Friday, September 08, 2006

GCN Radio 1 - responding to stereotypes

"The Carpenters? Now that I get."

"You like the Carpenters....well, congratulations on your first OGT - 'obviously gay trait.' Mine are culinary skills, love of the Carpenters, and fear of all blood sports."
(Kevin to Dennis, in The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy)
On the GayChristian.net website, there is a feature called GCN Radio. GCNR hosts Justin and Brian have been doing weekly internet broadcasts for several years, addressing issues for people who are both gay and Christian. About the last two years worth of their podcasts are available through iTunes, and more are available on their website.

I have a 45-minute commute from "the 'hood" (Chicago's Pullman neighborhood, at south 115th St. and the Dan Ryan Expressway) to the Evil Empire downtown by Union Station. So between going to and from work, and the 4 hours each way from Chicago to Toledo, I've found much to both smile about and reflect on from their broadcasts. It's not NPR or anything, but there's nuggets of fun and truth in each podcast. And as part of each broadcast, Justin and Brian ask a "question of the week" to encourage their listeners to reflect on a particular facet of gay life (especially gay Christian life).

Of course, I'm listening to these broadcasts in retrospect. So responding to the GCNR crew's questions-of-the-week a year or more later seems a wee bit stupid (or at least terminally behind-the-times). So I'm taking the time to respond to a variety of these topics over the next couple weeks here.

An interesting discussion on the November 11, 2005 GCN Radio podcast talks about a bunch of gay stereotypes. Their discussion barely more than breaks the surface - they start a list, which has a lot of the widely-discussed stereotypes:

- Music: of course, all gays love show tunes, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Cher, Melissa Etheridge ...I'm sure you can add to the list
- Fashion: all gay men have a special gene that makes them fashionable, neat, organized and star hosts/hostesses - a' la the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy team
- Fitness - all gay men either are gym bunnies, or want to be
- Sex - promiscuity as the gay "gold standard;" all gay men are overly well endowed; all gay men in relationships want to be married; again, you can add to the list.

One of the references on the broadcast that made me snicker was the reference to lesbians and Home Depot - especially since more than one gay man has referred to that chain of stores as Homo Depot. I have to admit that if you're into "manly men," you can find them at Homo Depot - although I've never found anything yet to compare with the twink boi's of CDW (who share the building with the offices of The Evil Empire). A virtual sea of hotties...

Today, I had a personal "close encounter" with an old gay stereotype. I had worn a pink shirt - not because pink is "gay," but because I thought it looked good on me. (And, to be honest, it was clean, unwrinkled, and on top of the pile.) But one of my co-workers made a comment, basically saying, "Boy, Steve, you look good in pink - not that that makes you gay or anything." I smiled at her, and said, "Honey, I sure didn't need a shirt to tell me I was gay..."

I thought her jaw was going to hit the floor, bounce back and break a couple teeth. "YOU??" she all but yelled.

Yes, me, honey. It's not that big a deal...

Which gets me back to the topic. Let's face it - stereotypes are at least partially anchored in truth. That's how they get started. But an awful lot of all gay stereotypes are pure trash - and many of them really do a grave disservice to the gay community. An awful lot of gay stereotypes are fueled by traditional anti-gay fears and misinformation.

But so long as a significant portion of the gay community is hiding in the closet, what will endure in people's minds will be the stupidest of the gay stereotypes. There are some people (both straight and gay) who still really believe that I'm not gay - because I fit so few of the "traditional" stereotypes (being older, greying, heavy-set, definitely not overly-endowed or fashion-gifted in any way...). And, God help me, I bought into those same lies - that I couldn't be gay, because I didn't fit my own homophobic picture of what "gay" was...

That's really the central point of all this.

People won't know how far-off that the gay stereotypes are, and how fraudulent the idea of a "homosexual lifestyle" or "homosexual agenda" is, until we show them what gay life is like, by coming out and staying out and proud. Only when people see the truth - that we literally are all around them - will they stop believing in the old fantasies about gays and lesbians.

In this way, telling the truth really will set us free...

4 comments:

  1. You are so right, steve. By the way, I love the carpenters....

    Fabulous is as Fabulous does, I guess....


    As they used to say on supermen, its a never ending struggle for truth, justice, and the american way....

    Thanks for your honesty and courage.

    pete

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  2. i liken it to all Christians listening to sappy (sorry) Christian music and "worship" songs -- i am a Jars of Clay fan as well as David Crowder Band and i know of a few very hard rocking Christian bands. they are NOT all alike.

    nor are gay people.

    my favorite gay guy (next to you, of course) i had no idea was gay for years. i just called him the "perfect man," and when i found out he was gay when i met his boyfriend (whom i also adore), i thought "that explains it," but just the "why doesn't he have a wife?" question. and that was it.

    i am with you and i am betting you look fab-u in pink ;)

    love you.

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  3. I've been looking at stereotypes a lot in the past few months... I actually blogged about pink shirts [finally got one myself!] and Lance Bass' whole "I'm just a normal guy" thing.

    Thanks for your entry on the diversity of us queer folks...

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  4. Thanks very much, Steve, for this thoughtful post, and for listening to GCN Radio.

    In Christ,

    Brian
    Producer, co-host
    www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio

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