Homosexual, but not Homogeneous

November 11, 2010
I have a joke for you. How do you know if a gay person has sat in a seat before you did? The answer: if there’s AIDS on the chair. Is that funny? I didn’t think so either.

When I heard this joke from a good friend, I was simply stunned, then irate after I realized what he had actually said to me. Long before this moment, I had shared with him that I was gay, and yet somehow he didn’t stop to think that this comedic attempt might offend me in some way. How did I react? I expressed my outrage openly to him with the assistance of a few expletives. After calming down, I filed this “joke” away as just another part of the stereotype that stands for gay males. The ignorance people have in regards to gay life is greater than just a simple comment or joke, though.
Blood donation is an obvious example of this lack of understanding. Part of the screening procedures put in place by the FDA to decrease the chance that diseased blood is received from donors is disallowing gay men from donating altogether: “In response to the AIDS crisis of the 1980's the Food and Drug Administration banned any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 from giving blood” (Johnson). Although we have made large strides in medical research and popular awareness to invalidate the idea that AIDS is a homosexual-only problem, the FDA has not lifted its ban on donating blood.

In my life, I have encountered many people who try to stereotype me as the “typical” gay person: effeminate, promiscuous, flamboyant, and generally everything that heterosexual males are not. This is how popular culture defines gays, and it is assumed that a man who acts in any these ways is gay. Public demonstrations of homosexuality usually come in the form of Pride Parades, drag events, and the new fall line at Neiman Marcus, which give society the image that such activities comprise what all gays do with their time. Contrary to popular belief about gays, I don’t dress in drag, I don’t want to be a fashion designer, and I certainly don’t flaunt my sexuality. There is certainly nothing wrong with individuals who express themselves in these ways, and I commend them on their openness; but I am simply not one of them.
I can honestly say that when I first identified myself as homosexual, I was petrified that people I didn’t know—and even my close friends—would think of me as a lesser person. But why should I even have to entertain this thought, however fleeting? This is a result of the image that gays have as a culture. The fact that one of the two major political parties, the Republicans, is anti-gay at all signifies a tangible political prejudice. I believe this sentiment results from the historical background of the United States and the heavy influence of Christianity with which this nation was founded and grew. The original Pilgrims brought Christianity to the fledgling colonies of the United States, and it is conceived by most sects of Christianity that the practice of homosexuality is evil. This belief was never really opposed by anyone throughout history, so it morphed into the political phenomenon that still exists.

I am not naïve enough to assume that these notions about gays will disappear anytime soon and people will just forget their past and current animosity towards gays. But I do remain optimistic. For most of my friends, I am their only gay friend. I have heard from a majority of my peers that I am a lot more “straight-acting” than they would expect from a homosexual. They do not act uncomfortably towards me and even ask me questions about my life and whatever else they want to know from my perspective. I remember my close friend Josh came up to me a few years back and told me that he had been homophobic all of his life, but because of me he changed his negative opinion of gays. While I do not imagine that I alone can change an entire nation’s perception of the entire scope of what it is to be gay, I feel I have definitely made an impact in the small community and circle of people with whom I interact.

Works Cited
Johnson, Ramon. "Blood Donation - Information on the Gay Blood Donor Ban." About: Gay Life - An Examination of Everything Gay, From Visual Arts To Relationships and Political Expression. About.com, 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. <http://gaylife.about.com/od/stdsgeneralhealth/a/blooddonation.htm>.

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