Stop the Oppression of Homosexuals in the Entertainment Media
I like to consider myself a "super femme stem" in other words, it describes me as being super feminine, yet still being studly. I enjoy wearing dresses and doing my hair and make-up, but also enjoy being able to throw on a tie and loafers, yet, that is just my physical appearance; it's a lesbian world and I'm just caught in between being a femme and stud. When I came out to my family at a decent age of fourteen, they were unlike most families who seemed to be shocked and un-accepting for such news. I told my family I was a lesbian one evening when we were all sitting down at the table eating dinner, what happened next I didn't expect, my mom just laughed and said “I know, and I love you anyways.” Five years later with my coming out, I have only brought one girl home for them to meet, (the girl and I are no longer together, but do remain friends) because my nana isn’t too accepting of the idea, but I know the next time I bring a girl home they will continue loving and accepting me for who I am. Yet, there are those sometimes when my family will say jokes about homosexuals, not in a derogatory manner but still in a way that it wouldn’t be the best joke to tell. My family, my friends, even people I don’t know make gay reference jokes and believe that it is okay; people do not naturally think this way, but are taught to think this way, and the entertainment media has a large role to do with it. There needs to be a change of how homosexuals are represented in the entertainment media, and to let people know that they have a voice as well and need to stop being the butt of every joke.
The LGBTQ (lesbian.gay.bisexual.transgender.queer) community has been legally recognized since the 1960s in the United States, and in this community, individuals are recognized and emphasized for their diversity in “sexuality and gender identified-based [as a] cultures” (Stanford). If one wants to look farther back in history, the types of relationships we would deem as homosexual we accepted (if not explicitly, then at least tacitly) by a number of communities across the globe. "Boston marriage" for example, where two women lived together in a house and shared resources, who never married a person of the opposite sex, were common in New England in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The acceptance of the gay culture, and the celebration of pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality; can be negatively represented throughout the entertaining media. Homosexual issues have been given such horrid and negative statements, such as “if gay and lesbian people were given civil rights, then everyone will want them!” (Quotegarden.com) and that this minority group is being oppressed and viewed differently in society. In the 2012 presidency election, candidate Rick Santorum suggested the importance for a child to have both a mother and father "He found that even fathers in jail who had abandon their kids were still better then no father at all to have in their children's lives" (LA Times.com). The way homosexuals are portrayed in the entertainment media is seen as being immoral and unnatural, and with all the negative conflicting views upon the homosexual community have been portrayed and stereotyped harshly. The questions that are being raised in the homosexual community is the portrayal of these individuals in the entertainment media and why they are being layered into different sociable categories: acceptable, extremist, and abnormal?
There is that sense of dignity for the LGBT community being positively accepted in the entertaining media; and those are the men and woman who are “passing” as an average straight, successful, able bodied person. An online newspaper from the United Kingdom, “The Guardian” had an article written, in 2007 by Joanna Walters, Why every girl needs a gay best friend, Walter states “that many straight woman set great store by gay male friends… that both genders knowingly accept that they will not be competing for the same man.” The way gay men are portrayed in the entertainment media is seen as acceptable, because in order for straight woman to properly function they need their opposite sex fashionista gay best friend to hold them when their down, but for there to be no romantic feelings what so ever. Heterosexual woman want a gay best friend, because they do not feel threatened by them, because they aren’t the girlfriend, guy friend, or boyfriend. Majority of the time, when a gay man are usually acceptable in the entertainment media is when they are the heterosexual woman’s sidekick. The E channel broadcast the very popular shows Fashion Police featuring George Kotsiopoulos and Sex in the City featuring Willie Garson, both men self-identify is being homosexual; both of these television shows display a socially acceptable, white, ablied body, homosexual men. This than allows the entertainment media to display a man who is successful and not a threat to society, and who can be represented as being a positive reflection, this than allows society to not have to consider the social acceptable gay man as being an extremist or abnormal.
There should be no surprise that there are more gay characters or gay themed movies (Boys Don’t Cry), televisions shows (My So Called Life), television channels (Logo) and magazines (Pride Magazine) that are occurring more and more every day. The L Word is one good example, every lesbian’s bible; why is it considered to be ever lesbian’s bible? It’s because the majority of lesbian woman wish to be social accepted. The woman on The L Word and also The Real L Word, are woman who are seen as ablied bodied, un-oppressed, independent, socially acceptable woman, who can “pass” as being heterosexual; they hold it near and dear to their heart, and can personally relate or try to relate to at least one of the characters on the show. Just like the socially acceptable gay man, a well polished feminine lesbian woman is socially accepted and not seen as an extremist or social threat, because she fits into the social norm.
Extremist is defined as being a noun: a person who holds extreme or fanatical political or religious views, they are also seen as someone who resorts to advocates and extreme action. During the summer of 2009 in Winnipeg, Canada the pride festival, the then chair of the pride festival announced:
“We have to remember that this is a public event. Part of the pride festival is to show that we are not extremist. When pressed to explain just what she means by extremist, she responded “drag queens and butch woman.’ She then added, that it was ‘important to show the people of Winnipeg that there are mainstream community members to, like lawyers and doctors.” (womanist-musing)
According to the chair of Winnipeg, Canada’s pride festival stated to the attendees that CTV News would be recording the event, and that this year’s event should be as family friendly as possible, and that anyone who is an extremist should not bother attending this year’s event. Any person who considered themselves to be a butch woman or a drag queen were than being oppressed and categorized as being a extremist due to their appearance, nothing else mattered, not even their contribution in their community, because they were considered to be non acceptable citizens of Winnipeg who’s appearance was not mainstream enough to face the general public, which was liberally laced with professionals. If it wasn’t for the first riot in 1969, known as the Stonewall riot was lead by one powerful butch woman: Barbara Gittings and drag queen: Sylvia Rivera (transgendered M-to-F), there would be no Pride festivals today. They were the ones who were the active voice, they were the ones who took the police brutality so many years ago, and now, butch woman and drag queens are being oppressed and told that they aren’t allowed to attend the Pride festival they started so many years ago (Ivan Coyote).
Butch woman are defined as representing the traditional male roles in relationship and have masculinity displayed features. Butch woman cannot be considered extremist, when something is misunderstood and foreign it is classified as being something negative and different;“Butch woman have not been properly understood, the hordes of stereotypes about them in the media and our community that doesn’t represent what I call butch” (Skyler Cooper). Yes, butch woman do have the characteristics of masculinity, but they also do have a softer femininity in them, it is the essence of two genders carried by one woman.
In the 1960’s a writer appeared in the mainstream and spoke about the wonderful wonders of New York’s underground lifestyle, his name was Juan Antonio Suarez, the author of Bike Boys, Drag Queens, and Superstars; he spoke of the richness in the drag queen culture. Drag queens are seen as a man who dresses and usually have feminine physical characteristics and usually has the intention for entertainment. Butch woman and drag queens should no longer be oppressed: looking down on, being told sexist and gender explicit remarks, and compulsory heterosexual statements being directed their way by the entertainment media for their appearance. The LGBTQ movement is, about being the individual. Who ever you may be. Being free to be an individual, being strong and determined as a part of a community. Being PROUD in a world where we have been taught to be ashamed for what we are. Pride was the liberation, the fight back, the response, we should be proud to be, we should be proud to live as we live, we should be proud of our lives, our families, our homes, our lives, our hopes our being, we are proud to be. And in that context, it is not wrong-but a betrayal- to shame each other for being. Folks who self identify as being apart of the LGBTQ community should not have to try to make themselves appear the same as straight people, because we are proud of who we are. When the talk of marriage is brought up an Australian marriage equality website states "extending the martial franchise to gay and lesbian couples would multiply the numbers of Australians who can join as a crucial social institution, spreading the positive impact of marriage on society," (abc.net.au) no where in that statement did it bring up liberation or love, it was just stating that lesbian women and gay men should join a "crucial social institution", in other words, is a stone of conservatism.
In the recent decade, the entertainment media has shown to the world that it is “alright” to be a homosexual, and in doing so, there are now changes and growths to television programs. The entertainment media distributes information, both accurate and inaccurate, there are always references towards the “gay community” and is (Manning 1996) considered by some to be a merely convenient, and composed to be a mythic entity (ejhs). Manning’s argument upon this myth allows the entertainment media the opportunity to present the idea of shared purposes and identity that provides the liberal media to achieve political correctness. Unlike the military, the entertainment media wants homosexuals to no longer be silenced; it encourages homosexuals to tell their story, especially on talk shows. Since the LGBTQ community is constantly fighting for equality, talk show host encourage there to be public voyeurism, on camera fights of those who differ from the social norms. In 1989, TV personal Geraldo Rivera hosted a segment of a different kind of club goers. Michael Alig and his controversial club kids, who were men and woman (mainly homosexuals) who would dress in provocative and absurd outfits, appeared on the television show and spoke of their wild lives of sex, drugs, and late night partying. As studies have shown, the portrayal of homosexuality in the entertainment media, religious respondents are more likely to hold negative portrayals of gays and lesbians in the media (ejhs). However, the media is beginning to change their opinion on gays and are willing to open their mind and eyes to the people who make up the LGBT community, and to understand that not everyone apart of the LGBT community are extremist, and are hard working civilians.
Hollywood is giving out the message that all gays personify the homosexual stereotypes that exist in our society (bgsu.edu). Mainstream movies, like Mean Girls character Damien; who “is too gay to function,” he acts, talks, and gestures in the flamboyant stereotypical gay man’s way. This often create a one-sided picture of homosexuals minor character, they are either portrayed or emphasized as being loud, quirky, and never considered the serious complex character, compared to every other character. In mainstream film, the homosexual character is always focused on the surface level aspects, the way they act, look, and talk. Majority of the time the film industry don’t believe that these characters have a deeper side, so these characters often come of one dimensional. Their characters are considered to be extremist because they are usually cast off as being the flamboyant womanly gay man, and the masculine butch lesbian woman.
Most of the time the entertaining media is so focused on the LGBQ part of the LGBTQ community, which than raises the question: "where is the T?" The T in LGBTQ stands for transgender or transsexual, not transvestite (which is considered to be a slur). Emi Koyama wrote the Survivor Project: A guide to Intersex & Trans Terminologies, in this short article she speaks of "trans people [as] break[ing] away from one or more of the society's expectations around sex and gender...transsexual people perceive themselves as members of gender or sex that is different from the one they were assigned at birth." Most of the time the transgendered/transsexual community has been seen as the absurd and the abnormal crowd that is rarely spoken about. The entertainment media portrays transgender or transsexual people as being an awkward joke and is seen in such a negative light. When they are seen on film, they are usually condensed as being the struggling character, Boys Don’t Cry, for example is a positive word for the transgender/transsexual community. The main character Brandon Teena was a transgender man, who was later murdered, because he was living his life out of the social norm of not living in the body he was born in. The positive light that comes out of this movie is the themes of freedom, identity, courage, and empowerment. One of the main problems of transgender/transsexual in the entertainment media is what “trans women face is the common belief that their femaleness and feminity are somehow fake or in-enthusiastic” (amptoons.com) and is portrayed as being “deceptive and “pathetic.” The transgendered community is now the oppressed due to: heterosexim, racism, and classism in the LGBTQ community, there is always and the oppressor. Since part of the LGBQ community is now getting more socially recognized and accepted, they are no longer the oppressed. In the words of Marilyn Frye “We hear that oppressing us oppressive to those who oppress as well as to those they oppress.” Well the LGBQ community is oppressing the T community because they aren’t as many openly transgendered people and they are absurdly different from the LGBQ community. Silvia Rivera a transgendered activist did not put her life at risk for fighting for not only the LGBQ community but also the T community, for them to end up oppressing one another. It is not wrong to feel like you were born in the wrong skin and if one would like to proceed in getting a sex change operation that should be seen as okay, but society constructs as being wrong and represented as being an absurd act. However, it’s not wrong in the entertainment world for someone who feels they have been born with the wrong nose to be allowed to go in for a rhinoplasty and not be question about it or be placed in therapy because "this is a serious life decision;" these forms of surgery as not seen as an absurd act.
There needs to be more transgender/transsexual understanding in the entertainment media. Transgendered and transsexual folks are left out of the entertainment media so often that the only way for them to make a living is through sex work, most often it is M-to-F transgendered and/ or transsexuals are putting their lives in danger. Let there be more roles in music, film, television, etc. for transgendered or transsexual people to get their voices heard, this community has been silenced for way too long and that "maybe it's time to acknowledge gender stereotypes as a problem we all share, a central concern, a way to come together: a human rights issue for us all" (Ricki Wilchins: Gender Queer.) Lady Gaga is doing her part by telling her fans that it is okay to be different and it is okay to feel as if you are born in the wrong body, and it can all change if they have hope for the best. When Geraldo Rivera had Michael Alig and his club kid friends appear on his television show, Alig made sure to have glam transgender superstar Amanda Lepore be highlighted not only for her beauty, but for there to be a positive light upon the transgender community. The entertainment media needs to stop viewing the transgender community as being absurd, they are among our community, so let’s embrace them all and have them feel welcome.
The entertainment media must change their opinions on the LGBTQ community, homosexuals, transgendered, and transsexuals are here, and they aren’t leaving anytime soon. So we as society should not oppress, yet embrace such a glorious culture and make people feel loved on who they are. Yes, there are the homosexual who can pass as being heterosexuals, that doesn't mean they aren't questioned for their sexual orientation. Not everyone likes being put in that cookie cutter lifestyle. Butch woman and drag queens are not extremist. Yes, they were and still are extreme for fighting for equal rights in the LGBTQ community and heteronormative communities, but that doesn’t mean just because of their appearance they can’t be lawyers and doctors and live upon our communities and make a difference in this world. The transgender/ transsexual community is far from being absurd; everyone has the right to be happy in their skin, the only absurd thing in an transgendered or transsexual life is the feeling of (a) not being comfortable in their own skin and (b) for not being accepted in their communities. Stop the negativity, stop the hatred, and embrace the love for one another! Thank you.
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Written by Riki Wilchins
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