The answer: Not me. Today I had a conversation with my friend Mayim and she was a bit concerned. She was in a an online chat room and a woman was upset because her openly gay teenage son's groups of friends were referring to him as "their gay." Other people in the room thought she was over reacting and that being referred to as "the gay" is a token of affection. I disagree, I think it's just making someone a "token." Personally, I don't want to be anyone's token anything. I don't want to be your token male, your token gay, your token Irish guy, your token anything.
The first time I heard a gay man referred to as "the gay" was in Margaret Cho's comedy act years ago. And it was the way her Korean mother referred to her gay friend. I believe I heard it again on an episode of Sex & the City when Carrie referred to Stanley as her gay. Then her and Charlotte tried to set up "their gays" and couldn't figure out why they didn't hit it off. I have to admit, for a show with such a big gay following, I was a little put off that it would resort to such a cliche term. Am I over reacting? I don't think so. Think about yourself. Would you want to be "the gay" to all of your friends? Would you want to be "the dyke" to all of your friends? How about "the Mexican" or "the WOP?" Some people disagree because they say that it's different when you refer to someone's race. Well I disagree with that. I was born gay, I was born male, I was born Irish. I don't want to be defined by any ONE of those qualities. If I am your friend then refer to me either as Wil or as "my friend" Wil, but don't refer to me as your "gay" friend Wil.
The world has come a long way that teenagers can come out of the closet in high school. And I guess a group of friends calling a gay boy "their gay" is better than in my day when we prayed that we'd never be the guy people thought was gay and then we'd be called a "fag." I remember when I was younger and how no name rang out louder or more clear or with more sting than "faggot" yelled on the playground or in the hall. And I remember every time I heard it, I would look around and sigh with relief that it wasn't me. I never cared who it was, as long as it wasn't me. So maybe being called "the gay" is a small step forward. Kind of like going from no gays in the military to "don't ask don't tell." Regardless, I think it's still offensive. Would that same high school group get away with having other members they referred to as "the black," "the Asian," "the cripple," "the fat guy," etc.? No.
This new term, "the gay," reminds me of a term I personally haven't heard used in a long time. It's the term for a woman who only socializes with gay men and it's "fag hag." Why any woman would find this term endearing is beyond me, but I can remember in the 90's living in Chicago and being introduced to women at gay bars like this, "This is my hag, Jean." I was always taken aback by how the woman in question usually thought it was funny and would say, "Yep, I'm his fag hag." Maybe it's the open culture in Portland Maine, but I don't really hear either of the terms used here today, thankfully. I would certainly speak up if I did.
We have so many labels forced upon us in our lives from every direction, why create more? Why put negative ones on our friends? Why not just refer to our friends as our friends or by their names? Terms & labels like this do nothing but reduce us to stereotypes. Haven't we come far enough in life to stop indulging in stereotypes? I'm gay, but guess what, I couldn't tell you the name of one new musical on Broadway. I can tell you the Sea Dogs won last Sunday 6-1 because I was at the game. I'm gay and I can bake and decorate a mean cupcake, but I hated the movie "Brokeback Mountain." I'm gay and I can decorate a room, but I get that talent from my mother, all my siblings have it, but I also built a cool table from scratch with my bare hands and power tools just because I felt like it. Stereotypes are not accurate depictions of any group of people. Stereotypes are dangerous and down right mean and to reduce your friends to stereotypes makes me wonder what kind of a friend you really are.
I may fit a few gay stereotypes, but not because I'm gay. I decorate my house in a very traditional way for Christmas because I do what my mother did. My 3 siblings (all straight) do the same. I am a good baker, because my dad was a good baker. I can build things because my Dad was good with his hands and every home improvement project we ever did growing up, we did ourselves. I can decorate a room because my mother always had a flair for style and what looks good. It's just an inherent trait. And anybody who isn't color blind can decorate a room these days, just watch HGTV. I'm a good cook because I enjoy cooking. My dad owned restaurants most of my life and my mother was a great cook. Of course I'd pick up the talent, unless I wanted to eat macaroni and cheese the rest of my life. I don't really enjoy pop music anymore and I don't identify with a lot of the pop culture gay icons. What being gay and liking Britney Spears have to do with each other is beyond me....actually it's lost on me.
I prefer being a citizen of the whole world, not just one microcosm. I like that my friends are made up of many different amazing qualities and I would never reduce them to one label based on one stereotype. I would never assume that my friend Rob could fix my car because he's straight or that my friend Michele could build me a deck because she's a lesbian or that my friend Will is an alcoholic because he's Irish or that my friend "Choo Choo" Mike can play basketball because he's tall. If you reread that sentence you'll see the only label I applied to the aforementioned people was "my friend." They're my friend first and last. All that's in between is just icing on the cake. The cake baked by me, Wil, the guy who can bake because he takes after his dad.
Thank you for reading.
Your friend, Wil.
As always, remember that you may leave comments. Even feel free to disagree with me. However, you MUST be respectful and mature in what you write. There will be no name calling or condescending remarks. There are ways to state what you believe and how you feel without being insulting to others. My blog is not a vehicle for you, it's a vehicle for me.