Involvement in the Gay Community
The need to belong is a deeply felt human trait. For many, the sexual minority community helps provide a feeling of belonging and the affirmation and acceptance that are missing in the larger culture (Russell & Richards, 2003). Social and political involvement with other homosexual people is another step in coming out. Homosexual people have helped found service organizations, educational centers, and professional organizations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and Gay and Lesbian Criminal Justice Professionals. Gay fraternities have formed on college campuses across the United States. Homosexual retirement communities provide alternatives to traditional retirement communities, in which older gays and lesbians may have to be on their guard against negative attitudes of other residents (Rosenberg, 2001). Religious organizations for homosexual people have been established, including the 43,000-member Metropolitan Community Church, with 300 congregations in 22 countries, and denominational groups such as Dignity for Roman Catholics and Integrity for Episcopalians. In addition, the Internet has provided a gay virtual community in ways never before possible.
The AIDS crisis precipitated increased community involvement and coherence. The gay and lesbian communities mobilized educational efforts, developed innovative programs for caring for AIDS patients, created an impressive network of volunteers to provide needed support for persons with AIDS, and lobbied—often quite visibly—for increased AIDS awareness and medical research funding.