Monday, April 23, 2007

Stereotyped


I don't quite get it all. I mean, what it takes to be a gay man and everything. There are so many supposed stereotypes that I guess I'm supposed to fill that I just don't even know where to begin! I feel like a newly baptized member who just got called into the Relief Society presidency.

According to some of the recent comments amongst friends, family, and coworkers, apparently I am supposed to be more ummm... feminine? Is that the right word? Maybe just more gay or something. But I guess that makes me come back to the question, what does it mean to be gay?

I suppose I should explain some of the stupid conversations I have sat through that have spurred this angst.

First of all, I will confess. I am a salesman. It is my profession that gets me through school, pays my bills, and binds me to the world of working. Not only am I a successful salesman, but I do door-to-door sales. Yes, two years ago I found a good summer sales company to work for and it has really been good. For those readers in Provo, Rexburg, or any of you who have had experience with a summer sales recruiter or employee, you know a little of what I am talking about here. Since we are talking about stereotypes today, why stop with stereotyping fags? Typically these boys of summer are super confident. Generally half of them are pretty good looking with beautiful wives or girlfriends. They drive Hummers. They come from successful families with wealthy fathers. Republican. They love to make jokes about anything sexual. They're good at making and spending money. Oh, and they can be total ass holes sometimes. Thats their stereotype. How did I get mixed up with a bunch of guys that typically don't match my supposed gay stereotype?

The truth is, I am somewhat of a shape-shifter. I am far far from being a conformist, but I've learned how to make really good friends out of people who are pretty different than I am. From the emo punks to the jocks to the computer geeks. I have a wide variety of friends. I really refined that skill while serving my mission.

One of my coworkers (who just so happens to be my younger brother) told a somewhat amusing story of a guy to whom he had sold our product. This man, though not obvious in his mannerism, revealed his sexual orientation to my brother by his inappropriate flirtations and eventual proposal of a date. My brother, who is married, told this to the whole office during our morning meeting. I can understand how being straight and hit on by a gay man could be disturbing, disgusting and even humorous to him or a lot of the other guys. It was the jokes that ensued after that I found revealing. They joked about the man for a while -which was fine to laugh at the situation and all, but I realized that everyone just viewed him as some sort of pervert -a confused, misdirected man that only wants raw man-sex. Maybe he was, but the point of it all is that by extension through their jokes, commentary, and one-uppers they stereotyped all gay men as such. I realized that as much as I would like to be transparent and am confident enough to deal with people knowing (I think), to do so would be throwing myself to the wolves. Would my coworkers be afraid of me? What about those that have children? Would they view me as a child molester, a sex-crazed pervert, or someone with a disease that could spread to their children? I'm not any of those things.

Something Samantha Stevens said to me was that when you tell someone that you are a homosexual, you need to allow them the time to react. In the middle of the sales season with all the work, focus, inertia, and stress perhaps to throw this out on the table would be too much for me and even the closest of friends out here. The only one who knows is my brother. Even his wife doesn't know.

On Sunday, my boss and his wife, my brother and his wife, and I went to the beach for the afternoon. My boss's wife works in the mall in a trendy retail clothing store. Somehow in our conversation on the way back one of her gay coworkers came up in the conversation. She commented on how she hated having to work with all those gay men... then a comment about gay men working in clothing retail at the mall...

The one person whom I expected would stick up for me as a homosexual, my brother, really let me down. My brother in a disgusted tone said, "If I ever owned a clothing retail store I wouldn't hire gays to work there." My boss said, "But that's illegal. They have discrimination laws against that sort of thing. They'll take you to court."
"How would they know that it was because they are gay I didn't hire them? They couldn't prove anything."

I wanted to say, "Oh don't worry, Brother, I'd testify against you." But I didn't.

He went on to talk about feminine gay guys and their mannerisms and how much it bothered him. He spoke as if the obviously gay guys were lesser people because they were more effeminate in their persona. Basically he said it's okay to be gay as long as you don't act gay. I wont relate the whole conversation, but it really made me mad.

No, I myself don't find effeminate mannerisms attractive, but I can tolerate them. There are a lot of things I don't find attractive. I don't find obesity attractive, but I can still be friends with, love, and support an obese person. There are somethings that people cannot help. Maybe that's not a good example, but I think you get my point. Being effeminate isn't bad, just different.

I actually know a number of intolerant gay guys too. They act as if being effeminate were a bad thing... I mean, it's not my style, but they judge others. Aren't we free to pursue that which tickles our fancy within the bounds of moral law? Sure, when you see a flaming fabulous gay man you can't help but laugh sometimes, but to degrade someone else for any reason only serves to degrade yourself.

I know sometimes in the church, (especially in Elder's Quorum) there is a tendency to see who can be more conservative as if conservativeness could be equated with righteousness, but my brother isn't the type of guy to talk fluff to impress others. He is a thinker and doesn't say things that he doesn't mean. Thats why it hurt so much to hear him say what he did. I'm really close to my brother. I still have yet to talk to him about how angry he made me for saying everything he did.

I don't know... I guess I wish people could love people for who they are, not just for being Mormon, talented, good looking, or anything else.

16 comments:

playasinmar said...

Maybe your brother is over-compensating and just putting on an act.

Scot said...

That is terrible, Cas. I hope you can get this off your chest with your brother.

Samantha is right. You’re brother is still figuring all this out and is a good distance behind you in doing so. I bet if you’re honest with him about your feelings but don’t allow the hurt and possible anger at his actions lead to a combative atmosphere it can be worked through soon. I suspect your brother has, as a way of dealing with this, compartmentalized the issue into “good gays” and “bad gays” and probably doesn’t feel like he’s aiming at you, though I’m sure it hurts regardless.

drex said...

Amen!

I'm guessing your brother went off the way he did because he felt that was the appropriate way to react to his boss's wife's comment. Being around people in positions of power makes you act differently, and most people try to fit whatever mold they feel they're supposed to be in. Everyone's guilty of it to some degree.

The judgmental nature of people really bugs me sometimes. Especially that it pervades even the circles of people who consider themselves open-minded and non-judgmental.

And Virginia is too for lovers. :P

Foxx said...

*scream*

If there's one thing that gets me riled up, it's proponents of stereotype - especially for people, like gays, who have suffered under the expectation that they would conform to a type that could not apply to them no matter how hard they tried.

Being male, being gay, being a red-head, being left-handed, being a returned missionary, being ALIVE is about being yourself. That's it. You don't have to be anything you're not, and I would expect gays to preach THAT gospel before anything else. Unfortuantely, some people can't let go of the idea that they have to lump everybody together, and in order for them to do that, they need everybody in that group to look and act alike.

Being gay means you like the same sex and there's little you can do about that; still, you don't have to be "gay," mannerisms, tastes, and occupations alike. That's just more of being what you're not. Unless it's what you are.

Just be. And allow others do the same. This is my advice to the world.

Mormon Enigma said...

There are so many supposed stereotypes that I guess I'm supposed to fill

What??? you mean you haven't developed an innate fashion sense? You haven't become artistic in all of your endeavors?

I agree with others that your brother is over-compensating. Although, I do find it odd that he would do so in front of you.

Samantha said...

Yeah...I admit it...I'm really, really effeminate...some people actually mistake me for a woman...oh...wait...that's probably okay...

I'm sorry, Cas. It hurts when people we trust let us down, especially when we really love and trust them. However, understanding can come. It's very possible that in some ways, even though he says he's "all right" with your telling him about your orientation, he's still uncomfortable and trying to reestablish his belief paradigms. Be who you are--someday he'll understand.

iwonder said...

I know exactly what you mean. I just posted on a related topic today and yesterday.

"I don't know... I guess I wish people could love people for who they are"


Amen. And I wish that we could all just feel comfortable being who we are, and not feel that we have to hide any part of ourselves.

I sympathise with your frustration in feeling that you want to just be open and yourself at work, or where ever, but feel that you can't. I totally feel the same way, and it is so frustrating, and in my opinion, destructive.

Gimple said...

Caspian, I am really sorry about that. It is horrible. I have felt the pain in class when a professor starts making fun of gay people or making bad comments. I have also had close friends talk about how gross being gay is. I've also had someone recently who know that I am gay tell me that I would like just because I'm gay. It is awful and I hope that you will be ok. We'll talk later. I'm almost done with finals. Only one more!

the Baker's son said...

wow, 9 comments. I was going to give this post a gold star, but I see some other people already did.

Distinguishing Preoccupation said...

Wow, everyone! Thanks for the comments. I didn't realize that so many people read my blog. Thanks. I love you all! You really have valuable things to say.
-Caspian

The Ugly Swan said...

A friend once said, "I think you're gayer than I am."

To which I had to reply, "Don't be stupid. That doesn't mean anything."

Kengo Biddles said...

It sickens me. It really does when they behave like this. I'm sorry your brother is either coping so poorly, or has done as Scot suggested with "good" and "bad" gays.

WE'RE ALL PEOPLE, DAMMIT.

"Jesus said love EVERYONE! Treat them kindly too!"

Sometimes, I want to make a distinction between Idiot-Mormons and Real-Mormons.

Sad thing is, I think we all fall in the idiot category at times...

Marmoreal said...

yep - stereotyping and passing judgment, what else is a person suppose to do with their time?!

hope your brother ups his level of understanding quickly.

gentlefriend said...

Dear Caspian,

I am amazed at all the sensitive comments above. Your brother needs to know your reaction to his comments. Occasionally in priesthood meeting I have heard comments made about those with SSA or Democrats, or Californians, etc. all of which I am. They are not aware of the pain/anger, feeling of separation they cause. Some, I have discussed their humor with, at least their political jokes. They didn't realize how defensive they made me feel.

By the way, thanks for your perceptive comments to me on Elbow. It is nice to communicate with someone who not only sees what I am saying, but also what I am feeling. In response to your comments: You are right, I am grieving over an emptiness that may never be filled in this life, but I am also rejoicing for the parts of me that are being filled. Thanks for listening and responding.

Forester said...

I don't understand how your brother could talk like that in front of you, no matter who he was talking to. I have a close friend who knows I am gay and he often makes fun of me, but not in a cruel way. He doesn't believe in the stereotype but will say something like, "wouldn't you rather have the fruit cup instead of some vegetables?" He laughed at me when I bought the new Bold Flavor Fruity Tic Tacs on the market.

VP Smurf said...

I wish you could have seen my Sunday School lesson in church today. It was about the good Samaritan, and I told the class it doesn't matter if someone supports Cheney or Nader, If they're in the NRA or the GSA, If they're cornfed Americans or illegal immigrants or dead-beat dads or homophobes. Everybody is our neighbor, and we need to love them all. I like that your blog is about the same thing. Kinda brings my day full-circle.