Questions are a burden
And answers a prison for oneself
-- Back In The Village, Iron Maiden
I'm not sure if there's too many Iron Maiden fans in the Oasis readership, but they're one of my favorites, and the above quote is one that I think a great deal of GBLT youth can relate to. It sure makes me think!
The Invisible Minority
I use this title as a reference to the rather large group of people of which I am a member: Those still in the closet, or "CP's" (Closet People).
We are a strange breed, and despite the most educated guesses, nobody seems to know exactly how many of us there are? Some say it's one-in-ten; Others, especially those of the Religious Right give a much smaller figure. I doubt that sexual preference will be included in the census questions! Maybe it should? Then the general public would know how many of us there are! Nice idea, but I'm sure you can imagine the public outrage toward that concept!
So what is it that makes CP's stay that way? While I won't try to speak for everyone, I can offer some personal insight on this topic, and I'm sure there are others that feel as I do.
Why I Remain In The Closet
In past columns I mentioned that I was deep in the closet and I planned on staying that way for a long, long time. . . but I never really gave an explanation. Perhaps this is a good time to do so?
I first started having questions about my sexuality in the early '80s, a time that I can honestly say was probably the best years of my life so far. . . I know that sounds silly, but bear with me. Back then things were different for gays, I think the attitude back then was that being gay was something that was kept quiet and handled with kid gloves. Times sure have changed!
Around the time I started to become acutely aware of my bisexuality, I saw coverage of a gay parade for the first time. The news footage showed a bunch of men wearing dresses and leather outfits, and every person that was interviewed replied in a overstated lisp and turned the feminine tendencies up a few notches to the extreme. So just imagine the impact this had on me, a young guy discovering his sexuality! It was not at all positive! This is what being gay is all about.
Back then "Three's Company" was being shown in syndication, and every night my family watched that and although it was comical, the underlying theme of many episodes revolved around the character of Jack, a straight man acting gay so he could rent out the apartment along with the two women, and the scenarios he ran into because of his secret identity. Needless to say, all the stereotypes were used to the fullest extent! The message I was given once again was, if you're gay this is how you act.
I never saw positive things about gays, it was always negative and stereotypical, and that made things even harder for me because I knew deep down that I was gay, but I just couldn't see myself living up to that image. Hollywood doesn't seem to want to change this either, because after all you can't have people that are "different" appearing to be normal! The sad thing is, I know this is not the case, that there are many of us who don't fit that stereotype, and yet we don't really have much in the way of positive role models.
There are a number of people at my job who once suspected that I was gay, and now they are convinced that I'm not. . . wow are they fooled! Would they feel the same way if I went around prancing and lisping? I doubt it!
One popular feeling within the gay society is to do whatever it takes to be different, and putting out a obnoxious "I'm gay and if you don't like it then fuck off!" attitude earns respect among other gays. . . but ever wonder what it does to CP's like myself?? I'll tell you this much, that attitude is what makes me want to go deeper into the closet! I see the same attitude among some people of African descent, and personally, I feel that that only creates more racial tension. As if we need more!!!!!
My father told me that when he was in the basic training in the military, his group was awaiting to go on their first liberty, and right before being dismissed their commanding officer reminded them that since they were in uniform, everything they did would be noticed by the citizens in town. Everything. If they made fools of themselves, you better believe it would not only be noticed but remembered as well. The same applied to good behavior. How does this apply to us? If you are in public wearing a pink triangle or a rainbow, and act like a idiot, you better believe that people will notice (if they understand those symbols) and they'll remember that when something about us is mentioned. Trust me!
I see examples of this every time I'm at work. My company has guidelines for what employees are allowed to wear, but they seem more concerned with us wearing the appropriate colors than how we actually look. There's quite a few people that have visible body piercing(males and females)and hairstyles that are straight from the punk days. I have no problem with this, but I've noticed that our customers sure do. I remember a guy walking up to me and commenting on how many of my fellow employees must work at a circus freak show!!! I agree with him, because I've learned that first impressions last!!!! I hate to say it, but there are quite a few people that view gays as a bunch of freaks because that's the only image that's ever been presented to them. Don't believe me? Then just watch any talk show where the topic is homosexuality, and you can bet that most of the panel members representing us fit the public perception to a T. Why is it this way? I feel it's this way because the CP's like me don't wish the be compared to them, and staying "in" is a much better option than having to fight the stereotypes. If more of the guy-next-door types come out, then maybe the public will see that there's more to us than the stereotypes.
We need to have the popular media on our side for a change, and as long as movies and TV shows continue to pigeonhole gay/lesbian characters into narrow roles, the damage will only continue. When was the last time you saw a gay character depicted as normal? Well, that can't seem to happen because then the public would see us as normal, human beings. Scary concept, huh? And just imagine for a second what the impact would be if any of the popular teen stars (fill in name of your choice) came out?!? Acceptance? Total anarchy? Who knows? Personally, I think their career might be over, but you never know. . . maybe that would wake a lot of people up? Take a popular figure and have them represent those gays that are like an iceberg: Only a few are visible, the rest just under the surface, waiting to make their presence known. Sure a popular figure will have to be able to deal with all the criticism and close scrutiny that surely would follow their announcement, but maybe people would stop for a second and think "Hey I liked this person before, so why should I stop now?" And if the message that this is NOT a choice was finally understood, all the better.
One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Think about it. . .
So what can be done? Well how about this. . . For those who are about to publicly come out, do so with class. Make yourself look good and be your true self, because everyone is watching. Hold your head high when you make your announcement, and say it with pride. Set a positive example, and others will follow in your footsteps, and then, maybe then, we will start to see a change in the public's perception of us. Granted, we have an uphill battle, but so did our founding fathers!!!
Until Next Time,