I’ve always been fascinated by people’s desires and actions to ‘fit in’. I mean, we pride ourselves on being individuals but at the same time most people work hard to conform to stereotypes and misconceptions just to gain a lot of friends or be accepted by a certain group.
Take for instance gay or queer black males. I’ve been around a lot of them and being one, I don’t seem to be all that popular or accepted because I don’t fit the bill for what many view as your typical gay black male. I’ve seen perfectly run-of-the-mill guys transform into walking stereotypes just to find their place within the gay community. I knew this one black gay male who over the course of a few years just seemed to completely bend over backwards (to pun intended) to become the uber-gay black male! He went from being your sensible, regular Joe to fabulous ‘Hellooo!’ RuPaul gay just to earn the title of being a gay socialite … in his late 20s. That, I’m sorry, I just don’t understand. He talks differently than he did years ago in a whiny, somewhat lispy femme way; he walks differently; he has to have the latest gadgets, clothes, credit cards and make appearances at a club event each week just to maintain his status. I’m all for self expression but this seems like an ultimate sacrifice of one’s desires just to ‘fit in’.
This doesn’t just happen with gay black males; it happens to all groups across the board. Teenagers who change their personality and lives just so they can be viewed as hip and cool; guys who try to act extremely masculine in order to cover-up any insecurities; men and women who are afraid of being single and committing to one person so they act out, sleep around, just so they won’t be considered locked down and out of the game. Again, why?
I’m not at all saying I don’t subscribe to certain stereotypes; I do, we all do, regardless of age, race, gender or orientation. In many ways, it’s like the under-belly of the American Dream: life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness through acts of sacrifice, conformity and pleasing others. I look at ‘Grease’ with Sandy pursuing Danny as the big revealing of this phenomena in our culture. Here she was a perfectly fine, pleasant Australian outsider who despite her good looks, personality and charm just didn’t seem to click with the typical American stereotype of the time, Danny Zuko. Her response? The only way to fit into this new American lifestyle and get her man and happiness was to change who she was to fit in with the other T-Birds and Pink Ladies! After a long struggle depicted in the movie, she becomes a smoking, leather-wearing hussy and the group accepts her, she gets her man, the end! The biggest offense? In ‘Grease 2’ her cousin does the same thing!
At 25, I’m feeling a bit overloaded with people being so quick to change themselves and put aside their individuality and personal likes just for the sake of fitting in. Are we that afraid of isolation, disagreement and conflict that we’re willing to become walking stereotypes rather than contradictions? If so, I think that’s a pretty sad state of the human race. You don’t have to go broke trying to own every new gadget that comes out; you don’t have to drink alcohol just because it seems like everyone does in order to ‘relax’ or to fit in at a party; you don’t have to do drugs or smoke to be cool and social; you don’t have to starve yourself to the point of sickness to fit someone else’s idea of perfection.
Please, just BE YOURSELF.
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