Respecting Those Around You
Most MSMs have had to make an journey to get comfortable enough to connect with other men and for some, to live openly as gay/queer/bi. Each of us understands our own story and the steps we've had to take to find our way to a place of acceptance.
Unfortunately, our own experience feeling isolated or left out does not prevent us from openly disrespecting our fellow MSMs because they may look or act differently than us.
We encourage all MSMs to treat each other with kindness and compassion. If someone flirts with you, contacts you on a cruising app, or is just trying to be friendly at a social gathering, respond graciously. Passing along a smile to another guy takes little effort but can make someone else's day. The person who may not seem appealing on first glance may be really interesting or incredibly hot once you get to know him. And if you are completely uninterested, find ways to respectfully communicate that message. We've all been dissed too many times, why not be friendly and generous with each other when you have the choice?
1. Body Shaming
Men come in all shapes and sizes-and we are all beautiful and sexy in our own way. Respect that others may have a different body type than you or what you find attractive at this moment. Your tastes may change with experience, age, where you live, and as your body changes. We recommend keeping the body shaming to yourself. There are enough messages out there already that prevent many men from feeling good about taking their shirts off on the dance floor.
It would be wonderful if on our own journey towards self acceptance, that we realized no one group is better than another. However, we often bring our racism and ideas of social hierarchy with us into our MSM communities. You may think that including a list of races that you are not into on a cruising app is just putting out your personal preferences, but its hurtful to those groups you are leaving out. We encourage you to take off that list from your profiles and even chat with guys you may not inititally have thought might be attractive. You can always say "Just checking things out" or "Not really into connecting" which sends a more subtle and respectful message.
Each of us has an age range that we find ideal in playmates, friends, or partners. However, out in the world, we encounter a range of people, many outside of our narrow view of ideal. Whether its someone who seems too young or too old for you, its still possible to be kind and respectful in your interactions.
4. HIV does not mean "Dirty"
When HIV negative MSMs say they are "Clean" on their cruising profiles, it sends a clear message that guys who are HIV positive are dirty or unclean. This can be hurtful to men who have the courage to be open about their HIV positive status. If you prefer to connect with someone who is HIV negative, say that instead of insulting other dudes who are just looking for fun too. In the era of PrEP, more HIV negative men are choosing to connect and have sex with HIV positive men. We hope this helps change the divisive trend of using the word "clean" in the context of HIV status.
5. PrEP- Shaming
Over 75,000 HIV negative guys in the United States are proudly choosing to take PrEP which gives them protection against getting HIV. A lot of these guys are being called sluts and whores by other MSM. PrEP is bringing an effective change to HIV prevention and we encourage all MSM to recognize that guys on PrEP are leading the way to eliminating new HIV infections. They have the courage to blaze a trail that may eventually help all MSMs in the fight against HIV.