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I don’t know the words to musicals

September 7, 2010

The final question on tonight’s episode of “Jeopardy” got me thinking about an experience I had at work a few years ago. An editor was, for reasons unbeknownst to me, trying to come up with the lyrics to “Oklahoma!” and he came into the newsroom to ask me what they were.

The conversation went something like this:

Editor: Geoff, how does that song “Oklahoma” go?

Me: I have no idea. What makes you think I’d know that?

Editor: Uh, I don’t know…

Me: Is it because I’m gay? Because that’s hilarious.

I got a nervous laugh out of that one, because it turned out that was pretty much his only reason for asking me, and he did see the humor in it. While I have seen a few musicals in my adult life, they were “Avenue Q” (which I blogged about) and “Spamalot.” Honestly, that probably tells you all you need to know about me.

But more to the point, the “Jeopardy” episode got me thinking of the times people have made what are, when you think about it, completely ridiculous assumptions about me without blinking an eye, based solely on my sexuality.

Some clichés I have personally been subjected to:

  • I would love to hear about someone’s gross medical condition, because gay men don’t mind hearing about woman’s health problems
  • I would enjoy taking a woman underwear shopping, because gay men love bras
  • I can and should tell strangers how to dress, because gay men are fab-u-lous!

For the record, I don’t (to the best of my knowledge) give off any impression that I’m remotely interested in any of those things. But I do openly acknowledge that I’m gay, and that seems to be enough for some people to draw these kinds of conclusions. (If this were a question on the LSAT, for which I’m currently studying and which has taken up a large part of my mental real estate these days, they would be followed with a phrase like, “Which one of the following best mirrors the speaker’s flawed reasoning?”)

I suppose these prejudices can seem innocent enough in and of themselves, and I’m not saying I’m a victim or that I’ve been terribly offended. People do say things without thinking and it’s something we all have to live with. But these kinds of comments indicate a larger way of seeing the world that troubles me, and it should bother you too.

Sure, it’s human nature to judge people based on groups they belong to. But part of living in a civil society is remembering that the way we’re wired to think is not always the best way to act. It’s not okay to slug anyone who frustrates you, you can’t come on to everyone you’re attracted to, and even when your first impulse is to think something prejudiced, it’s your job to hold yourself back (even if you think it’s a “good” prejudice like, “Gay people are so stylish!”).

So next time you learn a coworker is gay, please resist the urge to immediately ask him for a makeover, or for her to take you to Home Depot. Not every LGBT person was blessed with the capacity to take these comments with the sarcastic grace I possess. And  honestly, they shouldn’t have to.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2010 11:11 pm

    awesome i wish more people would blog intelligently(key word)Anout their experiences stereotyping and being stereotyped. And I know its not pivotal to the story but I have to ask….what was the jeopardy question? or answer? or whatever.. you know what I mean.

    • September 7, 2010 11:17 pm

      Thank you! The whole, idealistic point of this blog is to write intelligently about being stereotyped and discriminated against so people can get a sense of what it’s like. You’d be amazed how many of my friends and family members just assume none of that ever happens to me.

      I linked to the question about, but you do have to dig a bit once you click through, so here it is:

      “In 1953, it became the only state whose official song was written for a Broadway musical.”

      The answer, of course, is what brought to mind the anecdote with which I led things off.

  2. Stephanie P permalink
    September 7, 2010 11:19 pm

    Bravo! Well done. Also, I really loved the magenta font. I think it really drove the point home. :)

    • September 7, 2010 11:21 pm

      Glad you liked it! Though for the record, I just thought of it as “pink.”

  3. September 7, 2010 11:24 pm

    Its interesting, and a little disheartening, the things alot of us take for granted. I am an open minded fellow, about as open minded as a Texas redneck gets I suppose, but it bothers me that I don’t stop often enough and realize the sort of shit some people have to put up with.

    • September 7, 2010 11:29 pm

      That’s true for me too. Being gay can be really inconvenient for a lot of external reasons, but I’m still an upper-middle-class white guy living near Princeton, and that means I haven’t had to put up with nearly as much as most.

  4. September 8, 2010 2:42 pm

    Gay men love bras? I can’t think of a single reason why you would love bras.

    I can, however, think of two reasons why *I* love bras.

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