This summer, New York City and countless cities throughout the country celebrated Gay Pride. Parade floats carrying men dressed as Cher and Beyonce’ look-alikes donned the streets of New York’s Greenwich Village, prompting cat-calls and hoots and hollers from the strangely mixed masculine and effeminate crowd, while prompting the question: Is the Gay Image flawed?
Gay men and women in America have long sought equality and acceptance from their peers in the heterosexual world. The past few years have provided historic strides in the passage of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, among other victories. Despite these great advances, there is still a marketing issue within the gay community that has fueled intolerance. With gays coming in all flavors and doctrines, since when did clownish femininity become the face of homosexuality?
Is gay pride only a make-believe contest to judge how womanly a man can be? Is the annual gay pride celebration merely a permission slip for men to dress up in Halloween-like drag costumes and saunter through the streets with effeminate prowess? Or is gay pride something much deeper than that — a chance to celebrate advances in marriage equality and an opportunity to encourage society to embrace tolerance?
Most people who oppose homosexuality, do so out of fear or lack of knowledge. They may not know any gay people personally, so their only knowledge of what being gay means is often based upon images they see via the television. But for someone turning on the TV and seeing a gay pride parade or event for the first time, they likely won’t see a group of gays presenting themselves in a respectfully palatable manner, showing how they should be perceived as valuable and productive members of a community. NO! In perhaps 99.9% of the cases, from a unknowledgeable person’s perspective, they would be met with a sea of tall, garish drag queens wearing over the top wigs, gowns, and clown white makeup, as well as scantily clad effeminate males gyrating on each other, in what some could easily construe as a virtual Sodom and Gomorrah. For those of us who are smart, we recognize this is not the true image of all gay people. But for those who are not in the know and can only rely on what they see, hear, and are told, this is the image they are presented with — and it scares them, it makes them withdraw, and it makes them not accept.
Somewhere along the way, the gay image has become synonymous with being a tactless clown. Yet that could not be farther from the truth. Granted, there are some gay people who are as tactless and clownish as can be. However, there are also many, many more who are very far from it, which suggests the gay image is probably poorly constructed and deeply misconstrued. Is a collective epidemic of national ignorance the true cause of this sustained non-acceptance? Or are gays themselves largely responsible for their own flawed image and lack of wider acceptance?
When a unknowledgeable parent hears their child say “Mom, Dad, I’m gay, and I want you to accept that” what they’re probably hearing in their heads is “Mom, Dad, I’m about to become one of those garish wig/stiletto wearing freakish drag queens you see on T.V. and I want you to accept that.” However, how many parents and families are realistically going to do so? Probably not many. So how did the clownish, effeminate side of homosexuality become THE face of homosexuality? Does anyone within the gay community actually expect a majority of society to fully embrace and accept a group represented by a 6’5″ and 250 pound Carol Channing look-a-like with a beard? Or is it time gays got smart, rethought and redesigned their image, then challenged society at large not to accept their more realistic presentation?
Society has frequently misunderstood large groups of people. For example, African-Americans have long been considered violent thieves and welfare addicts. Hispanics have often been called border jumping baby factories. Muslims have been seen as terrorists who are always out to get Americans. These stereotypes are ignorant and do not accurately represent these groups as a whole. In fact, African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims and others have gone to great lengths over the years to eradicate such negative imagery and opinion, providing more positive images to fix and replace years of negative ones. Why then is the gay community light years behind in fixing and eradicating their own stereotypes?
The gay image should be much more than just being a man dressed garishly in drag, or being effeminate, or being as outlandish and bizarre as possible. Being gay means being committed spouses, loving parents, responsible workers, and productive and accepted members of a community — just as it means for heterosexuals. For example, Kordale and Kaleb Lewis are 2 black gay and committed dads who are actively attempting to change the gay image and offer a different presentation of the gay male to society. At least in their household, handsome, intelligent, successful, committed and responsible has trumped the concept of being effeminate, outlandish and promiscuous.
If gays truly want greater acceptance, wouldn’t they be smart to stop pointing fingers, stop redirecting blame, and start taking responsibility for their own perception problems? Is the gay image flawed?
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