I’m a gay man and I’ve never had a drink. When I was a young boy, my father gave me a sip of his beer. But that’s it.
And when I share this information, other gay people are usually dumbfounded. And that’s because so much of gay culture – from brunch (which everyone knows is the gayest meal of the week) to pride and parties – centers around the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol has become a backbone of our community. In fact, the modern gay rights movement even started in a bar!
Of course, straight people drink, too. But gays out-drink our straight counterparts by some 16%.
And I get it. It’s easy to see how growing up in a homophobic or traumatic environment could increase the likelihood that someone might seek to reduce their stress through alcohol consumption or even alcohol abuse. The dots are easy to connect. But instead of being an opportunity for introspection and self growth, the conversation around alcohol consumption is often reserved for punchlines and jokes.
When I was around 14, my grandfather made me promise him that I wouldn’t drink. It had nothing to do with me being gay. Instead, it was because his father was alcoholic – and my grandfather didn’t want me to follow in his footsteps. Considering that genes are responsible for about half the risk of alcoholism, I understand my grandfather’s motivation. And for me, the decision not to drink was a simple as keeping a promise to someone that I love.
Many sober prides and festivities later, I’ve kept my promise. And though it was never my intent, I’ve stumbled into enjoying the benefits of sobriety. With the average American spending 1% of their income on alcohol, my wallet has benefited. With alcohol hindering muscle growth and function, my body has benefited. And with excessive alcohol consumption leading to a whole slew of problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, colon cancer and many more, my health has benefited.
I know the benefits of sobriety because I live them. But from the outside looking in, I can see how the occasional drink during dinner might be nice. But I also can’t help but wonder if alcohol is really deserving of the throne we’ve placed it on? What has it really done for us as a community or as individuals? And are those benefits really worth the price we have paid (and continue to pay) for making it so central to our culture?
I don’t have those answers. But maybe you do. In the comments below, let me know.