Roxanne Tellier – Up With Pride!

In the 50s and 60s, most of the gendered role models for kids were caricatures, physical and psychological distortions of what a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’ should look like, and how they should behave.  

There were manly men and voluptuous women, who conformed to rigid bodily descriptions. Then there was the supporting cast, the rebels and the roues, who could also be considered acceptable gender models.

Early television played a large part in what we came to view as acceptable romantic and sexual behavior of the very strictly defined genders. Strangely, there are still huge swaths of North Americans who retain the same parameters on how we should behave, even as fewer and fewer of us can actually live up to those physical or mental objectives.

And into that morass, we, who would become the Baby Boomers, waded, without so much as an armband floatie.

We’d like to think that we’ve changed since then, become more liberal and less rigid, but in truth, we’re still playing gender games, right from birth, when we begin to naturalize our newborn’s sexual orientation. With the right onesie, even a three-month-old can be a misogynist! 

We over-sexualize our kids, allowing little girls as young as four to climb on to the sexual bandwagon, caked in makeup and hairspray as they toddle down beauty pageant runways, styled like mini hookers. Their mothers cheer on the tiny sex objects from the sidelines, whispering to each other about how they despise the criminals who sex traffic minors.  

By grade school, most kids have already absorbed a definition of physical ‘perfection’ based on what they’ve seen on TV and social media. What they wish they could look like may well be unobtainable for their body types, but that perceived ideal, through societal pressure, will set some on a path that will have them trying to reach unrealistic goals for the rest of their lives.

Males and females alike develop eating disorders. Some children feel so objectified that they simply give up trying to be accepted, and self-harm to take themselves out of the ‘game.’  

Sex sells everything, from candy to cars. Good looking people who meet current standards of beauty dominate our screens, begging us to join them for a coffee, a date, or a cruise. 

We may not like it, but we take all of this for granted as being simply part of our heterosexual culture. And we almost never wonder what it might be like if we weren’t oriented that way. 

Our straight kids never have to worry about coming out to their parents or their school mates – it’s just expected that sexually compatible mates will be available when the time is right.  

Kids who don’t gender conform have to spend a great deal of their lives explaining and justifying their needs and why they feel the way they do, first to their parents, then to the world.

Straight people are not asked, over and over, if maybe they’ve just never found the right person to change their sexual orientation, or if the attraction they feel to a partner might just be a ‘phase they’re going through.’  

And when a straight person is asked about their weekend or vacation plans, they rarely have to police their speech to ensure that they don’t let slip that their spouse is their same-sex partner.

Remember The Imitation Game, the film about cryptologist and father of the modern computer, Alan Turing? Despite his work helping to win the war for Great Britain, his homosexuality lead to his being convicted of gross indecency, and being sentenced to chemical castration. (After a year of government- mandated hormonal therapy, Turing committed suicide.)            

Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries. In 13 countries of the world, including six nations that are members of the United Nations, being gay is punishable by death. In 26 other countries, the maximum penalty for being gay is prison, with terms varying from a few years to life imprisonment.

Same sex marriage is legal in 29 countries in the world, including the United States. However, individual American state laws have interfered in some celebrations when those opposing the unions have refused to make wedding cakes, or to process their marriage licenses. 

You can’t lose your job for being gay in Canada. But in the United States, LGBTQ workplace protections depend a lot upon where you live. Since a Supreme Court ruling on June 15, 2020, it has been unlawful under federal law for employers to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But that didn’t stop then President trump from slapping a blanket ban on all transgender people from serving and enlisting in the United States military. (A reversal of this policy was one of the first executive orders President Biden signed in January 2021, post-inauguration.)

Straight couples can do all the public displays of affection they want. Gay couples have to fear scrutiny, ridicule, retaliation, or even death, often for just holding their loved one’s hand.

We’ve known for decades that the lack of media representation of positive aspects of people of colour has had a numbing effect on the psychological and economical progress of that group. 

Recently there has been a movement towards a more accurate media representation of North American families.  I’ve been noticing a lot more advertisements, especially during the daytime hours of television, that feature a better kaleidoscope of the colour and flavour of our nations. I’ve even already heard a few complaints from people about how there’s not a lot of straight, white couples hawking laundry soap anymore. Deal with it, sistah.

But one stain removal commercial featuring a lesbian married couple does not a societal sea change make. There is far to go before it is equally acceptable for LGBTQ people to exhibit the same sort of sexuality that heterosexuals ‘shove down our throats’ day in, year out.

We happily cheer on straight people who, whether on screen or on the street, flirt, have awkward coming of age stories, who romance, marry, and stay together or divorce. We recognize the humanity of our straight brethren, but often attempt to minimize or deny the right of the LGBTQ community to enjoy the same pleasures.  

There’s a lot of decent straight people out there who like and support differently gendered people, but who continue to have a problem with what they view as improper public displays of affection. You’ll often hear them say that they have no problem with the LGBTQ community, as long as their sexuality is not “shoved down people’s throats.”

But that’s such a strange thing to say, because of the questions it begs. Who’s doing the shoving? Do you mean you are literally being forced, against your will, to engage in sex or romance with someone of the same gender? Are you being forced to watch gay porn? Attend a gay wedding? Is someone forcing you to marry someone of your own gender?

And of course, none of that is what you mean. What you mean is that you don’t want to have to see gay couples doing the things that straight couples do – like hold hands. Like grocery shop. Like sleep in the same bed and even (gasp!) kiss. 

Can you tell me where you get to see those couples doing those things? Because it’s not on the TV channels I’m aware of. Although Netflix sure does have a lot of rom coms and dramas showing straight couples partnering up to their heart’s content.

Our culture, our society, allows heterosexual couples to indulge in all sorts of bizarre couple activity, with little more than a tsk tsk, if that. For North Americans, ‘opposite sex’ sexuality is the norm – we’re soaking in it, to the point were we hardly even notice it any more, unless the offense is so overt and grievous that we cannot ignore the sight.

There’d be a lot more truth in it if we were saying that it’s heterosexuality that is being crammed down our throats, since that is our cultural norm, our societal default, and literally inescapable.

The reality is, no one is forcing anything down your throat at all. All we’re doing is beginning to treat the people of the LGBTQ community like the human beings they are, because they’re just as human as the rest of us.

Other people’s private lives are none of anyone else’s business. Happy Pride Month!

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Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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Roxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.

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