Hi Poppets! Something that I’ve realized is themes tend to show up in several places at once in my life. If I am dealing with an issue, my friends and family are probably dealing with the same issue. And even, occasionally, that theme will show up societally. This time is no different. The theme that is presenting itself right now is the concept of being “too” something or “not enough” something. In other words, stereotypes.
Nationally, we are seeing it in the presidential race. Depending on who you ask, Barack Obama is often seen as “too black.” Think I’m wrong? Check out the interviews out of the West Virginia primary. Not just the results but the interviews themselves. Hillary Clinton has stopped wearing skirts to keep from being seen as “too girly.” Think I’m wrong? Go back to the flap she instigated by wearing a blouse that showed her collarbones during one of the debates. John McCain – John McCain! – is being accused of being both “too conservative” and “too liberal” all at once. Quite a feat for a lifelong, well-established Republican.
Personally, I have black friends who are dealing with being told they are “too white.” I, often, get accused by people who don’t know me well, of trying to be black – which is really the same thing as saying I’m “not white enough.” And currently, my gay male partner, David, is being told he isn’t gay enough by many in the gay community but isn’t straight enough by people in the straight community. My presence simply confuses both factions. Too straight because he has a strong woman as a partner; too gay to have a strong woman as a partner.
Now, as far as David goes, I can understand a certain level of confusion. Here is a gay man who has fallen in love with and chosen to partner with a person and this person is female. I am not the least offended when people ask us questions for clarification or curiosity. It’s when people start getting angry at him and excluding him from his community, when people start accusing me of being nothing more than a fag hag, when people start insisting we meet certain behavioral standards, that I start getting angry back. Especially when, in other circles, people get angry with him for not being “manly” enough and upset with me for being with someone who is “too soft.”
What, after all, is gay enough? Does David have to dress flamboyantly? Use the word “fabulous” all the time? Act and behave like Carson Kressley or Jack from “Will and Grace” to be “gay enough?” Or must he chew down trees and only wear ball caps before he is “straight enough?” Trust me, this man behaves…like himself. He is the same person in a straight crowd, in a gay crowd, in a mixed crowd, and here at home.
And again, we aren’t the only ones facing criticism and judgment for not fitting into stereotypes. A man I know is also facing the “not black enough” issue. He is well spoken, has two degrees, doesn’t use the n-word to describe his friends and wears suits to work. Somehow, this is seen as selling out and not staying real. As wanting to be white. Since when is wanting an education, to speak well and to present oneself appropriately in a work environment selling out? Okay. I know the answer to that question. Since always. My real question is Why are we still buying into it?
I understand the social need to form community. We come from different cultures, different backgrounds, different locations. Finding people who accept us, where we can be comfortable, is part of living a vital, safe and interesting life. Embracing our cultures, if they are ethnic, regional or personal, helps us define ourselves and gives us an anchor. I really do understand this.
And yet…we are intelligent, complex creatures. Why are we still holding each other up to very specific attitudinal and behavioral standards before granting acceptance? We teach our children that it doesn’t matter if a person is gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor. What matters is who the person is, that the person has a good heart, has integrity, values kindness. At what point in growing up and becoming adults do we forget that? At what point does how a person dresses or speaks or gesticulates become more important than if they are someone you would like to call friend?
Last month, I wrote about living in a polarized society. Guess what? I wasn’t wrong. I just don’t see why we have to keep making it that way. We cannot get rid of racial differences. We will not get rid of economic differences in our lifetimes. And we shouldn’t (in my opinion) get rid of cultural differences. But I truly believe we can get rid of the insistence that the differences are necessary. We just need to decide that no one is “too” anything and that everyone is “enough.” It won’t be easy. But I have faith we can do it.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.