You cannot help but notice on campus – it is Gay Awareness Month. Actually, Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Tranns, Questioning, Thought About It Once or Twice, Took an Extra-Long Peek in the Locker Room Month. But do we really need to bother with it?
For the last year or so, every single month has been Gay Awareness Month – we’ve gone from a previous lack of recognition to an ever-present, obnoxious and unrealistic overrepresentation. How about a month during which no gay stereotypes and cookie-cutter, one-dimensional caricatures are broadcasted into our brains?
We get it. Gay folks are everywhere, out of their closets and organizing ours. Gay fashion, sensibilities and sharp-edged wit are everywhere, on every television channel, but at what cost? Do the trendy icons of queeribility really represent the reality of homosexuality? Is their fantabulous world of queerness where everyone is rich and impeccably dressed, every day is drama-filled and pretty much everyone is young, beautiful and white realistic? I don’t know about you but that is not the world I live in.
Am I overly sensitive? Perhaps, since I am not wonderfully, fabulously gay – just a common, simple, boring fag. No glam lifestyle, no witty banter, no bottled water, iPods or smart outfits. So as these cartoon images of what gays look like and act like are thrown at you this month, try to remember that there are everyday fags like me. Ones who drink beer and sometimes a little E&J, who don’t wear pink triangles and don’t cover our bumpers and bookbags in rainbow stickers. We are the vast majority you just don’t see. We don’t wear our sexuality on our sleeves or throw it in your face, overtly and obviously. Some of us just wear sneaks, drive cars, play football, have jobs, pay taxes, have sex, sometimes fall in love and raise families, just like everyone else.
Our sexuality is part of us, not all of us. Contrary to what you may see listed as a “gay awareness event” on campus – we all don’t do drag. So don’t believe the hype: Queer camp may be fun, but that is not all there is to it. But crazy enough though, we used to complain about others presenting us as buffoonish, shallow creatures but we now proudly sell those same images back to the mainstream – but, again, at what cost?
Kids are growing up thinking that leftover 1980s queer rhetoric is the only way they can express their sexuality. They learn what they see and all that we have been showing them is sex, shopping, camp and silliness. I pity the questioning college student who only has Will & Grace and Queer Eye and the sole gay student group on which to base their identities.
Instead of offering alternatives and choices in how they can express their sexuality, the media message is that there is a certain way to be gay, act gay and think gay. The message is not one of “be yourself” or “be different” but “be different in the manner and method we dictate.” The image of gays presented in the media is just a prettier straightjacket, complete with sequins and feathers. Student money spent on drag shows only exacerbates the problems of stereotypes, clichés and dichotomous perceptions.
Feel free to proclaim “here and queer.” As for me, I will just stay your ordinary, everyday fag, invisible in the gay clutter. The queer kids on campus may think they speak for the rest of us homos, but they have a vested interest in the gayness they were indoctrinated into and have accepted as reality. Besides, “Homo Awareness Month” would be too mundane.
Glenn Reitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.