The Gay Stereotype

“Seriously, you’re gay?”

“You don’t look gay?!”

“You don’t act gay?!”

These are just a few of what many have said to me when I talk openly about my sexuality. It’s been 17 years now since I “came out of the closet” and began to deal openly with my sexuality. Before 1995 when I was on the other side and “in the closet”, I remember the many taunts at people that others viewed as gay even if they didn’t know if that person was gay or not. A lot has changed since then with both those that are gay and those that are not and well, a lot hasn’t changed either.

I’m 6’5″, about 170 pounds, with a short crew cut hairstyle and blue eyes. It’s hard not to notice me and most wouldn’t know upon looking at me or spending time with me that I am in a gay relationship. I don’t like labeling myself as gay primarily because of the stereotypes that are associated to the term and lifestyle.

Wikipedia describes a stereotypical gay male as the following: “Homosexual men are often equated interchangeably with heterosexual women by the heterocentric mainstream and are frequently stereotyped as being effeminate, despite the fact that gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation are widely accepted to be distinct from each other. The “flaming queen” is a characterization that melds flamboyance and effeminacy, remaining a gay male stock character in Hollywood. Theater, specifically Broadway musicals, are a component of another stereotype, the “Show Queen”, generalizing that all gay men listen to show tunes and are involved with the performing arts, and are theatrical, overly dramatic, and campy.”

I did a search on Google to see what many say a stereotypical gay person is like. The Wikipedia definition is tame compared to what some think. What’s sad about these generalizations is that they are the same as when I was growing up. In 40 years of my life, it hasn’t changed. Television continues to bring shows on the air such as Will & Grace and Modern Family depicting these stereotypes. People love these shows and they win a lot of Emmys. Modern Family is the latest to win year after year and have nomination after nomination for their portrayal of gay characters. Eric Stonestreet was nominated this year for that very specific role. It’s very believable that he’s gay when you watch him on the show. In real life, he’s not. Neither was Eric McCormack who played the gay man Will on Will & Grace. In a movie, most often a “gay male” is depicted as weak, feminine, flamboyant, and promiscuous. Are there gay males in the real world that are feminine and flamboyant, promiscuous, and like show tunes? Of course. Are there many other gay males out there that are completely different? Most definitely. It’s not even just with gay men. Lesbian women get the wrap with being described and portrayed as being overly masculine, having a deeper voice, short cropped hair, and wearing male clothes. The only main thing different with lesbians on TV and movies today is that they are showing more strikingly beautiful women be sexual with other women. My guess is because it is within many straight male fantasies to be with two women into each other and themselves.

When I tell people about my sexuality, I get a lot of dropped jaws and the questions that I began this posting with. I’ve even got the “but you play sports” and the “are you sure” comments. Is it difficult for mainstream America and really the world in general to embrace a masculine acting man who finds attraction in another man because of these stereotypical portrayals of a gay male? Lesbians don’t get the same treatment. It’s becoming more and more common to see a lesbian woman openly showing affection to other woman in public. I have seen it myself with many women holding hands and kissing in public. Television shows and movies are quick to show this as “it’s more accepted in society”. But have two men regardless of how masculine or feminine acting they are, hold hands in public and/or kiss, and it’s like a needle scratches across a record and the whole room looks up and stares negatively at you.

If the portrayal in mainstream media could shift their focus and start portraying men that are extremely masculine, such as in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, people might begin to remove those stereotypes in their thinking. I’m not living a promiscuous life. I don’t talk with a lisp. I don’t have a swish when I walk. I like sports. I’m not really into Broadway. I wear jeans and Harley Davidson shirts. And…I am attracted to men.

Unfortunately with Hollywood and media portraying the same characters over and over again that people remember easily such as Jack in Will & Grace, the judgments and labels easily continue within mainstream society about what a gay man is all about.

I used to make a joke a long time ago that the main difference between a gay man and a straight man is a six pack of beer. Interestingly enough there is truth behind this joke. I’ve met many men who are married and extremely masculine acting that like men and are sexual with other men. Even worse, it’s usually when their intoxicated on some level. And sadly, it’s usually those same men who are openly calling gay men “fags”, “homos”, and “queers” and spreading those stereotypical labels out there about what a gay man is like.

There is a lot more to a person that is gay then what television or movies portray. Just as there is a lot more to a straight person than what you see portrayed. Does the shift need to happen with Hollywood depicting gay characters and gay relationships as more masculine? Or do more people that are gay and not fitting those stereotypical images need to overcome their fears in public and hold hands and show affection?

There are no differences between gays and lesbians and heterosexuals other than what happens behind a bedroom door. These stereotypes and all others polarize each of us from loving each other. We are all God’s children and all connected in some way. Isn’t it more important to focus on developing unconditional love and acceptance of all people then on segregating each other with how we see things with our eyes, hear things with our ears, and label things with our words?

Peace, love, light and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Ups and Downs of a Sports Fan

It seems a long time ago when my life had a large amount of it revolve around certain pro sports teams. Living in the New England area, it’s hard to exist as a non sports buff. On some level, everyone here seems to wear around a type of paraphernalia favoring one of the local teams. I will admit that I do have a few articles of sports based clothing that place me here in this area.There is a major difference though with me and most people I meet here when it comes to sports. I don’t follow any of the local pro teams nor any of the other ones outside this area. There was a time I did though.

If you live in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine or Vermont, your bound to be a loyal devotee of one of the New England based pro sports teams which include the Boston Celtics ( NBA ), the New England Patriots ( NFL ), the Boston Bruins ( NHL ), and the Boston Red Sox ( MLB ). I grew up in New York though and for most of the younger years of my life I followed two local teams, the New York Mets ( MLB ) and the Buffalo Bills ( NFL ), and one other team, the Chicago Bulls ( NBA ). If a game was on with one of those teams, there was a strong likelihood that I was watching it, face glued to the television. If my team won, I was so happy. If my team lost, I was miserable and criticizing the players or the coaches. And then there were the debates I got into with people about how “my team” was better then “their team”.

All of this shifted in my life just past my college years when I lost my father and then my mother both tragically. During those years of grief, I sought healing through several things but one that specifically changed my whole level of interest in life. When I discovered meditation, my life changed dramatically. It was at a silent retreat that I had gone on for ten days that I was given a crash course in meditation.

During that retreat, all the creature comforts of life were removed and I spent ten complete days in silence meditating, walking, and reflecting. There is no media on any level and no writing instruments either. It’s just myself and my thoughts. That’s when I realized how I was on hyper speed in most of my life every single day and how I spun myself up and down based upon so many external things.

When I emerged from the retreat, my eyes were focused differently on life. While everyone and everything seemed to be on a freeway racing at top speeds, I was at a snail’s pace. That’s when I really started to see how I was allowing things outside of me influence how I felt every single day.

Why did I get so bent out of shape when one of the teams I liked lost? Why was I so hyper when one of my teams was winning? Why was I so angry and irritable at life and people around me when my team was doing poorly? Why did I treat everyone around me so much nicer when my team was in first place? Meditating helped me to go deeper with these questions and find some answers.

I wasn’t connected in ANY way to ANY professional athlete on ANY team. Yet I based a large portion of my life around those things and my life reflected it depending on how each was doing. I bragged about how great my team was to others, especially to fans of opposing teams, and I got into arguments to those same people just trying to defend something I wasn’t even connected to.

Upon moving to the New England area, I immediately felt different than most people here. There really are a vast amount of avid fans here of the local pro sports teams, especially the New England Patriots. A few years ago, they went 16-0 and then lost in the superbowl in the final minutes to the New York Giants. I swear you could have heard a pin drop in every house, on every street, throughout all of New England when that happened. And then the next day, it was the most called in sick day that whole year. No one was on the roads, as if it was Christmas Day. A few years later, the same thing happened again in the Superbowl, to the same team, in the last few minutes. And once again, life shut down for another day and everyone seemed angry and irritable. On the news they show people near the stadiums destroying property, shooting guns, getting in fights, and more whether the teams have won or lost.

I’m not sure why I ever was so deeply invested in any team. Maybe it gave me something to believe in. Maybe it was an escape. Maybe it was just something to do. Whatever the reason, it’s not me anymore. I’m not following any team or any player or any sport anymore and interestingly enough, I’m a much calmer person in my life. I’m concerned more today about reaching out and helping others and focusing in on people that are suffering and how I might be of assistance. The other night when the Patriots were playing the Ravens (and lost) I was at a Detox speaking to alcoholics and addicts that were needing help. To me it was a no brainer of where I wanted to be that night. To others that I called and asked if they wanted to join me, I was told I was crazy for wanting to miss “the big game”.

My truth is that I don’t want to feel anxious and jittery anymore and that happened a lot when watching a game. I don’t wish to subject myself to the highs and lows that come throughout the minutes I glue myself to a television during a sports season. I’ve dealt with enough anxiety and depression in my life that I don’t need to enhance it by tying myself so closely into the life of a pro sports team.

The biggest pro sporting event in the country is coming up in two weeks. The Superbowl. Will I watch it? Yes. But not for the reason one may think. I like the commercials and the halftime show. If I could string that all together for 60 minutes of viewing and remove the game, that would be a great hour spent for me.

I really am not on a roller coaster anymore of ups and downs and don’t plan on being again in this life. I like being a much calmer person throughout the day and I know that I wasn’t when I invested hours of my life each week cheering a team on. I’m happy for the athletes if that’s where their passion is. I pray for the best in each of them, their teams, as well as for their safety. That’s about the extent of connection I have anymore to sports. I like feeling more at peace and I’m grateful that meditation helped me to look at my life a little deeper to see what things kept me from getting centered and balanced, being an ups and downs kind of sports fan was just one of them.

Peace, love, light and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Beyond the 12th Step of Recovery

Lately, with the world not ending on 12-21, but going into a shift for greater awareness and healing, I got to thinking about the 12th step in AA.

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

For those who are in any recovery based program, it is this step where one goes out into the real world and begins to try to make it a better place for not only themselves but more importantly for all others.

In the first part of this step, a person emerging from all their hard work within goes out and helps others who are still suffering from the same condition the steps helped them with. Whether it’s alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, overeating, smoking, sex and love addiction, etc, the first part of the 12th step is for those that have found recovery to go out and share their experience, strength, and hope to others still suffering from the throngs of their addictions.

But, I have found that the second part of this step is one that is often overlooked, “…and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

What does that exactly mean? I wondered that myself for a long time.

When I finished the steps in AA, I thought the only actions of the 12th step were to reach out to the still suffering and sponsor them, offer them hope, get them to meetings, and go speak at places of recovery about my experience, strength, and hope.

There’s more than just that. Look at these words for a moment. “All our affairs.” Is the still suffering “all our affairs.” Is staying only in the arena of that addiction all that is necessary.

I compartmentalized the 12th step in my life and had my work with recovery and those still suffering and then I had the rest of my life. What I discovered is that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had a bigger purpose in writing the steps. It was their hope that God or a Higher Power would become the center of a recovered person’s life and that upon their recovery they would emerge a new man or woman and bring more light to this planet in everything they did both inside and outside the halls of their recovery.

Sometimes it’s painful when I see someone speak at the podium or working with another because it’s those same people that I see when not in the recovery mode harboring resentments and being open about them, gossiping, throwing trash out their windows from their car, snapping at those on the highway that aren’t driving the way they think they should be, driving recklessly and endangering others on the road, swearing profusely amongst their friends, diminishing deep intimacy with sexual jokes and perversion and well the list goes on and on.

I only see this because I was guilty of all of those I just listed and more. Each of them was a part of me when I was living partially in self will and partially in God’s will. The point of the 12th step is to be a better God centered individual in everything one does in their life from their words, to their thoughts, and finally to their actions.

It’s my deepest belief that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob established a foundation for all of recovery based programs to have individuals become more spiritually centered in their whole lives once they were brought fully through the steps.

Back in 2008 with over 13 years at that time of continuous sobriety, I was on the one hand helping alcoholics and speaking in meetings about how great my program and life were and on the other hand I was in adulterous based relationships, driving on the highway at super speeds, watching vast amounts of pornographic material on the web at night, swearing at the drop of a dime, character assassinating people behind their back, and tearing apart my life from within without even realizing it.

“All our affairs” means just that. In every affair of my life from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I live today with God directing me in everything during those periods. I try to be courteous to others emerging in on roads and let them in ahead of me. I pick up garbage that is in parking lots and bring it to the nearest trash cans. I take shopping carts that are left in the middle of a parking lot to the nearest collector of them. I hold the door open for people behind me when walking into stores. I smile at those who seem to be having bad days. I do extra things around my roommate’s house that he might have on his list of things to do, so as to help him and his burden out. I surprise my partner with doing some of his chores to ease his day. I tell people that I’m proud of them when they achieve something even if its relatively small in their own minds. Sometimes I even buy people in line behind me their coffee’s and donuts. The list goes on.

There is much more that I can do and everyday I ask God to guide me how to serve His needs. Every day is different and every day brings new challenges to me. Sometimes my ego gets in the way. I’m not perfect, but I do try to do those things that even my ego says it doesn’t want to do for someone else.

All in all, I learned that just because one is a good speaker or a good sponsor in recovery, doesn’t mean that they are living the fullest 12th step they could be. Appearances are often deceiving. It’s my hope that I can achieve with every waking breath, a life of servitude to God’s needs and wants, as I know that I’ll be a far happier man in my life then any of the years where I lived in any amount of self-will.

If you have experience in any recovery based program and are out there helping others in your program, please realize that it’s just as important to reach out to the rest of the world in all your thoughts, words, and actions and make it a better place to live.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson