The Patriarchy and Normalization
This week we address the second letter in the LGBTQIA+ initialism that flies the rainbow flag, and the most prototypical representative of the community. Chances are that if you have only seen one piece media involving the LGBTQ community, it involved a gay male. Even aside from the near-archetypal “sassy gay best friend,” most of the popular documentaries and true stories in film surrounding the community follow the lives of (white) gay males. Even the movie that came out in 2015 surrounding the Stonewall riots of 1969 – which were started and led by transgender women of color and hailed as the birth of “gay pride” – stars mostly white men.
It is easy to see why. In our culture, it is undoubtedly easier for men, particularly white men, to get their voices listened to. Movies and shows like “Will and Grace,” “Milk,” “The Normal Heart,” “GBF,” and “Love, Simon” obtain a nearly mainstream audience while others with a larger variety of queer characters remain at cult status or fly underground. This may be why the word “gay,” the meaning of which has gone through several cultural transformations, is being adopted as an umbrella term for the entirety of the LGBTQ community.
Everyone knows that June is Pride month, more widely referred to as Gay Pride month, even though it’s the pride month for the entire community. Gay culture and gay icons proliferate friendly circles of the media. Ergo, many members of the community who are not homosexual males (tip: the term homosexual, while descriptive, is considered outdated and just saying “gay” is vastly preferred) are sharing the word among themselves as a concise-yet-vague way of disclosing and discussing their LGBTQ status. This is both thanks to the slow cultural shift in favor of discussion surrounding the gay community, partially owing to the simplicity of the term, and partially due to the slow-but-sure reclamation of the word “queer,” which we’ll visit in a later week.
This isn’t to say, of course, that gay men have not had/do not have struggles of their own. They’re still an oppressed minority, and have a devastating history with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that went largely ignored by those who could do something about it since it was considered a “gay disease.” The epidemic swept the nation not long after the birth of Gay Pride, not only decimating an entire generation of men, but bringing wretched ostracization back full force to stamp out what ground they’d begun to make.
In the wake of such tragedy, gay men have done their share of leading the Pride movement and bringing the community far enough to get their marriage legalized by the supreme court.
And, as with lesbians, gay men remain as diverse and individual as any group of people, unbound by stereotypes of sassiness and effeminacy. Gay men who don’t conform to the prototypical effeminate GBF are no less living their truth than men who do indeed match up with the stereotypes many use to fuel their gaydar.
Still, the most “loud and proud” of the gay community are likely to be gay men. Whether this is frustrating as evidence patriarchal influence, or gay culture rolling ahead in whatever way it can, the world would be a little darker without these beautiful voices of Pride that persist into a more colorful future.