On September 26, 2014 I had the pleasure of going to a drag show in NYC at a restaurant called Lips. Their original location used to be on Banks Street, located in the Chelsea region of Manhattan but they have since relocated to East 56th Street. And it is a good thing they did. I am not sure how great business is year round, but from the turn out of the crowd on this particular night, my guess is that they are doing quite fine in that department. The restaurant featured beautiful chandeliers and disco balls that hung over diners as they ate and the décor was very feminine. By that I mean, the majority of the colors used on the chairs, walls, and tables were “girly” colors such as hot pink, red, deep purples, etc. I arrived by myself but didn’t find feel too alone or out of place. Partly because the tables within the restaurant were so close together it was almost as if I was sitting in on another party; but mostly because the entire staff was very warm and friendly. Did I mention everyone was in drag this night? The waiters, hostesses, and bartenders were all in complete drag. Halfway through my meal, the performance began. A man donning a platinum blonde wig, gold outfit, and sky scraper heels began singing a song, all the while the waiters/waitresses are still going around serving the crowd. The crowd was very into the performance, especially once the songstress came into the crowd and gave a few brief lap dances. Everyone seemed very at ease in this environment, a reaction most people part of the LGBTQ community don’t receive outside of places like Lips where you are free to be yourself.
As much as I enjoyed myself this night, on the way home I began really contemplating the struggles gay men, lesbians, and even transgender people have to face on a daily basis. For starters, we need to realize the difference between being a gay man and a drag queen. A drag queen is a male who dresses up in women’s clothes for the purpose of entertainment or it could simply be because he/she truly is a transvestite. I have found that not as many people today are aware of this difference, as they often wrongfully lump the two of them together. I feel that it is unfair people within this community don’t get the proper titles they identify with. We just automatically refer to them as “homosexuals” or “trannies”. These are derogatory terms that hold just as much pain behind them as calling an African American person a “nigger”. I decided that this was a much more interesting topic to me than any other so therefore I looked a little deeper into the subject.
Heterosexuality has been the norm in the United States since the beginning of time. Now in today’s society those in the LBGTQ community are still discriminated against. They are still a population with little rights, even though they have been around longer than we think. The negative stereotypes that ensue with “coming out of the closet” are that that individual is seen as being evil, mentally ill, unnatural, infected with the AIDS virus, confused, contagious, pedophiles, sexually abused as a child, sinners, etc. These negative attitudes have had such a negative impact on individuals of the lesbian and gay community. In an article about Americans perceptions towards gay and lesbians most citizens, about 70% of those surveyed expressed negative attitudes toward gays and lesbians believing that they were harmful to American life. This shows us there is still a problem with the way America views, and treats the gay and lesbian community. Gay men and lesbians are being treated differently because of their sexual orientation, something they cannot change. Most African Americans will face acts of oppression because of the color of their skin, and other minorities are discriminated against because people feel they are a threat to the availability of jobs in America, each of these groups are oppressed because of societies norms. In today’s society the LGBTQ community is viewed as being inferior and not a part of the social “norm”. But who are we to judge and determine what the social norm is? Whose decision was it that heterosexuality had to be that norm?
For those who follow the norms they will be rewarded and accepted, but shall you go against these norms you will be punished and rejected by the majority of your peers. The ongoing debate about whether gay and lesbians are born gay or if they are influenced by their environment is one I don’t understand. Those on the nurture side would argue that a gay individual learns their sexual orientation through interaction with peers and society. However, after watching several documentaries on the topic it is blatantly obvious that a five year-old cannot determine his/her sexual orientation because they aren’t even aware of what that is at their age! They just know what they are attracted to and what they feel, neither of which can be influenced by other people.
These negative perceptions affect the lesbian and gay community in many ways. They are still viewed as individuals with a mental disorder, and thought to have been the cause of the AIDS outbreak. Individuals might not understand how this affects people of this community, but many gay and lesbian individuals feel helpless and lonely with nowhere to go and no one to talk to about feelings of being discriminated against or mistreated. Fortunately, homosexuality is more widely accepted than it was 30 years ago. However this community still has a long battle ahead of them, and they are constantly losing more and more people every day as a result of the abuse some face after revealing their sexual orientation. Many adolescents start to believe these perceptions about themselves if they do not have a support system during these trivial times. They are faced with the difficult choice of being ridiculed and rejected by their peers, or to persevere through these obstacles and still lead a fulfilling life. Unfortunately, young people who experience the emotional and sometimes physical abuse that ensues with them “coming out” to their peers choose suicide or social isolation as a means to avoid the mistreatment.