It’s Not About Sex

This morning I did two performances of Queer 101-Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs at a high school in Greensboro, North Carolina. The show looks at homophobia, identity and activism through the word and lives of lesbian and gay poets.

Although it was INSANELY early in the morning (don’t they realize that most youth do not fully function until 11 am?), the students responded well and asked great questions. After the second show, some students approached me to chat a bit about the show, queer issues and their lesbian, bisexual and gay friends.

One female student told me that some of the guys at the school felt anxious about the show thinking that I would talk about gay sex and then try to convert them to being gay (the famous “gay agenda”). Not the first time I have run into this assumption both from students and parents. I am so glad that at one point in the play Chad, one of the characters, rattles off his list of what he is looking for in a potential mate.

Of course he would have to be male. Oh, nothing personal ladies but I know what works for me. And he would have to be gay. Nothing personal straight guys, but I know I can’t change you and you can’t change me, so why should we frustrate ourselves.

A student told me how she appreciated that I acknowleged that the students already knew info about LGBTQ issues and that I didn’t speak down to them about the topic. Apparently they had other speakers recently who assumed all the students took issue with the issues. Turns out the students simply took issue with feeling patronized.

We also talked about some guys’ negative reactions to gay guys or guys they presume to be gay. One student spoke about a gay guy who had a locker directly above a straight guy. The straight guy would not go near the locker whenever the gay guy was there for fear that he might get hit on.

So we began to talk about that whole issue and why some straight guys have that impression that gay guys will hit on them and the sometime violent reaction to that fear. I mean you would think someone would feel flattered that someone found them attractive. (On her blog today Christine writes about Anthony, an 15 year old openly gay teen in Colorado. Some other boys violently assaulted him.)

What it reveals though is that many straight guys who hit on women and look at them lustfully do not do this to affirm these women and express their appreciation of women’s beauty. Rather it is an act of power, oppression, even violence. The men objectify the women thus exercise power over them. The thought that another man would do that do them freaks these guys out.

Perhaps they think it is okay to objectify and dehumanize a woman, but suddenly when the tables turned they feel very differently. It reveals that these acts are not about sex. No they about about power, oppression and violence.

High school students can be so thoughtful in these sorts of discussions. I appreciate how we can go deep and get real so quickly.

Now off to lunch, then we watch some Trya Banks (where according to Christine I look like I’m sporting a funky military look) then I do a special presentation for 5th graders and then some middle school students. Phew, then I get a break for a few hours before I do my evening show.

Off to Portland tomorrow!!!

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Liz Opp on April 12, 2007 at 11:59 pm Reply

    Hey Peterson –

    I really like this point:

    many straight guys who hit on women and look at them lustfully do not do this to affirm these women and express their appreciation of women’s beauty. Rather it is an act of power, oppression, even violence. The men objectify the women thus exercise power over them. The thought that another man would do that do them freaks these guys out.

    Well said.

    And the Tyra thing today…. I wish she didn’t have so many people on the show! I guess I’ll have to count myself fortunate and blessed that I have had opportunities to see you in person and hear more about you and your faith journey away from seeing you on the tube for five minutes here or there.

    Blessings,
    Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

  2. Plain Foolish on April 13, 2007 at 1:03 pm Reply

    As a woman who was sexually harrassed in high school and even in elementary school, yes, I had known that for some straight men, the lustful gaze is a weapon, and like liz opp, appreciate the way you articulated this.

    It was why I always was frustrated with the white men who preach to women that the way to avoid such harrassment is modesty in clothing, the way we walk, move, etc. because I know it doesn’t work. I’ve been harrassed by a guy who thought I was Muslim because of my conservative clothing. I’ve been harrassed despite dressing in a fashion that got me confused with a nun.

    And the avoidance of that objectification becomes a straitjacket – conform, or else! that is aimed at women (no matter what our orientation. For the guy who is using sexuality as a weapon, a woman has no valid sexuality.), gays, trans, anyone who is perceived as vulnerable to that use of power. And the more we try to conform to a lie about who we are, the more vulnerable we become.

  3. da on April 16, 2007 at 6:25 pm Reply

    Hi Peterson,

    I’ve just added your blog to livejournal’s “syndicated feeds” so I can read your blog via my friends-page.

    Thanks for all your good work!
    -Daniel ( da-lj.livejournal.com)

  4. ElliotManning on April 16, 2007 at 9:11 pm Reply

    Gee, Peterson, look at you! You’ve been LiveJournal-ed!

    You remember during your “Slow Dancing with the Enemy” workshop at TC when I stood up and told you how proud I was of you? Well, every time I hear about you going to a high school, specifically, and know, through the responses you relay in your blog entries, that you’ve made a difference for other youth, I get that rush of pride all over again. You’re amazing.

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