“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