Queer in Community: Another Perspective
Of the gay, lesbian and bisexual people who choose to live in intentional community, many—if not most—of us choose to live in integrated communities, where heterosexuals are the majority, as they are in the wider society.
Why is this? Well, many of us prefer the diversity. Just because I choose someone from one gender as a romantic partner doesn’t mean I want to exclude folks of other genders and choices from my life. Also, deciding on a queer-only community limits your options in a lot of other aspects of community. If you want to live in a certain region of the country, or to live in a community with a certain focus or lifestyle, you have many more choices if you consider mixed communities.
Some strands of the communities web abound with members who are ‘straight but not narrow.’ They may be people who never really felt that they fit into mainstream society and the rigid roles it offers to men and women. They may know what it is like to have made important choices in their lives which their parents did not support. They may be dissatisfied with the isolation of the nuclear family. They may be people who always wanted to be physically affectionate with their friends, but were prevented by pervasive homophobia. They may understand that the ‘traditional family values’ backlash is as much an attack on the communities movement as it is on gays and lesbians. People with these backgrounds and perspectives tend to be natural allies of queer folk, and often make good friends, too!
Even if having a bunch of other queer people around is a high priority for you, a mixed community may be a good choice. They are often quite a bit larger than queer-only communities, and they may actually include more queers (especially those of the bisexual variety) among their numbers than a small lesbian or faery community does.
If you are queer and looking for community, here are a few suggestions:
Don’t assume that going to live with a group of other dykes or faeries will necessarily be simple and nurturing. People are people, and you may or may not have enough in common with any particular group to make living together feasible and rewarding. Even if you are well aligned with people, group living requires certain skills that take time to develop.
Don’t assume that you will or won’t feel welcome in a mixed community. Every community is different, and they change from year to year, depending on who is living there. There are queer-friendly communities among rural communes, cohousing settlements, ecovillages, urban cooperative houses, activist collectives—just about any type of community out there. Out of the 278 communities who chose to answer questions about sexuality in this directory’s survey, only six percent indicated that they have restrictions against nonheterosexual relationships.
In your letter of introduction, it is probably a good idea to mention your sexual orientation, without making a big deal of it. There are communities that are not open to queer members, and you’ll want to know this right away. On the other hand, many communities really do value diversity. They may be genuinely pleased at your potential contribution to their demographic. They may pass your letter on to a queer member of their community to answer, or give you useful information about local queer culture (or lack thereof).
If your letter doesn’t get answered right away, or you get a cool reply, don’t assume it’s because you are gay. We letter-answerers tend to be a little overworked, and, alas, we are not always as responsive as one might hope.
Join QIC (see below) to find out the insiders’ scoop on many communities!
Queer in Community: the intentional community network for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendereds, queers, faeries, dykes, and the people who love them. Sponsors fun gatherings and maintains a database of queer and queer-friendly communities. QIC, c/o Mahantongo Spirit Garden, RD 1 Box 149, Pitman PA 17964, USA. Email: qic at ic.org, http://www.ic.org/qic/
Rajal Cohen lived at Twin Oaks from 1990Ð94. She left to found Abundant Dawn community with a group of other experienced communitarians. She can be reached via email: rajal at ic.org.