Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gay Male Social Experiment

DISCLAIMER: This was a class assignment that I had to do for my understanding cultural diversity class. I purposely took it too far to demonstrate the fear of stereotypes and what can happen when these stereotypes are enacted. This writing does not necessarily reflect my personal opinions and let it be known that I am an advocate of LGBTQ rights. Personally I thought that the assignment was ridiculous and prejudiced in nature. 

I am a straight white male. I am member of our society’s dominant group. I have

all the privilege. I can do whatever I want. I am the patriarchy. Ok, I admit that is a little

bit of an exaggeration. I mean let’s face it; I’m a poor male vegan feminist. I have white

and male privilege but I pretty much have to go undercover to use it nowadays. Well now

for a class assignment entitled “Walking in Another’s Shoes”, I have decided to throw

even more of my precious privileges straight into the trash. For a few hours I will go

undercover as a gay male. I have prepared a t-shirt that displays a large message; the

message is “Gay Pride”. I will put on this T-shirt and go to gas stations and walk around

in public stores like Wal-Mart. I will use my secret notepad to document and record

people’s reactions and in the process I will try to avoid getting killed, I can take a few

beatings if necessary. I chose this particular role because I felt it was the only role I could

easily blend into. I mean seriously, what was I supposed to do? Go in black face? I don’t

think so. Alright here I go, wish me luck……………


Well that was pretty intense and luckily no beatings occurred. I started out by

proudly walking down the street from my apartment to my vehicle. I passed by one of my

neighbors who waved at me in a friendly manner. I waved back as I thought to

myself, “This interaction doesn’t even count because he is a drag queen.”

My first stop was a shell station; a place of gasses and snack foods and such. I

walked in nervously expecting to be jumped by angry southerners. As I opened the door

a nervous sweat gathered upon my brow. I stepped in and saw a southern gentleman

licking his lips anxiously, but he was just looking at the Cheetohs. I walked up to the

clerk and I said, “Five on one please.”

He said, “Anything else for you today?”

I replied, “No that will be all fine sir.”

The clerk smiled and said, “Have a nice day.”

Afraid that his kindness was a trap, I ran out of the gas station as fast as I could. I

jumped over the hood of my car and had managed to pull the gas nozzle from the pump

and into the car’s tank before my feet had hit the ground. As soon as all the gas was

pumped, I jumped into my car sped off into the horizon, never looking back.

My heart was pumping and I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body.

I was scared but I knew that I couldn’t quit just yet. I drove to one of Johnson City’s

most sacred and holiest of places; Wal-Mart. As I walked into the giant mega chain the

door greeter straight up ignored me. This has happened to me before so I am not sure if

he did so because I was “gay”. I walked around the store for a few hours and inspired

very little interactions, I got a few glances but I get those all the time as I naturally am. It

was time to take it to the next level.

I came up with a plan that was sure to inspire a hate crime. I rushed over to the

condom section and grabbed a 36 pack and big bottle of KY brand lube. I walked around

the store holding my condoms and lube proudly with a mischievous grin on my face.

Now everyone was looking at me. I even heard people muttering things under their

breath like, “Oh my god” and “Disgusting.” I did this for about 45 minutes, and nothing

else other than the looks of disgust and muttering happened. It was time to enact the final

part of my master plan.

I went over to the men’s clothing department, and yes I brought my condoms and

lube. I waited and lurked behind some sweatshirts until the perfect victim appeared.

Finally a young male, probably in his early 20’s, approached the t-shirt section. He was

all alone, this was my chance. I walked up to him and said nothing; I just looked at him

lustfully. At first I could tell he was uncomfortable. He stepped away from me a bit, all

this time never making eye contact. I stepped toward him and finally he yelled, “Dude

what the f*ck is your problem?!”

I licked my lips and gave him a little wink. The man became furious as his

masculinity was under threat and he shoved me down. What I had not mentioned until

this point is that I was not alone. I had secretly been followed by four members of my

punk rock band just in case a situation like this was to occur. They immediately rushed

out to my defense. We calmed the man down and explained to him that this was all part

of a social experiment. He laughed and actually said, “I thought some god d*mned queer

was about to rape me boy!”

I took this exercise a bit too far. Why did I do this? Mostly I did it because I

wanted to see a reaction if I was going to go through all this trouble. Now in case you

didn’t notice, no one really bothered me until I started acting out the stereotype of being a

gay male sex crazed rapist crazy person. I literally had to walk around with sex items to

even get any kind of reaction that I could be sure was due to my “gayness”. This tells me

that people are generally ok with someone’s lifestyle as long as you just leave them out

of it. Now I know how the situation could have been much different if there were Neo

Nazis or KKK members present, but let’s face it, that is not the norm situation. Even

religious extremist are likely do nothing unless they are in a group together. Hate crimes

against gay males happen, but it’s getting to a point where this is not an everyday

occurrence. I know plenty of gay males who have never been brutally assaulted; name

calling is quite common however. Of course to be attacked verbally I know from

personal experience that all you have to do is not be a heteronormative masculine

gendered male. For example being a male vegan feminist, other men and even women

call me homophobic slurs all of the time. What does this tell us? It tells us that the true

threat is not being gay, but being female. Homophobia is a form of sexism.

I was not surprised by anything that happened during this social experiment.

Actually it went exactly as I expected it to. I would imagine that if I were able to extend

the time period and was “gay” for maybe a whole month that I would surely encounter

more hateful language and actions without having to enact on stereotypes as I did at Wal-

Mart. This experience does not inspire any personal change because, surprise, I am

already not a homophobic person and am an active feminist in my community. What can

we do help change this world into a place of equity for all regardless of sexual

orientation, gender, class, race, sex, etc.? As I always say, better education.

Implementing gender studies into K-12 public education could help to make this society

and culture a place for everyone to thrive. We must stand together to teach our children

about injustice instead of letting them fall in line to become oppressors like their fathers

before them.


If you are a gay male and you read this, I am curious to know what your opinion is on this assignment? Is this offensive to you? Do you feel like the teacher was out of line to make use go out and impersonate different types of minorities? How does this make you feel?


  1. Maybe you should have tried walking around with another man, holding his hand etc.I think that is more representative of most LGB's daily lives who don't look/act stereotypically.
    I think in general your teacher had a good idea and that your heart is in the right place, but that you may have misunderstood privilege a bit.I think in the end, to understand privilege it is better to talk and listen to people rather than try to act it. The whole point about not having privilege in one way or another is that you cannot escape that privilege; we can't stop being woman, gay, black, poor etc. If you try to act it out, you will always have the comfort of returning to your privilege, which is something that needs to be kept in mind.

  2. I understand this and I only did this for the grade, I actually tried to find another man but I could not. Keep in mind I live in a small town and it is disgusting how much people here care about their "rep". Some students in class did not even do the assignment due to their "rep" being at stake. I don't misunderstand privilege, I wish that instead the assignment should have been to acculturate yourself with a minority group. I have lived in situations where I am the minority where white privilege means nothing. This is why at the beginning I put the disclaimer.