Today we're joined by Bennett Marano who will be discussing the importance of broadening the media's definition of the gay community and moving beyond some LGBT individuals' perceptions of themselves as victims. Bennett is a student at SUNY Geneseo, a Resident Assistant, a world traveler and a Survivor aficionado.
Lying in bed on December 31, 2010, after hours of tossing and turning, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. Everything was going to be all right. Something within me had just accepted the fact that I was gay, and the following day I would tell my family. After a long day, running around doing Christmas returns, I sat anxiously on my bed. “Just tell them,” I thought to myself. If I wasn’t going to do it then, I felt certain that I would never tell them.
So I sprung off my bed, and walked downstairs to the family room where my parents both sat watching TV. Thoughts were racing through my head- “Mom’s going to choke on that caramel apple. Dad’s going to storm out of the house.” But I had to do it. I sat down on the chair across from each of them and asked them to turn off the TV. Quietly, I said, “I wanted to let you know this is something I’ve been considering for a long time. So I wanted to tell you that I’m gay.” Then, I waited. Mom didn’t choke on the caramel apple; Dad barely moved. Then, my mom said something that I will never forget, “And you know what? That’s fine.” I don’t remember too much else- shaking a little; it was a strange situation- for the first time ever I felt like they really knew me. Just as I had felt the night before, it was all going to be all right.
For me, coming out was different than some of the more typical stories you’re used to hearing. For one, my parents were entirely accepting of it; some people aren’t so lucky. My parents’ open-mindedness and endless support is something for which I am forever grateful. But unlike some other stories, my coming out experience was different because I didn’t necessarily feel connected to the gay community we see portrayed in our media.
I didn’t see myself in the images of gay pride parades where men, clad in leather, prance up and down the streets. I couldn’t find myself in the shots of Perez Hilton’s hot pink hair or the guys of “Queer Eye.” I don’t have a problem with these images. I have a problem with the fact that instead of being a part of a spectrum of images of the gay community, they seem to be the only ones available. For me, the lack of images of masculine-identified gay men in the media was confusing because I did not have anyone to identify with. That’s why I think it’s the responsibility for men like myself, who don’t fit this narrow image of gay men as merely effeminate or fashion focused to show that being gay doesn’t mean you should look and act in a certain way.
Beyond images portrayed in the media, far too often, I see certain members of the gay community who are quick to victimize themselves, claiming that being a homosexual leaves you at a disadvantage. Sure, some people haven’t had such an easy time with coming out, but it’s about overcoming those obstacles, being positive about the changes being made in our society, and setting an example for gay youth. If we victimize ourselves, how are the teens contemplating suicide going to realize it’s ok to be who they really are? Is feeling bad for ourselves really the message we want to send?
Own who you are. Be yourself. That’s what pride is really about. It’s overcoming the anxiety that comes with telling your family and friends. It’s forgiving the Nolan’s and Harry’s, the people who made fun of you in middle school. And most importantly, it’s coming to the realization that everything is going to be all right.
Much love to my family and friends for their endless support- especially Mom and Dad. For the family and friends who may be hearing about this for the first time- I hope you’re happy for me.