Sunday, April 7, 2013

Not Gay Enough

I have an issue with the LGBT group on campus. It's not about the messages they are trying to send or the efforts they undertake to make LGBT issues on campus more visible, it's how they go about doing it.

I was recently elected to the board of my school's LGBT organization and almost immediately I felt tension between myself and the rest of the members. I tried to keep it as internalized as I could, and so far I hope I've done it well. After today however, I am beginning to question just how long I will be able to do so. Let me explain.

In all honesty, I feel the LGBT organization here at my school does a poor job of representing the gay community on campus. The board members, as nice and well intentioned as they are, represent only the most extreme of the socially and stereotypically "gay" community. This is where I feel out of place and at odds against the rest of the board. Yes, I am obviously gay, but I'm also not very "gay acting" in the stereotypical sense. So while the rest of the board is singing, going out to a drag show brunch in DC, buying wigs, and being well...really gay, I'm feeling not only excluded and unable to identify with what they seem to enjoy, but even uncomfortable.

For me, being gay is the part of me which regards my sexual preference towards men, not necessarily how I act, my music preferences, going out habits, or something else. So while I'm happy chilling with my roommates, being involved with the grilling club, and even tossing around the word "bro" and "man" now and then, my fellow board mates, I feel, seem to view what I do with an air of curiosity and even disapproval. Quite honestly, I don't feel gay enough to be part of the organization at the level at which I am now obligated to be in.

A fellow member made a comment a week ago which struck me as both odd and even slightly offensive. We were discussing casually how some event turnout is low, and he casually said:

"Those gays who conform to the straight norm, I hate them"

For being a group so concerned with equality and the right to self expression, I found this off handed remark to be both shocking and disappointing. By saying that, I felt like he was implying that being "straight acting" or even just not being like him, an out and somewhat flamboyant gay man, was wrong. While I didn't address the issue then and there, I found myself angry later on because I identified with that group he had just expressed hatred towards. By no means am I "conforming" to anything. I do what I do and act how I act because that is what I'm comfortable doing. I am not putting on a show, literally "acting" like a straight male, because I feel pressured to do so; I act "straight" because that is just how I naturally act. I'm gay because I like guys, not because I have to act a certain way.

Getting back to the point, the LGBT organization I feel is a poor representation of what I feel the LGBT community at my school is. Gay students at my school range from the gayest, most flamboyant of men and the butchest of lesbians to the most ordinary and "straight acting" men and women. Upcoming events, including the annual drag dance, are proposed to be advertised with drag queens riding on the back of a golf cart and lots of rainbow flags and glitter. In addition, all of this is to be done during an accepted students weekend, where high school seniors ill be visiting campus and deciding if they want to come to my school or not. I feel this plan is a horrible idea and I wish I had the courage to speak up at the time to voice my objection to this. Not only does it send the wrong message that being "gay" at my school is only about the aforementioned things, but it only reinforces the stereotypes about the LGBT community on a camps which is already not the most gay friendly in the world. I'm actually worried that some bright prospective students could be scared off if they saw that.

With events like these and the means by which they are being publicised, I feel like it's my duty to bring some balance to the club and be the voice of a group that is often ignored. While the other board members are too preoccupied with gay power, rainbows, and glitter bombing people (yes, it was an actual comment/suggestion made), I feel like I need to be the voice that speaks up and explains maybe why a large portion of the LGBT community feel alienated by the club's activities. Maybe if they get the message that people might actually be uncomfortable by what they are doing by being the voice and face of the LGBT community, they might recognize why event attendance is so low. There are many faces to being gay, and right now, only a very small handful are being shown by the club. This has been a reason told to me by a few of my gay friends as to why they don't show up at club sponsored events, because they think an affiliation between them and the club is undesirable.

Next week, I hope to open a discussion during our weekly board meeting and address some of these issues. As the club is supposed to be about inclusion and bringing the voice of LGBT students and issues to the university community, I feel that it is time that the club be brought more towards the center of the gay spectrum. The clubs needs to project an image that says yes, it's OK to be gay and like sports and that it is just as OK to be gay and enjoy going to drag shows every weekend. Maybe, hopefully, the club could then grow and be a student organization that all LGBT individuals could be proud to say they're a member of and willingly attend events of, rather than the small, consistent group now that exists now.