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Gay, Straight, and Bias
Room for Squares
by Philip Wong on Nov 09, 2007
Gays, we think we’re so open minded. On the surface, we’re a community of open arms. A group of cohesive individuals so over with discrimination that we spit at the very thought of it. We pride ourselves on advocating an all-inclusive philosophy. According to our modus operandi, nobody should be left outside alone. But when I was faced with the task of proving this mantra, I found it to be a conviction more idyllic in truth than practical.
Somebody recently asked me whether or not I think that the LGBT community is biased. The question is based on the assumption that the straight population operates, however effectively, as a thoroughly biased one. In response, I asked myself how a community like ours, which has faced so much adversity and so much discrimination, believe and behave in any way to support preconceptions; to me, the answer was obvious. I responded with the verbal equivalent of sticking your nose up in the air and violently shaking your head. I wasn’t prepared to believe otherwise. I mean, we have room for everybody: fat, skinny, bald, African American, Latino, Asian, you name it. If it exists, there’s a place for it here.
In reality though, this vision of a cohesive Castro is a dream. Our culture is a walking two page spread for biases and prejudices. You don’t have to look very hard. For example, there is no way for someone to walk into Daddy’s Bar and get the same reaction he would have gotten had he just sashayed into the Bar On Castro. The politics of the scene dictate that that just won’t happen. So while the patrons inside may be hugging and smiling, reveling in their similarities, they are undoubtedly unconscious to the layers of biases that have led them to this particular bar. Or heck, maybe they are aware of them and they just don’t care.
Just because we are a minority group doesn’t mean that we aren’t subject to our own sets of biases. But then that begs the question of what biases and partialities do we hold as a group? I began thinking a lot about complaints that I’ve heard from different people. Ones that say that as a whole, the Castro isn’t very accepting of bisexuals, that we don’t like straight people, and that we generally give a collective cold shoulder to the elderly, the overweight, and the underpaid. Looking around at our media and the way it’s reflected in a crowded sidewalk café on a Sunday afternoon, my dream of utopia was crushed.
I saw tables of full of people, each one mirroring the next. Little groups of likenesses and similarities, with few minglings of fat and skinny, white and black. Sure, people can argue that this is the very basis for forming social groups that seek to help each other out. So for all those who have a thing against rehabilitating drug users, they can rest comfortably in the knowledge that there are organizations out there designed specifically for reformed addicts. Likewise, there are similar gatherings for Bears and leather daddies, for older men who enjoy the company of younger men and vice versa, and for those in our community who like a man with some meat on his bones. But if we passed off each fetish as a means of rationalizing our biases, then all we’re really doing is making a case for the ostrich that sticks his head in the sand.
The truth is that our lives are still largely dystopian. As much as we want others to embrace our differences, we still fear those things that we don’t, or choose not, to understand. I’m not saying that we need to be free of biases, because as personal preferences, they’re not exactly bad. But until we learn the difference between particularity and partiality, then in essence we’re really no different from the folks who organized a dance but made it for “whites only".
by Philip Wong on Nov 09, 2007
Photograph copyright © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.