Gay Men and the Media: All Gay Men are not Flamboyant
While sitting and talking with various friends over the last couple of years, I have discovered a common thread in our conversation. The similar series of words that echo throughout the conversations are "why are gay men in the mass media flamboyant or portrayed as flamboyant". This particular subject has sparked some interesting and sometimes heated debates.
It is no secret that most people place labels and stereotypes on other people. I am guilty of it and I'm sure you are as well. To label someone comes from a general way of perceiving people of a certain gender, ethnicity, religion and even sexual orientation. It's When a majority of people hold a certain point of view towards a certain group, that point of view becomes a stereotype. An interesting theme to me is when sub-cultures place labels and stereotypes on people within their own subculture.
LGBT and Mainstream
The LGBT community is a strong and resilient sub-culture that is in constant conflict against negative image and battling to overcome stereotypes in television, films and other media. Mainstream media coverage has become more positive in recent years. Victories against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have banned marriage equality and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, during which the military discharged LGB service members, the law has been repealed. From presidential endorsements to the U.S. senate passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the LGBT community is making great strides with much more to accomplish.
Because gay men are as diverse as our great country and the subcultures within it, a valid argument has been raised in many of my aforementioned conversations with my friends. Why is it that gay men that appear on our televisions happen to be flamboyant? In many forms of popular entertainment, gay men are portrayed as overly promiscuous, flashy and incredibly bold.
It is my belief that because of the need of the media to differentiate or make gay men visible in their eyes he has to be a finger snapping, lip popping over the top character. Gay men are commonly misunderstood because society equates a mans sexual orientation with masculinity in many cases.
More and more in recent years the media has promoted acceptance of gay men with television shows such as Queer as Folk, Will and Grace and Rupaul's Drag Race to name a few. This increased publicity is also reflected in the coming-out movement of more LGBT athletes, movie stars, politicians the list goes on. As more celebrities come out, it pushes the LGBT community into mainstream society. With the popularity of gay television shows, music artists and gay fashion, Western culture has had to open its eyes to the gay community. Despite the stereotypical depictions of gay men.I believe this new acceptance from the media is needed and well overdue, with more shows promoting the acceptance of gays, people are able to view a more accurate account of the LGBT community.
Masculinity: To be or not to be is that really the question?
Webster Dictionary defines masculine as follows: Male b : having qualities appropriate to or traditionally associated with a man. As we explore the second part of this definition it becomes easy to see the conundrum that a lot of individual have when it relates to gay men and masculinity. This is a very slippery slope due to the fact that are many different ideologies, definitions and even experiences to describe what it means to be masculine. The majority of modern western culture relates being masculine to aggressiveness, not showing emotion, self sufficient, strength. The thing is the gay men I know are best described by at least one if not all of the adjectives above and some of them are more effeminate than others. My question becomes do they pass the litmus test? The ideology of what is masculine is stereotypical even with gay men. I know gay men that say they only want to date or be acquainted with "masculine" men. Yes Gender roles are even played out in relation to homosexual relationships. There was a time around the late 18th early 19th century when "dandy's" were considered to be masculine. For those who don't know what a dandy is it's something like a "metrosexual". Things that make you go hmm.
Which best describes what it means to be masculine to you?
Hey I'm Gay too
Well I'm not the traditional masculine man, I like to say I'm quite in touch with my feminine side. However, my friends ran the spectrum of the masculinity scale.
Some have the belief that more masculine gay men have an advantage or are superior to more effeminate gay men. In fact as I mentioned earlier I know gay men who only date, acquaint even hate effeminate men. I had someone tell me that he feels that its "these sissies" that give us the bad reputation. me myself, I don't identify as a typical masculine man but I'm not an overly effeminate guy either ( well I have my times).
When the traditional characteristics of a man are the personality traits displayed by a gay man he is usually classified as "butch", i.e. masculine. some may argue, when it comes to interacting with heterosexual men and women, and being publicly open about their sexuality, they get the most heat.
I have heard that its the element of surprise that most hetrosexual men and women cannot stand deal with. I have spoken with men who stated that they don't mind a man being gay as long as they know what they are dealing with. I was curious and asked him what does he mean when he say "know what he is dealing with". He stated that gay men are supposed to "act gay" with the mannerisms and switching and finger snapping.
I have an acquaintance that told me that he has been out and strike up random conversation one time specifically he let his sexual preference be known, he received a disgusted and/or shocked reaction "What?...YOU'RE gay...Why? are you sure"? Moments later a friend he had been waiting on walked in the bar and the same individuals greeted him with high fives and hugs as his over dramatic friend made his rounds.It almost seems as if we've gotten to a place where effeminate men are expected to be gay, so its no longer as unacceptable and surprising as it used to be.
Rather it's that effeminate men add a more dramatic effect which boost ratings or the fear that the more masculine gay men will not be accepted, one thing is for sure you cannot place gay men in a box. Athletes, teachers, police officers, doctors, lawyers and senators. Gay men come in all shape, sizes, colors and spectrums of the masculinity scale. So it seems we are at the point in which homosexuality is accepted more and more but only if you "act gay".
Did you know?
- it is estimated that 9 million (about 3.8%) of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender
- Approximately 1 million children in the U.S. are being raised by same-sex couples.
- An estimated 1% of the population in America is confirmed as transsexuals.