A Commentary on the Life of Gay Americans

The gay stereotype, just as any stereotype, misrepresents and over generalizes the actions of the whole population associated. Common stereotypes attack their appearance, profession and family life. These, in addition to the media and religious groups/ affiliations, contribute to the mass misrepresentation of the gay population.

randy

Randy Fenoli, a wedding dress consultant at Kleinfelds in NY. [8]

One of the common stereotypes associated with being gay is the idea that gay men are more feminine and lesbian woman are more masculine; specifically when it comes to clothing and grooming choices. Stereotypically, a man who is gay wears tailored or slim clothing in a feminine or exuberant color palate. He also is supposed to have plucked eyebrows, shaved or perfectly trimmed facial hair and an extensive and labor some hair style. On the other hand, lesbian women are viewed to represent a more masculine persona which includes baggy fitting clothing in a darker or bland color pallet such as athletic clothing or flannel button ups. Lesbian women are also pictured to have chopped and/or spiked hair with no makeup.

On February 15th, 2008 the Los Angeles Times staff writers Catherine Saillant and Amanda Covarrubias published an article titled “Oxnard school shooting called a hate crime”. On February 12th, Lawrence King, who was 15 and a student at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard California, was shot twice in the head by a fellow classmate. The reason for Kings’ death was because he began to dress more feminine at school [1]. This story is a tragic representation of the consequences from believing stereotypes.

An example of the damaging effects this stereotype can have on a person’s proper stature can be seen in select professions. John Stossel, a reporter for ABC, published a 20/20 article which explored numerous gay stereotypes. In a portion of his article, Stossel addressed the stereotype of certain professions which are generally associated with gay men. Stossel interviewed the salon owners of “Prada Grusel” who are both straight but are still labeled as gay by their cliental and people within their industry [2]. Additional stereotypical jobs of gay men include careers in fashion, design, theater, dance and cosmetology. Lesbian women are often stereotyped as having jobs involving the military, physical education or body building. Some believe the reason why gay men and women choose such job is because of how their brain developed as a fetus.

Rob Stein, a writer for the Washington Post, published an article which included research done by Ivanka Savic Berglund who is an Associate Professor and senior lecturer in Neurology at Kaorlinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden [3]. Berglund’s research produced the following results:

“Gay men tended to have brains that were more like those of straight women than of straight men — the right and left sides were about the same size, the researchers found. Gay women’s brains tended to be more like those of straight men than of straight women — the right side tended to be slightly larger than the left. […] Again they found that gay men tended to be more like straight women, with a stronger link between the amygdala and regions involved in emotions. Gay women tended to be more like straight men, with stronger connections to motor functions.”

Her research was conducted through the use of an MRI on 25 straight men and women brains and compared them to 20 gay men and women brains [4]. The research conducted is very helpful in explaining why a portion of the gay population dresses and chooses certain professions. It makes sense as to why gay men choose feminine careers and lesbian women may choose more masculine careers. Even though the brains of gay males looks like that of straight females, doesn’t solely mean all gay men will choose a feminine career or prefer to dress in feminine inspired clothing.

Orlando Cruz is an example of a non-stereotypical gay male. Cruz is a famous professional boxer who has only lost twice of the 22 times he entered a professional match and is also a former Olympian. In an interview conducted by Spiegel Online International, an online version of Germany’s weekly magazine reporting on news, events and popular up-to-date stories, Lucas Eberle facilitates an up-close interview with Orlando Cruz post his public announcement of his sexuality. Cruz was asked if it is important to conform to the tough guy image because he is a boxer and Cruz’s responded with: “The ideal boxer doesn’t think too much, is raw and brimming with strength. I am also fascinated by strength, but for me style is a part of that”. I find it fascinating he has to fight not only one stereotype but two! In a fallow up question Eberle asked Cruz why he chooses to come out now, after 12 years of boxing. Cruz explains he felt the time was necessary to be honest with himself and most importantly he felt as though it would make him a better boxer [5]. Despite being gay and a boxer, which, by society’s standards doesn’t correlate with the stereotype aforementioned, Cruz models the difficulty but possible task to break the mold of these stereotypes.is a model for why stereotypes are harmful.

The following stereotype addresses the idea that gay parents are inadequate at raising “normal” children. John Blake, a journalist for CNN, opens up this topic on whether or not gay parents make a difference in a child’s development  Blake covers a few stereotypes gay parents and their children face such as “their children will grow up to be gay” or “the children will miss out on a physiological bond with the missing father/mother figure”.  In the article Jesse Levey was asked about whether having lesbian parents caused him to become confused about sexual orientation and his response was that he is a ‘“well-adjusted heterosexual” whose upbringing proves that love, not gender, makes a family’ [6]. Levy’s story provides reassurance in the ideas that same sex parenting doesn’t necessarily result in the stereotyped problem. The love, values and lifestyle provided in the home and by the parents, regardless of sexual orientation, will produce the children seen in society.

The first major contributor to these stereotypes is caused by the relentless media. One organization which regulates the medias actions is GLAAD, an acronym which stands for “Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation”. Through GLADD, television shows have increasingly become more LGBT friendly and have been portraying the LGBT community as who they are rather then fabricated representations. GLAAD has recently published an article which includes the ranking of television Networks ranging anywhere between Excellent to Inadequate. The scoring is based fair representation of the LGBT population as well as how many T.V. shows include gay characters as main, supporting or minor characters. GLADD conducted a research study which presented a 19% increase acceptance due to the showing of more LGBT characters on T.V. [7]. Even though this statistic is a positive step towards abolishing stereotypes, there are still Americans who resist listening to what the media had to say about said issues.

Last weekend, a friend of mine and I went to the Marcus Theater in Fargo to watch “Cloud Atlas”, a new movie featuring five accomplished actors who play multiple roles/characters throughout the film. The plot features multiple stories at once but they are interconnected by the underlying message which is to defy the expectations society has set in place despite fear or death as a consequence. One of the stories within the movie featured a gay couple who lived in England in the early 1900’s. The couple sitting behind my friend and I, they were appalled and loudly muttered: “Why the f***, would they put that in the movie. F***ing homos.” A few scenes later and the couple left the theater aggravated by the minute plot line. The idea to include a gay couple was brilliant because it illuminated the underlying theme of the entire movie which was the idea to defy society’s expectations/norms. But the “gay” issue still remains a problem because older generations view it as a sin.

I was raised in a very catholic and conservative family. I went to a private Catholic school from kindergarten until 8th grade. I was very much sheltered and closed minded when it came to religion, politics and the LGBT population. After a year in attendance at the public high school, my ideas had broadened and my friends were made up of gays and straights, Catholics and Lutherans, Democrats and Republicans. We all got alone despite our different views. My perspectives on topics shifted and I became more aware and involved in conversations. On a Sunday morning mass this same year our parish priest crossed a delicate line during his homily. I don’t remember his exact wording but his repetitive righteous and degrading tone of voice upset me. He blatantly spoke of “the sins the LGBT population is making” and “the in-service to America they cause” with no regard to whom he may offend in the congregation. Needless to say I found a new Parish to attend on Sunday mornings. I do understand why the Catholic Church believes what it does on this subject. They are deeply rooted in tradition and they want to protect the traditions and beliefs of their faith. However, the comments of my priest pins friends against one another. Are people supposed to choose religion over friends? I was taught to love one another and treat those with the same respect I would expect in return. I know where I stand on the religion vs. LGBT because I am old enough to have been culturally introduced to both sides. But on the other hand my younger siblings who also were at that same mass as I have not been culturally introduced. This is a concerning problem for them and other children because they will grow up single minded and heavily influenced by the strict opinions of the church. What needs to happen is find a common ground that everyone can understand. Once this happens the discrimination will stop passing from one generation to the next.

I know people still disagree with the lifestyle the LGBT population lives but what is most important is to recognize the false stereotypes that have been created. Media and Religion both play an equal part in the stereotypes present today. Media is trying to portray a fair and realistic image of LGBT life while religion is trying to keep their congregation to follow the word of God and religious beliefs.

[1] Saillant, Catherine, and Amanda Covarrubias. “Oxnard School Shooting Called Hate Crime.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times: Local, 15 Feb. 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-oxnard15feb15,0,7958737,full.story&gt;.

[2] Stossel, John, and Gena Binkley. “Gay Stereotypes: Are They True?” ABC News. ABC News Network, 15 Sept. 2006. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2449185&gt;.

[3] “Ivanka Savic Berglund: Behavioral Neurology.” Department of Clinical Neuroscience. Karolinska Institutet: A Medical University, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://ki.se/ki/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=40365&l=en&gt;.

[4] Stein, Rob. “Brain Study Shows Diffrences Between Gays, Straights.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 23 June 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/22/AR2008062201994.html?sid=ST2008062202006&gt;.

[5] “Interview with First Openly Gay Boxer Orlando Cruz.” Interview by Lucas Eberle. SPIEGEL ONLINE. Spiegel Online-International, 09 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-first-openly-gay-boxer-orlando-cruz-a-866052.html&gt;.

[6] Blake, John. “‘Gayby Boom’: Children of Gay Couples Speak out.” CNN. Cable News Network, 29 June 2009. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/06/28/gayby/index.html&gt;.

[7] Kane, Matt, Max Gouttebroze, Tanya Tsikanovsky, and Megan Townsend. “2012 Network Responsibility Index.” GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). GLAAD: Words & Images Matter, 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://www.glaad.org/files/GLAAD_2012_NRI.pdf&gt;.

[8] Randy Fenoli : “Say Yes to the Dress” N.d. Photograph. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://sdgln.com/files/randy-fenoli-say-yes-to-the-dress-18703.jpg&gt;.

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