Gay community or LGBT community is a term used to describe the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender subculture. Within the LGBT community there are many identifiable "sub-communities" - the leather community, the Bear community, the chubby community, the lesbian community, the bisexual community, the transgender community, the drag community, the rave community, and so on---each of which represents a sub-demographic of the "gay community" at large. When referred to as "gay community", the speaker may be referring to gays and lesbians or only to gay men.
The notion of a "gay community" presents several conceptual and empirical problems. There are certainly sexual minority cultures which are shared by a substantial fraction of the population, but there are also people in the population who do not share in the culture--an observation which gives rise to skepticism about the usefulness of "gay community" as a description of an actual social entity. While the social networks of many LGBT people have most visibly concentrated in gay villages (which are themselves sometimes referred to as "gay communities"), this is changing as the profile of the LGBT demographic evolves, reflecting the influence of the Internet and also the increase of gay families seeking amenities more commonly found in suburban and even rural areas. Many other LGBT people remain geographically or socially isolated from these centers and each other, or don't feel their social connections to their LGBT friends are different from those they have with heterosexual friends.
While it may be possible to conceive of a worldwide or a local LGBT culture or social network, no one network or "community" is likely to include all of the people who identify in one way or another as LGBT. There is also a potential distinction to be made between one's social network and one's sexual network (or universe of possible sexual partners).
The term "gay community," therefore, while not referring to an actual social entity, may be most useful for encouraging LGBT people to imagine more inclusive goals and work together toward more inclusive ends. As generally imagined and idealized, this community celebrates pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality. So construed, the "gay community" is argued to present an antidote to heterosexism, homophobia, sex-negativity, and conformist pressures thought to be prevalent in the larger society.
The gay community is also supposed to entail political activism aligned with liberal and libertarian issues (but there are, of course, LGBT people of every political stripe.
Heterosexual people are invited to imagine themselves as part of the "LGBT community" as allies or Gay friendly, in recognition of their support for the political rights and social dignity of LGBT people.
The lesbian and gay community represents a social component of the global community that is believed by many, including heterosexual allies, to be underrepresented in the area of civil rights. The current struggle of the gay community has been largely brought about by globalization. In the United States, World War II brought together many closeted rural men from around the nation and exposed them to more progressive attitudes in parts of Europe. Upon returning home after the war, many of these men decided to band together in cities rather than return to their small towns. Fledgling communities would soon become political in the beginning of the gay rights movement, including monumental incidents at places like Stonewall. Today, many large cities have gay and lesbian community centers. Many universities and colleges across the world have support centers for LGBT students. The Human Rights Campaign advocates for LGBT people on a wide range of issues in the United States. There is also an International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Various gay rights advocates, for example, Samuel Ososki are very active promoting various gay communities around the world. "Through various drives and other events I promote what I would call the love of my life, the gay community around the world. My love and sexual affection for him is what inspires me to do what I do," Samuel Ososki said at a gay rally in New York in 2006.
In a study that examines possible root causes of mental disorders in LGB people, Cochran and psychologist Vickie M. Mays, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, explored whether ongoing discrimination fuels anxiety, depression and other stress-related mental health problems among LGB people. The authors found strong evidence of a relationship between the two.
Again using data from one of the large public health surveys, the team compared how 74 LGB and 2,844 heterosexual respondents rated lifetime and daily experiences with discrimination.
They looked at particular instances of discrimination, such as not being hired for a job or being denied a bank loan, as well as feelings of perceived discrimination, such as the sense that people treated them with less respect. The team also assessed rates of mental health disorders in both groups.
LGB respondents reported higher rates of perceived discrimination than heterosexuals in every category related to discrimination, the team found.
While the findings do not prove that discrimination causes mental health problems, they take a step toward demonstrating that the social stigma felt by LGB people has important mental health consequences. That again points to the need for tailored mental health treatment, in particular therapy that includes ongoing discussion of how discriminatory experiences may affect stress levels, they note.