Saturday, March 12, 2005

Sexual Expression Inequality

I recently had a discussion with a couple of new heterosexual friends from Wisconsin. We were talking about how gay people are perceived in the United States by the media, the political Right and by the Church, not to mention the average person. Although there are many people in this world who treat us as they would like to be treated, there are far more who react with disgust at the mere thought of the word "gay". Interestingly, there seems to be less stigma associated with the concept of lesbianism. In fact, many heterosexual fantasies seem to include lesbianism for whatever reason. You need only look as far as beer commercials on television to see what I mean.

This realization prompted me to start analyzing the etiology of this stigma about gay men. It came to me after a while that the average person on the street hears the word "gay" and more than likely, immediately goes directly to the mechanics of gay sex, and how what goes where. Once that is the first stop on their train of thought, the rest of the trip must be like riding through a sexual ghetto where they feel threatened at every turn. The famed British alien living in New York, Quentin Crisp, expressed these same sentiments briefly in the film "The Celluloid Closet".

If I were to imagine meeting the average straight couple for the very first time and being introduced to Dick and Jane, the absolute last stop on my train of mental images is how they work each other over in the bedroom. I usually see their smiling faces, or their babies or their nice home or the way that they look at each other with love in their eyes and that is it. I don’t think of the eroticism or lack thereof that happened in their bedroom the night, or week before. That is if they are an attractive couple. If they are unattractive in any way, my train takes the track that totally avoids the station where people get off. I don't feel the need to torture myself in that way. It is enough torture for me to witness public displays of affection between heterosexual couples when I know that similar displays of love would likely get my friends or myself beaten up.

Somehow, I feel that we, as gay people or those of us who are heterosexuals, have to separate gay sexuality from gay identity. This is a conundrum, because our identity, that which makes us different from heterosexuals, is determined by our sexuality and its expression. Nonetheless, we need to find a way to encourage people to see us as people, people in love, in fact, and not as disgusting animals rutting in the mud.

I guess I must ask my heterosexual friends, when they meet another heterosexual couple, if they immediately imagine the new couple doing-the-dirty with each other. I suspect that the answer would be that they do not. Somehow, they see each other as committed individuals in love who deserve to have their relationships sanctified by their friends, their families and society. It is what our society expects. Unfortunately, over 1130 rights that are conveyed by marriage would be denied to gay/lesbian couples if the US Constitution is amended to ban gay/lesbian marriage or civil unions. Many of the proposed laws to ban gay marriage include language that is intended even to deny civil unions or any attempt to convey the rights included in these social pacts between two people. This is a frightening attempt to maintain second-class citizenship for GLBTQ citizens of the US. Would you want someone to tell you that you couldn't visit your spouse on their deathbed? How about if your job were transfered overseas and you were not allowed to take your spouse?

What will it take for the majority to see gay people as committed individuals in love who deserve to have their relationships sanctified by their friends, their families and society? Moreover, what will it take for the majority to recognize their obligation to protect the rights of all minorities? As Alexis de Toqueville said of early America, our society can reflect a "tyranny of opinion".

I suspect that the first step for us is for the majority of people to get their minds out of our gutters. Let us start as seeing one another as people first and not as expressions of our sexuality. We have to level that playing field to end the exclusion, the violence and the disgust that greet gay people from the majority. Otherwise, we must find ways to strengthen our legal system around equal protection under the law.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we speak in terms of 'same-ness' there is no mystery. When we speak in terms of something that is not the same as we are, the mind begins to speculate.
It is an unfortunate aspect of being human that often the mind creates scenario that goes with 'not the same'. I suspect that this is for personal identification of difference. If humans can not conceive of what the difference is, then they can not grasp it.
It is sad that when attempting to understand that which is 'different', some minds can conjure only personal negatives. By that I mean some people simply have 'dirty' minds. They relegate something to the basest level - perhaps that is how they get around to feeling better about themselves, or perhaps that is the limits of their mental capacity.
Your friends from Wisconsin merely bring to the table that which is typical for the majority of people. In times of repression, the mind has naught to do but continue to repress through condemnation.

3/23/2005 04:03:00 PM  

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