I don’t know the words to musicals
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.