Neither here nor there: breaking free of gay stereotypes

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I live in multiple worlds. The first is one of clear dichotomous labels: black/white, male/female, gay/straight. This is the social world that would choose to define us—homosexuals— in a way that is not representative of the “us”. It’s the world that wants to categorize the “us” like store barcodes.

It is in this world that I see my gay brothers and sisters on the path to class, even as no one sees them. I see them on the sidewalk by the Unitarian Church, holding hands, kissing, embracing. I see their shameful expression as they realize they’ve been found out.  I see their defiance—their pride— as they realize they’ve been found out. I see them nowhere and everywhere—hiding in plain sight.

The label of being gay, as it relates to being straight, is a confining one when you think about it. What does the label being gay even mean? It means, for me, that I am attracted to guys, emotionally and physically. That is all it should mean for me, and yet my writing is regularly influenced by it.

I think about being gay almost every day. If I were labeled straight, I would not think about what it means quite as often. I would be straight, and that is all. My straightness would be invisible because it is normative—majority. Being straight is given. No one will question you for being straight, nor will they define you in such rigid terms as if you were gay. You are the way you are because you are you, not because you are straight.

If you are gay, somehow that label becomes a large part of you. When I dislike sports, it is because I am a homosexual male, not because I am an individual that dislikes sports. When I express my creativity, it is because I am a homosexual, not that I happen to be creative. The label of being gay becomes associated with every mundane part of life.

Gay people oft choose to not label themselves so that they may be invisible and not upset the status quo. They choose to fit in, because they realize that once they choose the label of being gay, they will be subject to the majority’s projection of them. They will suddenly be scrutinized for their homosexuality.

Gay men are flamboyant, fashionable, overly sexual, and in your face about their sexuality.  When we are not perceived as these things, we do not disprove any stereotype—we are just an exception to the gay label. When we are perceived as these things, we are proof of the stereotype. There is no escaping the stereotype. This is where I, a gay male, reach a predicament—I want to be invisible. I want being homosexual to not define me, but each day I wrestle with the projections placed upon me by society. To be gay is to be in a constant state of wrestling with projections.

It is in wrestling with projections that we are enslaved. Some of us choose to retreat from this enslavement to a world that can hopefully see the “us” for what we are. We go to gay bars and clubs and places friendly to our kind. We meet people who understand what it means to be “different”. We meet people who are like us, who understand the “us.”

But as we retreat, we carry the projections with us. We tell other men that we “act straight” or that we “aren’t that gay”. We shave our chests. We get buff. We define our sexual roles in all too dichotomous terms by dominance: top/bottom, pitcher/catcher, giver/receiver.  And ultimately that world we went to escape to, to feel right in, makes us feel incomplete—soulless. The “us” is lost. Anything that would make us feel unique is lost in the hodgepodge of stereotypes that we carry with us. Our relationships are broken, and we are left in the same state we started in.

We reenter the dichotomous world we primarily inhabit—eyes glazed with disappointment.  We wonder where we belong and how we fit in.

Then, someday, a realization sets in. We realize that we belong neither here nor there. We are at the crossroads of many worlds—for we are their teachers, parents, police, writers, servicemen, bankers, clergy, and paupers. We are everywhere. It is in this realization that we shake wildly free of the stereotypes that are projected on us. It is in this that we confide. It is in this that we must focus to break the oppressive shackles of society.

Though we must bear the indecency of stereotypes, we are now free to realize that we are more than the sum of stereotypes. We are now free to rally about what makes us different—what little that really is.

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