Being gay and male comes with more than its fair share of stereotypes: we're all fashionable, have seen Rent a million, billion times, and none of us, not one single homo, likes sports. But we do like ballet; we're fabulous decorators and know how to throw a party.
That's what "gay" means to some people, and it makes me wonder why "gay" always comes before "man." Why aren't I a "man gay"? Or just a "man." For that matter, why are we gay or trans anything? Why can't we just be, man?
The Rent reference comes from an interaction I had a few months ago. It goes something like this: an anonymous girl who works for a very rightwing politico suggested that sex is more "dangerous" for women than for gay men. A friend of mine and I agreed that pregnancy can get quite cumbersome, but pointed out that there's a thing called AIDS, which, despite nearly a generation of education, continues to be at risk for infection. And a complete other generation was very nearly wiped out. The woman replied, "Oh, I know about AIDS. I've seen Rent." I let the comment slide for the night.
The next day, when the haze of drink had subsided, I made light-hearted reference to her Rent comment. She took this as an entry to discuss the musical, "Oh, don't you love that part," etcetera. I told her I hadn't seen it: I was familiar with the story and some of the music, thanks to girl friends, but musical theater was never my thing. She looked dumbfounded.
Although this is a funny anecdote, I bring it up not to make fun. It was just one of many experiences in which my "gayness" has been rammed down my throat, just as, reader, your queerness or queer-friendly ways might have been used to put you into a box. And it's not always as amusing as my little story.
Humans are rational, reasonable people. We need to break life, liberty and everything else down into easily intelligible categories. This I understand. When thrust upon people, however, these labels aren't always purely descriptive. They can be quite derisive.
Gay people certainly aren't the only ones who face a prefix to their humanity: there are black women, Asian men and Arab families. Forgive the extreme analysis, but do you think that "white man" would exist if it weren't to elevate themselves above those they dominated. I admit that social labels can come in handy when trying to point someone out in a crowd, depending on the crowd. And some of us should be happy to be given "manhood" or "womanhood" at all, because there are so many other choice words that could be hurled in our direction.
That said, I suppose I'll have to retire my brief spurt of idealism and accept the fact that people assume "gay" means anything other than that I have sex with men. Heck, if that's what it takes to "normalize" gay, I'm proud to face stereotypes head on. But, for the record, I do throw a great party. I don't give a hoot about sports scores so much, although I do watch the sweaty players and lap up all their tabloid, soap opera antics. So what does that mean?
Image via davidmmcneil's Flickr.