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Room for Squares
by Philip Wong on Jan 25, 2008
We live in times of relative enlightenment, when “girl power” is less slogan and more mantra and when we might soon have a “Madame President". To a certain extent popular culture and politics have heightened our senses to the positivity of feminism and self empowerment. But in a community like ours, where gender assignments are shaky at best, there lurks a question in the shadows of this “girls can do it better” awareness: what does equalization between the sexes mean for gays?
Let me begin by stating that I don’t mean to imply a separation of our community from the general public. Rather, I merely seek to highlight the different circumstances under which gender roles and sexual dynamics are played out in gay and lesbian relations. At some level, we can safely say that gay men and women are subjected to the same gender related stereotypes as their straight counterparts. For example, on average gay men make more money than lesbian women. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
The sheer amount of counter-intuitive, gender based stereotypes alone points to the fact that sexual characteristics, when applied to the gay community, are anything but set in stone. How else would you account for all the boys who throw like girls and all the girls who punch like men? The only reason these stereotypes exist is because as a whole, gay men and women are still expected to subject themselves to the same gender roles as straight people. What people forget is that those roles are based on antiquated traditions of masculinity and femininity from the dark ages of homosexuality.
Times have changed and we’re everywhere now. We’re highly visible actors, we’re high powered executives and some of us are even high ranking government officials. To be expected to uphold those stale sexual identities is unfair. At some point, you realize that if you are a gay man or lesbian woman who lives outside of society’s gender restrictions, you shouldn’t feel obligated to ascribe to those same norms. If you want to wear women’s clothing, you can make a killing as a drag queen. And if you want to have a child without the help of a man, you can do that too.
But even as lifestyle changes may account for a shift in public acceptance, societal perceptions remain another thing entirely. Approval is by no means widespread, and disdain for any perceived rejection of gender roles is still prevalent. So what does that mean and where does it leave us? Are lesbian women of the butch variety any less inclined to be discriminated against in the work place simply because they wear pant suits instead of skirts? Are gay men going to be given the same consideration as their breeder compatriots when they go up for the company box? Something tells me no. And that’s not even touching on the transgendered and transsexual members of our community.
Feminism is nothing new. When Mary Tyler Moore whisked her beret up into the air, she did so knowing that Cleopatra tried to do the same thing 2,000 years prior (albeit with a heavier, less aerodynamic form of headdress…and under very different auspices). Perhaps because of its widespread effect and importance, female empowerment has always been an urgent and worthy cause. But in light of today’s shifting gender trends, it’s not enough. We’re no longer talking about gender bending.
Gender-bending implies a status quo rigidity that is grossly out of date. Gender is not a straight and narrow street with a wall dividing men from women. And as such, equalization between the sexes shouldn’t just be about girls doing it better than men -- because it’s been proven that they can. Instead, it ought to say that girls can do it just like men and men can do it just like girls…and neither needs necessarily to do it with the other.
by Philip Wong on Jan 25, 2008