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
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?