Young and Gay or Young and Feminine?

So a week ago Monday, Washington Post staff writer Theresa Vargas wrote a very interesting article entitled, Owning His Gay Identity -- at 15 years old. The article covers several stories of kids coming out in middle and high school but particular focuses on a local boy Saro Harvey and his struggles of being openly gay in high school. The article does a good job showing the discrimination and bullying the young man goes through however for me the underlying issue in the article and in life is not Saro being gay, but the prevalence for young homosexuals (or confused kids) thinking being gay is carrying a purse, talking with a lisp, or any other feminine characteristics.

While I usually read the Post everyday, I somehow missed this article and it wasn't brought to my attention until I was reading Rod 2.0 and was surprised when reading the comment section and how everyone was so proud of how courageous this young man was. Which you will get no argument from me. But the piece goes into how Saro's family is concerned that his self expression and choice of wearing girl's clothes may make him a target for violence.

While we are focusing on tolerance for others we should also focus on giving young homosexual men positive depictions of masculine gay men. There are very few on TV and in movies (sorry I don't quite think Omar from the Wire would classify as positive) and in the media in general. While there are several in the community, it is unfortunate that these are the daily images they see or strive to be like.

I think Vargas did a good job on the article but it pains me that I walk away from it upset about what young homosexuals think being gay really is.


Bernie said...

Are you suggesting that some young gay boys are not just naturally effeminate?

I agree with you that there are some kids, just coming out, who think they must behave in a certain way in order to "be gay." But for others, it isn't an act. They do talk with a lisp, they do swish when they walk, they do prefer women's clothes to men's. Should they be forced to adopt a more masculine gay pose just to make other gays feel less uncomfortable around them? Isn't that the same conformity the straight folks have been imposing on all of us?

C. Baptiste-Williams said...

Are you suggesting that some young gay boys are not just naturally effeminate?
no I am not but wearing women's clothes and carrying a purse does not have to do with whether you are effeminate or masculine but i personally feel it is more so that you think being gay is being more like a woman. rather than a man attracted to a man.

Should they be forced to adopt a more masculine gay pose just to make other gays feel less uncomfortable around them?Isn't that the same conformity the straight folks have been imposing on all of us?
no they shouldnt be forced to do anything. i just want youth to have a real depiction of what being gay is.

Crazy Diamond said...

Hey Charles, hope all is going well in DC...

Before I acknowledged my sexual orientation, I worried that admitting I was gay would mean that I would have to start acting more feminine. That's because for hundreds and thousands of years, the only representation society has had of gay people is feminine gay men and butch lesbians. That's because those are the only gay and lesbian people who had the courage — or the bad luck — of being open about who they are.

It doesn't seem like the answer should be to tell them to stop acting feminine or butch, or dissuade young gay people from expressing themselves as they know how. The problem is not with feminine gay men, or the lack of gay people on TV. The problem is with gay people of older generations, who talk about "privacy" and being "respectful" and "discreet." This worldview ensures that the only representation society has of gay people is flamoboyant, outlandish gay people. If we seek to alter the image of what it means to be gay, we are the only ones with that power. I think we should try to avoid censoring what gay means or being embarrassed about the different manifestations of gay. It's our responsibility to expand the definition of gay, and to let society — and young gay folks — know that gay men come in a wonderful variety.

Darian said...

Wonderfully said Ryan.

C. Baptiste-Williams said...

i dont think i ever stated censoring or changing anyone. My point is that I think most young gays are flamboyant because that is the only example of being gay that most see.

i can think of a couple young 20yo that I saw come out when they were 16-18 and then they were quite fem and now that they have been out and engaging in the community they have toned that down dramatically.

I would say 90% of the guys I know are masculine (not saying unclockable just saying masculine) and I wish that was depicted more for the youth to see. I think having that type of role model would help them out a lot as they grow.

4GOTTEN1 said...

I think part of it has to do with not being around positive men at all as well. At least in the family or a level that it can really affect them. The media i think does have the biggest role in it because they glorify the more effeminate super flamboyant types whenever they refer to gay men. It's mosty for comic relief but they are doing a real injustice to young men that grow up and think this is what it means to be a gay man.

Darius T. Williams said...

Okay - so I can understand how you feel. There just aren't enough masculine gay dudes roaming the airwaves as great influences.

I saw the story on Darian's blog and loved it. Even if the boy does wear womens' clothing and such, I think self-expression is a great thing. I think it's the one thing that makes us all uniquely American.

Maybe he just needs time. I can remember a time when I'd kee-kee something terrible. I'd so super fem stuff - well not super fem, but you get the idea. That was in my late teens. Being 26 and on the cusp of 27, there's no way in hell you'd catch me doing, saying, or acting like I once did. I know that's not true with all gays, but for the majority of the ones I know, that's exactly what happens. You were more free in your gay youth than you are now as you get older.

I guess all I'm saying is who knows - maybe the boy will grow out of this super fem stage in a few years. Right now it just probably all seems so exciting.

colinnyc said...

interesting comments and i agree the lack of positive images have alot to do with these young lil queens and how they act.

Turn me up a lil said...

I actually agree with your post, but as said ealier I think the bigger problem is that with the presence of masculine gay black men what percentage of them are actually open about themselves? The trend seems to be if you are considered masculine then you should be "discreet" or "DL" in order to be accepted ir move further in one's career. If you are open then is much pressure within our own community to disguise oneself because you are not easily clockable. I think once we change our attitudes within our community then we can lead a better example for our youth.

K.C. said...

I understand exactly what you're saying. I recently dated a young man who had just graduated high school and most of his gay friends were somewhat effeminate. When he was around me, he tended to "man it up" but the minute he was around them, he acted more fem.

Like most of the commentors, I think it comes down to maturity. Eventually, life and responsiblity will mold them. No individual is the same person they were five years ago. Life is all about finding one's identity, your true self and you certainly can't find it at the age of 15. All you can do is be comfortable at that point in time.

Currently, the media is the largest source of gay images for these youth. That's all they know. Masc = DL, Fem = Out. Simple as that.

fuzzy said...

It seems younger homosexuals fall into the stereotypical version of being gay. The purses, walks, snaps head-rolls etc! I can agree with showing that there are other ways of being gay? Why all of a sudden must there be fem fem guys when there were not so before! this is a more current thing and it is a new thing this fen thing! lol

Gary T. P. said...

I agree with most of the comments that alot of this has to do with maturity. As many gay youth come out, they literally feel as though they are set free. Everything that had been repressed is now out at full speed. I think that most times its something that many of them just need to get out of their system.

one soulful negro. said...

in watching the "black in america" special on CNN this week i wondered if this was going to come up at all, and not to my surprise it did not, as well as many other topics.

i think many black gay youth respond, as many have pointed out above, to what they see and what they think is "expected" with being gay. i think not having a strong media personality to look up to plays an even bigger role in the stereotyping of this demographic.

i think in a way a lot of it goes back to media influence. just like with any other stereotypes that the media portrays unless a particular group has clout to bring to the light a story or another way of life to societies attention, the youth will continue to absorb only what is given to them. especially if they don't have a tangible circle of friends that would give them the security to be who they are without all the fanfare.

its all about finding your own voice and your own comfortability i guess. they'll find there way. it is disappointing that it only thought that to be gay is to be feminine. i think people have a tendency to forget gay men are still men, lesbians are still women, why the confusion of gender roles has to be added to that alludes me to a degree, but that is a thought for another day.

interesting topic man.

Langston Baldwin said...

K.C is bang on.
It is quite annoying to see "some" young black youth "acting" way over the top fem when it truly is not the true them. Damn media. :)

Anonymous said...

I do agree with your post. However, I am not for people--particularly teens--censoring their self expression.
True, many gay men don't realize that there are other alternatives to hyper femininity. However, I do take issue with the idea that hyper fem men don't represent a portion of the gay community.

I'm not fem myself, but I'm not super masculine either. Y'know what? That is perfectly okay with me. I admit to flailing my wrists when I get animated or dropping words like, "Okaaay" and "Chile" in a casual conversation. However, that should not leave me open to be bullied.

Like this kid I was bullied in school because I was gay. However, I was not OUT. It was just presumed that I was gay. Haters are going to hate regardless. What we should be teaching these kids is self respect and worth. Fem or Masculine everyone should have a positive self concept in order to make healthy choices.

Anonymous said...

i do believe that there are many straight guys that "over do it" but in all reality are ashamed to allow any signs of femininity to be shown in their mannerisms or personality. the best outlet of role models for gay youth comes from sports.. not lesbian athletes, i mean gay male athletes. a lot of boys look up to athletes, both straight and gay, so the more gay athletes, the more inspiring they are to gay youth.. if there were more feminine straight men to create a balance and more masculine gay men, the world we live in would be better.