face to face with his own behaviours and attitudes. He seems to be able to do this without hurting anyone’s feelings and in a way that instills hope rather than shame. But what do you do when someone has become so entrenched in their own unhappiness that they seem to be content to just stay there? What do you do when it’s not isolated to just one guy, but rather it’s happening in varying degrees throughout a community?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all gay men are unhappy and not doing anything about it. That would be grossly overstating the issue. But I hear it all the time from guys. “Nobody smiles on the streets.” “Nobody says hello in the grocery line-up.” “Gay guys are so shallow.” “There’s no such thing as a Gay Community. If there is it doesn’t represent me.”

I think of myself as compassionate and I’m aware that most people rarely have complete control over a situation. But where do you draw the line on complaining when it looks like the wrong strategy? It seems like a lot of men have given up trying to change their situation and given in to just talking about it.

While talking is often a necessary step between noticing something you don’t like and doing something to make it better, at some point you do have to do something. Otherwise a person can slip into victim mode without even realizing it has happened. With so many ways of getting involved in community in Vancouver, there really is no excuse. If you don’t like what’s out there start something new.

I think it comes down to taking responsibility for becoming the kind of person you want to see more of in your own community. Be a model and make change happen.