It doesn’t matter if its queer/poly/kink, music/literature/geek alcoholica or Academia there is always a scene. That is – a place to see and be seen.
When I was 17, living far from the metropolis and alienated, I dreamt fondly of that opportunity. My experience before university was limited to the local gay club (deserted and not a little seedy) and a trip to see Rocky Horror in the theatre (we dressed up- the locals assumed we were hookers). I had high hopes. University was going to be the place where I’d be able to explore my sexual identity, hook up with men and women without the need for conventional relationship structures and find out what turned me on even if it was unusual; I was going to meet other people who liked learning for learnings sake, read Pratchett and Herodotus, watched Buffy and Euripides; I was going to go to folk clubs and metal nights….I was going to meet new people and learn new and exciting things.
Needless to say I was disappointed.
Not only were the majority of people I met as closed-minded or more than the people I’d known before but the spaces weren’t as diverse and experimental as I’d hoped. It turns out that even in places supposedly filled with people ‘like me’ are not in fact for me. Now that is not to say I didn’t meet new people who introduced me to new ideas and taught me things I had never imagined but it wasn’t on ‘the scene’.
The point is not that these places don’t exist and that some people don’t both enjoy them and learn from them – its that I am fundamentally unsuited to them and not only feel alienated but also find them stifling.
It is a symptom of their role in bringing together people with similar tastes or interests that they consequently often exclude people and ideas that are marginal to that interest and can be downright hostile to certain viewpoints – such activity fosters the sense of belonging. But I would rather begin with the idea that since we are sharing a space there is already an agreed overlap and therefore it is the sense of difference that is interesting. Whilst it is nice to hear my views and preferences validated by other people’s expression of them, I am interested in discovering the new.
In general, I am quickly mystified by the jargon, the pre-existing networks and drive towards finding a partner. In turn though I am just as confused by the non-stop criticisms of those spaces and networks by the people who are in the midst of them. I don’t understand how the rules are created, why some people are naturally central to group dynamics or what people gain from this form of social inclusion?
Will someone please explain to me how and why these things work? And how to get what I want from such gatherings without upsetting people?