So. I'm gay. I know, shocker. With each day that passes, this is an aspect of my life with which I become increasingly more comfortable and proud. 2013 was a banner year for the movement toward LGBTQ equality in this nation. Truly. I fully expect it to only intensify during this year. As 2014 gets fully underway, I just wanted to provide a bit of advice for American society writ-large -- from a gay, straight to you.
Make no mistake, I do not claim to speak on behalf of the gay male community as a whole. God bless the poor beleaguered soul that takes on that unenviable task. These are the thoughts and musings of an openly gay twenty-something navigating his way through life and learning all that he can along the way. I've recognized that as a nation, there's just a few things that we need to ABSOLUTELY CEASE doing to our gay brothers. I've assembled for you the 10 most pressing things that I'm going to need you all to stop doing:
1. Calling me fabulous/fierce/sassy-I'm all of these things, or at least I try to be. However, the problem isn't these words themselves, it's what they've come to serve as code for -- flamboyance. American society has always prided strength and the idea of masculinity -- that is possessing attributes and characteristics generally applied to men. To be flamboyant -- that is exhibiting tendencies that attract attention because of their exuberance, confidence, and stylishness -- is simply unacceptable. It seems the worst thing that any person can do is exhibit features or actions that deviate from the perceived norms expected from their gender. The idea that flamboyance and strength cannot coexist is laughable to me. Flamboyance isn't negative, nor is it something that a gay male need possess in order to be gay (all that's needed for that is a rather vehement same-sex attraction). If you think I'm flamboyant, fantastic! Say that! It's a really fun word. Just say what you mean, and BY GOD mean what you say. Please?
2. Asking me what my type is-My type is male. That is my type. I think that each and every one of us possesses unique qualities and attributes that are worth knowing and experiencing. These are human beings, not items of clothing to be retired to the back of the closet at the end of the season. I think we as a species should stop asking this of each other personally. Enough of that.
3. Telling me where I can and cannot live-It's still a common practice to tell the up and coming gay youth of America that nirvana is the big city. Born into rural and conservative America? No worries. Turn 18, move to San Francisco, New York City, Chicago or someplace where they accept our kind. This is utter lunacy. This country is diverse and we shouldn't be resigned to the notion that the only safe haven for gays is in cities, because ignorance knows no boundary. I personally have an affinity for the southern suburban lifestyle. We cannot be ok with intolerance or unacceptance simply thriving in portions of this great nation. Wherever gays are, we should work and strive to make it a haven. THAT's how it really gets better.
4. Telling me where I can and cannot got to school-I've touched on this briefly before. I'm considering law and graduate schools. I'll go where I want, and it may not necessarily be the place with the most gay friendly bars in a 5 block radius. If said choice doesn't have the most affirming community, then that means I, as a self-respecting gay man, have some work to do once I arrive.
5. Telling me that I have to be in porn-star shape-Here is a secret: ALL GAY MEN have body issues. All of us. Every. Single. One. Being healthy should always be the goal. Society has placed a premium on the chiseled abdominals and the rock hard pectorals. That's fine and dandy, but can we as a community (gay, straight and all the rest) come together and assert that there really is more than that in a person? I think we'd all feel a bit better about all of the things.
6. Telling me your opinion on my "lifestyle"-You don't have a problem with gays? Wonderful! You hate gays with all your heart and nonexistent soul? LOVELY! Tell me this: when's the last time you heard someone say "I really don't see the issue with straight couples wanting to marry the person they love?" That's all.
7. Calling my life a "lifestyle". This is my life. One leads a healthy lifestyle, or a stressful lifestyle, or a hectic lifestyle. Sexuality is a piece of who I am and as far as I can tell, it's pretty incapable of being changed. The jury is still out on that though. I'll get back to y'all if I hear something new.
8. Conditioning me to think that only white guys are pretty. This one will get me into trouble, but oh well. You want to meet a real group of racists? Look no further than your friendly neighborhood homosexual. I've heard the phrase -- "he's really attractive for a [insert ethnic minority] guy" too many times to count. I've said it myself. I don't think the issue really is a lack of attraction, it's just an unwillingness to consider that which is different from the accepted standard of beauty. We got this from you, hetero-America. If it ain't white, it must not be right. I do believe that we can expand our horizons a bit people. Regardless of your sexuality, be equal opportunity lovers.
9. Making assumptions about my sexual position preferences-Here again, the fascination with the sex lives of gay men is oh so very interesting. For a class of individuals seemingly reviled by many across the world, there does seem to be a significant interest in what we do in the bedroom. I don't make assumptions about what straight people do in the bedroom. I personally couldn't care less. The wonderful thing about sex is that each person is free to experience it and do with it what they will -- or so I've read.
10. Subjecting my rights to popular vote. When section 3 of DOMA was declared unconstitutional last summer, my glee was blunted with a statement made by Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin: "within 5 years, let's bring marriage equality to all 50 states." Clearly unless the Supreme Court acts swiftly in the next couple of years, this will probably bear fruit, but to me it's not soon enough. We shouldn't be ok with a slow drumbeat to equality. The next time I hear someone utter the phrase "it should be left to the people," I shall scream. I'm not just talking about marriage. I'm talking about workplace discrimination protections, public school sensitivity measures and resource implementation for gay youth in need WHEREVER they are. I most assuredly don't want to vote on your right to be who you are and enjoy the fullness of your liberties. And you want to have a gander at mine? Absolutely not.
So please stop. We should never seek to limit one to his or her sexuality, much less make assumptions about it. It is but one piece of the awesome amalgamation of stuff that makes the human race so damn interesting. The purpose of this isn't to chastise anyone or anything. It's simple: we ALL -- gay, straight, bi, Thai -- have to collectively seek to do better. Edify ourselves. The key is to recall that our collective journey is so much more closely related than any of us care to admit. The sooner we are cognizant of that, the sweeter that journey will become.
Honorable mention: Asking me my opinion on the Lady Gaga v. Katy Perry debate. If you're a friend of mine, you know it. If not, it's both presumptuous and none of your damn business.