I was interested in the paper titled, “Risk, Identity, and Love in the Age of AIDS. I feel as though I understand this issue because I have seen some of the things this paper mentions as I grew up. The first thing I noticed was about teaching abstinence. On page 619 line 10 it says, “…not far behind was the remarkable popular consensus that no-sex was the best thing to teach and the best thing for teens to practice.” Growing up this lead to an initial cultural shunning of sexuality. I remember in middle school seeing pictures of STD’s, it was one of the worst visual experiences of my life. The scar left in my mind is still felt. However the problem with these scare tactics is that youth, especially youth such as my self, will take chances and make mistakes. Often times it is not until we make mistakes that we actually learn. In the article “A true coming to age story” she mentions how, “right now she is still in the land of flirts and smiles.” There is nothing wrong with her progression into her sexuality, there is nothing wrong with taking your time and figuring it out. But not ever girl will be as graceful and as safe as Suzanne Hyman was in this 2005 edition of the Emory Wheel.
The next major thing to catch my eye was the thought of straight people being able to hold on to multiple identities, were gay people could only be gay. As stated, “..his identity is straight, yes, but mostly he’s seen as African American, or Filipino, or Jewish, a jock, or a gangster or a nerd. But a gay kid is defined by what he is not; he is not straight.” In my high school, I remember it did not matter what ur talents were. If you were gay, you were gay; that’s all a person would have been seen as. Unless you were a female (homosexual or bisexual), note the double standard, you functioned outside of groups of men. They were brutally targeted and viciously insulted. Learning how to insult or “talk shit” is a cultural right of passage were I am from. Its like Sparta, but with words. It would change day to day who the target was. Sometimes it was you sometimes not. But if you were gay, you were always the target.
It was never the girls that hated, just the men. This is not the case 100% of the time, but more often than not it was. In my humblest opinion, gay men are less of a threat to women. Generally this makes it easier for a girl to become close with a gay guy as apposed to a straight guy because he is registered inside her mind as not a threat and therefore will be allowed more leeway with his actions compared to a man she thinks is trying to proposition sex. Men on the other hand, very possibly felt sexually threatened. After all, if he is gay, and he likes men, then may be he likes/wants/lusts after me? I believe this is where all the hate/distrust for the gay men came from when we were growing up. I made my first gay friend in high school when I was trying to get closer to the very attractive girl he was friends with. Not the noble of reasons, I know, but it was a path to understanding for me. Now one of my best friends is gay, and not because I am trying to flirt with his female friend or anything like that. He is just a homie, a good dude. Five six years ago that might not have been possible.
It was once very socially dangerous to be gay. Growing up in the South it may have been worse. After all, this is cotton-pickin-Georgia, and things have never been easy in the Buckle of the Bible Belt. But as I have learned in the archives, life and social progression is a series of battles in a long war. I see the gay community coming up and gaining social independence and more of a place in mass culture every day. Lessons in early school life prepare us for real life, they prepare our identity for all the risk and the love we will get from the world.