Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You're So Gay, You Prolly Think This Blog Is About You

Laura - Scissor Sisters (mp3)
How You Play the Game - Michelle Shocked (mp3)

The following is a reader comment following an interesting NYTimes blog about gender and homophobia:

Homophobia itself, like sexism, needs to be eradicated. And children need to learn (this must be taught by parents + in schools) that “masculine” and “feminine” may be descriptive (what the terms actually mean should always be open to question), but they must never be prescriptive. All children should be free to grow into whatever man or woman they want to be. And both parents and teachers have a moral obligation to facilitate this growth.

I will attempt to explain why the comment above begs me to differ, but first, I must offer some background.

I'm straight. Hetero. Whatevs. I'm also a Southern-Fried Protestant Honky. These are qualities that must be acknowledged right away. I won't gloss over them or the baggage they would naturally require me to carry.

Here's the next thing to make clear: I am fairly open-minded when it comes to sex and love and gender preference and all that jazz. Gay men in general bother me far less than NFL athletes in general or glam rock stars like Bret Michaels in general. I'm not the least bit uncomfortable around most gay men... be they my next-door neighbors or one of our fantasy football team owners or even a student who might or might not have begun to openly admit it to his peers or teachers. Just because I'm open-minded and comfortable, however, doesn't mean I can proclaim that famous ironic statement, "I don't have any problem with them gays."

Seems to me we all have problems with everyone at some point or another. We have problems with our parents, with our kids, with our coworkers, with people in the news, with homeless people, and so on. Some of these are excusable while some less so. But inevitably, our problem with a particular person will inevitably collide with a part of them that ain't like us. Their gender, their race, their sexual preference, their religion. And when that happens, we must ask ourselves how much of that different part plays a role in the conflict.

Put another way: "Am I annoyed by that guy because he's annoying or because he's gay/black/Moonie and annoying?"

The Rev. Al Sharpton comes to mind. He's not evil, but he certainly has too much Publicity Hound in him for me to consider his motives pure and virtuous. I don't like him. So, how does this opinion affect my placement on the Racist Bastard Scale? Is it damning, or do I get taken down a notch, or is my distaste for Reverend Al entirely unrelated to my racism or lack thereof?

Let's use "YouTube Fred" as another example. I don't care whether that kid is gay, het, or hermaphrodite, Fred annoys every last nerve ending in my entire body. (Yes, I know he's TRYING to be annoying, but he's also, like, annoying in ways that are beyond intentional.) Is it because he's effeminate? Probably. I can't deny that possibility. Am I bothered by effeminate males? At times... well, yes dammit, yes. But I'm also bothered by beefy guys who jiggle their man-boobs back and forth to show their amazing muscle control, and by manly men who constantly call everyone "fag" in deep baritone voices. I'm not a fan of ditzy bottle-haired model wannabes with boob jobs and collagen-injected lips who think it's cute that they can't spell simple words and don't know how many states make up the U.S.

In other words, People who behave in real life like two-dimensional cartoon character stereotypes are super-annoying. This distaste crosses all barriers and involves all stereotypes. Women with some masculine qualities or "Oreos" or "Bananas" or "Hootie" or men with some effeminate qualities... none of this bothers me. Hell, I got a whole heap o' Girly Man in me, and I'm really disinclined to be too apologetic about it.

Further, when it comes to essential differences in people such as race or religion or the like, there will always -- ALWAYS -- be some key moments where one side can't quite understand the other. It's a black thing. It's a gay thing. It's a teenage girl thing. It's a horny older married guy with children thing. You wouldn't understand. You're right. I probably wouldn't. Cut me a little slack then.

But then I read a comment like the one this dude wrote: "All children should be free to grow into whatever man or woman they want to be. And both parents and teachers have a moral obligation to facilitate this growth."

How, exactly, is that to be orchestrated?

I'm just not sure we can raise our children in a gender-identity vacuum. Am I supposed to feel somehow uncivilized if my son just so happened to start obsessing over bulldozers and trucks before he was a year old, in spite of living in a house with two older sisters and being surrounded by their dolls and stuffed animals? Am I failing my daughters that they love horses and American Girl crap and iCarly? While I don't believe my wife and I shoved them in these directions, I can't exactly say we've been guilt-stricken or spent time trying to expose them equally to what might be gender interests on the other side.

Sure, they are who they are, and they will be who they will be, and I'm not one to believe we can alter that course drastically without doing some pretty serious damage to them. But I'm just not sure there's some Yellow Brick Road of parental behavior that makes us androgynous shepherds on an androgynous journey while our androgynous children figure it all out for themselves. Nor do we live in an androgynous vaccuum, with pop culture and school and everything else constantly screaming at us about sex sex sex in every way possible.

Could I, like the father in Heathers, proudly and mournfully proclaim the words, "I love my dead gay son!" (Except maybe I could mean it?) I think so. However, I'm not sure that how I raise my children from day to day would get some Good Gay Housekeeping Seal of Approval or anything, since that's not really something I worry about very often. And to follow the "moral obligation" this guy mentions, wouldn't I have to be conscientious of all that stuff all the time?

No thanks. As Lloyd Dobbler said, "I can't figure it all out tonight, so I'm just gonna hang with your daughter."


Brett said...

No, you're not supposed to feel bad if your son digs bulldozers and your daughter prefers dolls. You're just supposed to accept them if it's the other way around, that's all.

Diane Court said...

You make some great points and I commend your usage of 80s movie quotes.

The Yellow Brick Road of parental behaviour should be should be to teach tolerance and respect of those who are different from ourselves. We figure out a way to do this and racism,anti-semitism,homophopia ect..should all disappear.

Tockstar said...

Or (re: Brett's comment), not put up with your son coming home and talking trash about someone else's son who likes pink, plays with dolls, etc.

Billy said...

Tock, point well taken, and maybe that's wherein the hardest battle lies, because it's the easiest one to choose not to fight. Thanks for that.

Bob said...

I think things are changing pretty quickly and for the better.

Bob said...

Sorry, I was writing that last comment in class (reading day) and meant to say more. The ruling in Iowa is a huge positive.

On a more local level, we've had a longtime gay teacher here at our all-boys school and the boys were oblivous for years, but now that they are starting to understand, they merely mention that he is gay and don't say anything else. In the past, that would not have happened so easily.

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