THE PROBLEMATIC POWER OF THE MEDIA
The media is a powerful resource for the marginalized and the oppressed. For many in this world who feel alienated and isolated because they do not measure up to the status quo, the media can represent a way off the island for them. The media also can be problematic or rather people’s interpretation of media images can be stifling to them. So just how is the media both powerful and problematic particularly to gay men and women.
In small towns all over the world marginalized young men and women find in the media that they are not alone and that there are others like them in this world. The media has a calming way of making you feel like you’re not a freak born to simply be different than everyone else. I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when I first saw the character Marco on Degrassi or Karamo on The Real World. Seeing these men who looked and acted like me gave me a sense of comfort that I may not have otherwise felt without the media. In this sense the media is a powerful resource for the young and marginalized or misunderstood.
But to paraphrase something my new friend poppyh tweeted, “The dominant media can get to you before more holistic depictions can.” And this is something I have long felt but never quite articulated. I talk to a lot of gay men who associate being out of the closet or being proud of who they are with the rainbow and pride parades. They feel that living their lives authentically and openly means doing certain things. I try to point out to these men that releasing yourself from the shackles of mental slavery and self hate does not mean that you have to march in a pride parade or wear rainbow paraphernalia. Even some of the leaders in the gay rights community are guilty of promoting this fallacy. I don’t think there is a person more pro gay than I am and yet I do not own any rainbow paraphernalia. It’s not that I don’t respect the imagery and symbolism behind the rainbow but I find the Pride Flag to be too cluttered.
My gay pride rests on the acceptance of my sexual orientation and the refusal to live or act as if it there is something wrong with me being gay. I don’t have to wear anything and I don’t have to march in anything to be a proud gay man who lives my life authentically and open. The media however can show narrow images of the gay community that makes it appear that in order to accept yourself as a proud gay man you have to do certain things but this is untrue.
I thank the media for allowing the marginalized to see beyond their current loneliness but I do know that there are aspects of the media that are problematic particularly its narrow depiction of gay men and women who are living their lives authentically and open.
I am here to tell young gay men that being proud of whom you are and living your life authentically and openly isn’t about what you wear or what parades you attend. While it’s great to support the rainbow and march in parades that’s not what the movement is ultimately about. My goal is to free you from the shackles of mental slavery and self hate that so often keeps the LGBT community in hiding. Afford yourself the same dignity and privilege of sexual orientation as your heterosexual counterparts.