I am currently reading a novel where the partner of a deceased teacher tells a policeman that not everyone agreed with his lover’s ‘lifestyle’. Well, I guess that was the instance that broke the camel’s back for me; I have had it with the world thinking homosexuality is a lifestyle.
I was unfortunately not born with the tolerance I have today. The tolerance I acquired was slow in coming. I blame it largely on ignorance and the Jamaican culture. In high school, when the song ‘Chi-Chi Man’ from a dance hall group known as TOK came out, I was singing along with the rest of my friends—‘bunning’ (burning) out the ‘chi-chi’(homosexual) men. I didn’t like homosexuals. I didn’t understand them. Why be attracted to genitalia that you already have? And if the rest of Jamaica didn’t like them, then my confusion and discomfort was okay.
But then I grew up—sometime at seventeen/eighteen—realizing that homosexuals didn’t care about whether you liked them or not. They didn’t care that you labeled them as ‘other’ or disagreed with their sexuality. They would still continue to be homosexuals. We are all just wasting our breaths. These realizations all came to a head when I began attending university and came in contact with a number of homosexuals. One thing I have learned about college life is that it forces you to interact with diverse groups within the population, challenging your belief system.
I am a heterosexual. I knew that from an early age (it’s not as creepy as it sounds) and the thought of being with anyone else than the opposite sex confused me. That was my belief system. But that’s not the point. The point is: I unfairly jeered what I didn’t understand. I labeled something as ‘other’ without really doing my research. But I call myself open-minded. Hypocritical much? And as I became enmeshed into college life, associating with those that called themselves homosexuals, I began to realize that just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean you should fear it and push it aside. On the flip side; disagreeing with something, doesn’t mean you hate it.
Fast-forwarding to who I am now? I don’t disagree with homosexuality, I still don’t understand it (same genitalia, really?), but I don’t hate it. Persons who are homosexuals should be able to defend what they do. We live in Western culture that dictates free speech and human rights. You could say I am now a homosexual sympathizer. But I like to think that if I was to raise the rainbow flag, it would be for tolerance and open-mindedness. Homosexuality is just another sexual orientation and form of attraction; another way in which people love each other. Love has no bias, right?
But homosexuality is not a lifestyle.
I am not going to bore you with statistics to prove my point (largely because I don’t have any). I am not going to claim that just because I did a thesis on how media perpetuates the stigmatization of homosexuality, I have some authority over the subject. This is just my perspective on the world. If you don’t like it, don’t read. Not my problem. I’m writing this because blogging has made rants about topical issues cool.
Lifestyle is described as a typical way of life of an individual, group or culture (thank you, Wikipedia). Wikipedia goes on to say that it is a combination of demography and psychological factors like personal values, preferences and outlooks. Note the word: combination. Lifestyle just isn’t about your gender, your age, your sexual orientation, etc. It’s about your decisions, your motives, your morals and other stuff that make up everyday life.
In my study, there were words I didn’t like to use but unfortunately had to for distinction purposes. Homosexual male/female and heterosexual male/female; for example. As I wrote these distinctions, thoughts like he/she is just a typical student and their genitalia activities are overrated would pop into my mind. All the time. For six months. My tolerance of homosexuality is largely based on the belief that your sexual orientation is just a fraction of who you are in this world. It is just a component of your lifestyle.
A man has sex with another man. So what? How does this factor in him making career decisions, doing right or wrong, having opinions and believing in some deity more powerful than himself? How does this factor in his daily routines and activities as well as having a social life? How does his sexuality factor into the kind of songs he listens to or the literature he reads? It is, on most days, irrelevant. I would not discount a man or a woman’s beliefs, opinions or tastes because he/she happens to do something differently in the bedroom than I do. It is quite like devaluing a man’s opinions because he engages in BDSM and you don’t. People need to stop thinking homosexuality is something more than a sexual orientation.
Even those from the LGBT community are guilty of believing in homosexuality as something more than what it is. Once, I heard a homosexual say that “gays will take over the world”. As if gay people are another life form from another planet. Last I checked, reality did not come with its very own Star Wars plot. Essentially, he was saying humans that are intimate with members of the same-sex are going to take over the world. How daunting. I am quaking in my boots.
I will pause here to say that probably wasn’t his meaning. But the fact remains that your sexual choice isn’t an anointing from the gods. Your sexual orientation isn’t enlightenment. Gay magazines, gay games, etc. are just adding to the belief of the ‘other’. Gay people can be villains, they can be heroes, they can be models, they can be athletes, they can be traditional or trendy or narrow-minded. Who you have sex with does not determine who you are and makes you no better than anyone else.
Homosexual labeling has become so ensconced in our society that public figures and celebrities feel the need to confess their intimate desires. “I am a gay athlete.” Wow. I didn’t need to know what you do in the bedroom. Thank you for that highly irrelevant information. “I am a gay politician.” Frankly how you do your job is my only concern. If an actor is gay, that won’t stop me from enjoying his work. If he’s a bad actor then that might do it.
I have homosexual friends. But I don’t think of them as ‘homosexual’ friends. I think of them as friends. If I’m introducing them, I don’t say “Hi. This is my gay friend Suzie.” (Suzie knows who she is. Go, Suzie!) I say, “Hi, this is my friend Suzie.” The person probably won’t know Suzie is gay unless she wishes to reveal it. It is the same with any sexual orientation. I also have friends who are virgins and friends who are freaks (super freaks, if you know what I mean). I know their sexuality because we may have done a ‘truth or dare’ game once in college or high school. Whenever I introduce them, I don’t say, “Hey, this is my friend Tiffany. She’s a virgin.” Or “This is Yolanda. She is a dominatrix.”
That is their PRIVATE, sexual business. I would never disclose that to anyone they just met.
It is not the first time this issue has been brought up. So, why is the term still used loosely to describe homosexuality?
I am not calling for global tolerance. While it is desirous, the reality could never be that simple. Our individualism is what makes the world interesting. A uniform way of thinking would be boring and slightly creepy. But I think homosexuality would be less of an ‘issue’ if people stopped adding more to the actual meaning. Homosexuality has been around since Biblical times. It is not a new cultural phenomenon. It is a sexual orientation. It is neither a popular trend nor pop-culture fodder. It is a sexual orientation. It is not a neo-liberal political way of thinking. It is a sexual orientation.
It is not a lifestyle. It is just another form of intimacy.