September 20, 2011


I am part of a men’s group that meets once a month. We take a few hours each month to share what’s going on with us and get advice and support from each other. At our recent meeting one of the men was recounting his experience at Burning Man and, as part of his share, was commenting on the benefits of being in a small community.

I found myself disagreeing with him. Not so much for the nostalgic idea of a small community; rather, for the difficulty in following your own path in a small community. The reality of many small communities is that as long as you’re ‘one of us’ you fit in and can have a great relationship with the others in your community. However, if you aren’t one of us you’ll often end up ostracized and ridiculed. This is the unfortunate reality of being gay in many small communities.

Sure, we’d like to think that we’re above callous behavior and that we’d be kind to everyone. Unfortunately there are people who thrive on gossip and innuendo. A recent New York Times article on small town gossip reinforced this concern.

While I’m all for connection, community and helping each other out. I’m only for those qualities in an environment of mutual respect and tolerance of diversity. Unfortunately in most small communities there isn’t much diversity.

2 Comments on “Villages

September 24, 2011 at 9:25 am

Thanks, Ed. As I get more entrenched in my current career, I fantasize about that “small-town” retirement scenario (and living in a small community). Your post (and the NY Times article) helped me balance my sense of escape with a healthy dose of realism. I was involved in small communities in my teens and twenties–and did find the “in-group bias” to be severely limiting of my own development.

January 12, 2012 at 3:46 am

Nonetheless, modern mobility offers a different way of thinking about it. Burning Man may be a “small community”, or at least contain several, but as I understand it from afar they’re very much intentional — people never get there by default, but only because their paths lead them there. Imagine if most communities were like that, and it was expected and accepted that you could leave if you stopped being “one of us” in whatever way the community defined it. (Of course, many communities of that sort would have eclectic enough identities that it would be harder to get to that point.) That doesn’t seem like such a bad aim to me.


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