Need advice on gay etiquette? Ask Mr. Manners

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Matters of etiquette can be complicated even in the most traditional setting; in the LGBT community, where we’re still kind of making it up as we go, sometimes it can seem like nothing is truly simple.

Books and advice columns on manners abound, but Emily Post and Dear Abby don’t tend to cover how one should deal with issues like being uncertain of STD status; seeing a need, Stephen Petrow wrote not only the books, but the website on gay manners.

Petrow’s site, Gay Manners, has extensive archives answering questions on a variety of topics, divided into the self-explanatory categories “Coming Out,” “Friends & Family,” “Dating & Sex,” “Gay Weddings,” “Everyday Manners,” “Gay Families,” and “Straight Talk,” plus the catch-all “Queeries,” where every question on the site is archived.

Perhaps best known for his column Mr. Manners, syndicated nationwide on sites such as the Advocate, Petrow has been writing about etiquette for over ten years. Though the site is called Gay Manners, the Straight Talk section makes it clear that everyone is welcome:

…our straight friends need guidance on manners, too. It’s unlikely you’ll find the kind of advice you’ll need anywhere else, since other etiquette books don’t address subjects like a gay friend’s wedding, or how to respond when someone tells an anti-gay ‘joke.’ Straight Talk is for you: the straight friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and everyone else whose lives intersect with LGBT individuals, and who want to do the right thing.

As LGBT issues can be seen as a mix of everything best not discussed in mixed company—sex and politics—speaking about them, even when “preaching to the choir,” can get tricky, but as Mr. Manners, Petrow is on a mission. In a June 2013 column, Changing Society Through the Etiquette of Same-Sex Weddings, he wrote a bit on why he finds etiquette so important:

Manners… help to mollify our collective anxieties about the disruptions in our world. […] At its best, manners ease these struggles by helping us make sense and order in a changing world, relying on what I like to think are core human values: civility and respect.

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