The United States of Imperfection

In-Vogue. Out-of Luck.

By: Jayson Flores

Like a priest post-confession, the gay community has its lips sealed on some dark and dirty secrets. However, unlike priests, the gay community’s refusal to share has some insidiously harmful effects. This secret is one that harms the gay community from the inside and out. It’s a stigma that’s haunted the community for generations—showing no signs of waning.

Now, I’m going to stop you and rewind just in case you’ve jumped to any conclusions about what this secret is. I’m not talking about HIV/AIDS, promiscuity, or our seemingly supernatural ability to gracefully glide on the ice and put together outfits that make our heterosexual counterparts look basic in comparison. All of the aforementioned topics have become forefront in the worldwide discussion of the G in LGBT. It’s what we’re not talking about that is perhaps one of the biggest concerns.

It’s a thing that makes me feel ugly. A thing that makes me hate my reflection. A thing that reminds me that I’m on the lowest part of the totem pole and a thing that won’t let me forget that I am neither desired nor sought after by my own community. I’m talking about homonormativity.

Homonormativity is a rising social trend that presents a set of standards which, if met, give those individuals an advantage. In essence, it rewards gay people who are most closely able to mimic heterosexuality on the surface. It prolongs the already enforced social constructs of heteronormativity; the sickening rules of normality which dictate that girls should be skinny, feminine, and straight, and that boys should be muscular, masculine, and straight. In some ways, homonormativity is the gay version of heteronormativity. In all ways, it is an epidemic for this generation’s gays.

The “typical” 20-something year-old gay has a very particular type—white, muscular, and most importantly, hyper-masculine. I’m a skinny, feminine gay man—not to mention a Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, German-Irish swirl. I can’t and don’t meet any of those standards. But no one will weep for me because the prejudices of homonormativity are nonchalantly and almost unconsciously written off as just a specific “taste”.

What’s wrong with writing off an entire group of individuals, specifically those comprised of people of color and feminine men? Personally, I have something to say to those people who try to write off their own prejudices as a “preference”. You’re ignorant. It’s not attraction. It’s bigotry. Until you can say that you’ve met every single person within that ethnic or gender group, you simply can’t make a blanket statement of your lack of attraction to those people.

That’s what homonormativity does best; it hides the darkest, most privilege-ridden parts of the gay community. All it takes is one look at Instagram. I like to play a little game that I made up myself so that I could thoroughly enjoy this brutal reminder; I call it “Six Degrees of Gay White Boys on Instagram”. It’s just like “Six Degrees of Separation”, except for gay boys and Instagram. The rules are simple. Pick any attractive, masculine, fit, white gay boy that you find. Then, find another gay boy who has the same characteristics. Click on the second guy’s profile and start scrolling through the Likes of their photos. Navigating through these “ideal” gay men, all of whom take the same stupid-faced selfies and shameless body shots, will ultimately lead you to your first gay boy—in six gays or less.

You’d think that this love fest over social media would help unite those who don’t meet homonormativity standards, with think being the keyword. Homonormativity, and its loyal servants, ruthlessly destroy self-esteem. It makes us hate ourselves and that hate is then projected onto others like us. This is why you see feminine gay men lusting exclusively after masculine gay men, black gay men pursuing only white gay men, and other similar situations. It’s truly heartbreaking.

I fell into the trap myself, and had a long phase where I refused to even entertain the idea of being with a feminine gay man. Sadly, looking back now, I see it as an extension of self-hatred because it wasn’t the femininity that bothered me about these other guys. Rather, it was that they reminded me of myself.

Since then, I’ve come a long way. I am feminine and proud and I don’t expect any cheesy applause. I don’t need that support anymore. I flip my invisible hair and I walk the sidewalks like they’re catwalks. I’m in vogue. Homonormativity and its followers can watch from the sidelines as I strut my stuff in the spotlight. Femininity holds just as much strength and power as masculinity—and anyone who disagrees needs to look up the word ‘misogyny’ in the dictionary.

I won’t ever butch it up, nor will I ever support those that tout their masculinity as a key component of them as a person. Masculinity doesn’t ensure that you’re not a jerk or a skeez. This bragging shows a clear lack of depth and understanding about the prejudice that’s drowning the gay community. Ignorance is not bliss, nor is an excuse. I’m forever grateful for the influential people that have led to my escape from homonormative pressure. I weep for those who still feel its icy, painful, relentless grip. I’m not the gay community’s ideal, and I’m fine with that. Like I always say, “Flip hair, don’t care.”

Perfection as a Blonde

By: Amanda Wyszynski

Bitch. Barbie. Fake. Perfect. Bombshell. Plastic. Dumb. Playboy Bunny. Slut. Being “the blonde” is one of the most well known stereotypes but certainly not the worst.  Rather than trying to break the mold, some women actively seek to fill the “blonde bombshell” role by pushing ideal physical characteristics as well as personality traits to the extreme. Let me preface this by saying that there is a major difference between being a blonde and having blonde hair.

If I picture society’s version of a blonde in my mind she’s got the whole room’s attention, is probably walking in slow motion, legs for days with massive boobs, blue eyes and a perfectly tanned and toned body. Instead, I stand at 5 feet tall with pale Polish skin, green eyes, average body proportions, and a typically introverted demeanor. I just so happen to have blonde hair. I am not yours or even my own version of “a blonde”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not still experiencing the benefits and burdens that come with the territory.

I am the “token blonde” in my group of friends, not because I am the go-to source of comic relief, but because that is just the role I play. Unfortunately, but truthfully, it is an easy and obvious way to identify me. Any description I have ever heard about myself always in some way labeled me as “the blonde one”, but I don’t mind. Ever since I was accidentally forwarded an email between two supervisors about intern hiring decisions and saw myself labeled as “Amanda- the blonde girl” I have vowed to stay a blonde—out of fear. Fear that changing something as simple as my hair color would remove my identity and make me somewhat forgettable.

Although, my status as being blonde comes with a positive, personal identity to people who meet me, it also throws me into a globalized stigma of preconceived assumptions. In my personal and professional life I have both experienced this duality of advantage and disadvantage. I have gained and lost when it comes to having blonde hair. Do I feel as though being blonde makes me standout and a little more memorable and approachable? Sometimes, yes. Although at the same time, I have suffered from my fair share of ridicule and unfavorable expectations. All it takes sometimes is one slip-up or moment of confusion and the backlash given in jest is 10 times worse.  There is this unfair pressure to be on point at all times. All it takes is one moment of humanity to make you truly feel like a “dumb blonde”.

Having blonde hair doesn’t just come with its fair share of salon maintenance, but at times requires a change in lifestyle. Just as some people have to dress for their body type, I occasionally have to dress for my hair color. Something as small as picking out an outfit to go out takes some planning. The color pink doesn’t have a place in my everyday wardrobe, and I avoid it at all costs, unless of course it’s Halloween, and only then I will welcome the “Barbie” comments.

As I explore my past of Halloween, emails, fashion, and more, I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous I sound that I even have so many examples to share about how hair color has affected my life. It’s a shame that something as silly as hair color has managed to have such a great impact on my life when there are people with far more serious characteristics that have caused discrimination in their lives.  Sure, my hair color describes me, but it does not define my morals, intelligence or personality.

Don’t Hail to the P

By: Katie Hagan

Perfection. The “P” word. Yuck. The unbearable ickyness of that word came to me in a dentist’s office, of all places. I cringe every time I step into that room reeking of fluoride. This visit in particular, however, had a particularly gut-wrenching entrance.

A middle-aged woman in scrubs followed me with charts in hand. “Any new health issues I should be aware of?” Professional. Cold. Uncaring. I decided I was going to respond in the exact opposite tone. Prepare to be judged, I told myself. Ashamed, my eyes overflowed and my voice quivered, “My teeth gush red when I brush them and my gums are as inflated as balloons. I put this on myself, I’m bulimic.”

As my dentist worked at my wounded mouth she sadly sighed and said, “Us girls have it so hard. I’m in my fifties now and when I look at pictures of myself from when I was your age I realize now I was a damn goddess. I can say that now with pride and confidence. But at the time, I tore myself apart. I don’t want you to tear yourself apart. You are beyond brave and because of that you’ll learn, you too are a goddess.”

The one thing that makes me cringe even more than the dentist is one the most common standards and lifestyles that women accept. My body can’t afford to have lunch, let alone breakfast. I do five miles fasted cardio everyday. So what, I purge only the bad food I eat. I’m only drinking smoothies this week; it’s a healthy detox. Oh my gawsh, I can’t even look at carbs. When I lose five pounds I’ll be happy with my body. Stop. Stop. Stop.

Why aren’t we discussing the dangerous damage we do in honor of perfection?! It shouldn’t be up to educational programs or middle-aged dentists who’ve been through it. We, the women struggling with this now, need to support each other in the here and now. Why should we have to go through it alone before we can support one another? The tedious and tortuous acts done day in and day out should not be something we’re bragging about. Since when did passing up your favorite snack become a bragging right anyway? We should instead be paying attention to news that’s positively affirming, news that’s deeper than the latest Photoshopped-goddess-covered-gossip-mag with the latest and greatest (not at all inspired by advertisements and big business) diet. In this very moment, flaws and all, you are a goddess. I know I can’t be the only one brave enough to start a new conversation. Let’s honor ourselves by refusing to bow down to the “P”.

1 Comment

  • Lauren Pickens says:

    This is such a brave article. All three of you have guts for coming out and writing about your experiences as individuals in today’s society. Jayson, I love that you flip your hair and don’t care because you are asserting yourself within the gay community and working against the standards of traditional gay standards by showing the world that you are confident and can’t be stopped. Amanda, I thought your section was very enlightening and you spoke to the fact that sometimes a first impression can be lasting and that isn’t always a bad thing. Katie, just as you said your section speaks to an experience that many women are having today I can’t count the amount of “detox plans” that I have seen recently that are just excuse to showcase one way to be healthy. I’ve done them and I honestly feel worse about myself after spending a week eating nothing but raw foods because I just obsess over my weight and my body the whole time.

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