HannahKornegay, Features Editor
A wave of prepubescent boys just decided that frappuccino is the most necessary drink to satiate their current sugar craving, and so all their awkward, foul-smelling, gangly limbs just poured into this small space in which I was trying my hardest to do school work. Each boy completely disregards the aromatic steam wafting from the french press, offering them a chance to taste some damn fine coffee, and instead dutifully skim the “refreshments” portion of the menu. And so the fragile looking barista begins what can only be described as sugar torture and makes them each the exact same drink with different colored “flavors” being added to the top to make them seem different. As three boys stand off to the side, poised and ready to receive their drinks, another adolescent offers his friend a sip of his drink…from the same straw. Being a woman who never had the privilege of watching my older brother at this age, interact with other boys this age, I watch, seeing if his friends will take the gracious proposition.
“Ew, that’s gay,” one of the boys declares. Then, he sticks his own straw in the other boys drink and sucks up an overly sugary-sticky portion of the whipped beverage and nods his pleasure. No one flinches, at least none of them do, for this is obviously a term that’s been thrown around before. In fact, while their conversation was audible and could easily be heard by anyone else in the cafe at the time, not one person budged.
This short interaction between two boys, arguably too young to even understand the full implications of being gay in a society that still stigmatizes homosexuality, sparked a fuse in my head. Are boys actually afraid of being gay, and if they are, what else do men feel they must define in order to fit seamlessly in a judgemental world?
It’s become commonplace to hear about the pressures women face at the hands of society, but men’s struggles aren’t acknowledged. From birth, boys are taught not to cry, to “suck it up” and suppress their emotions. They’re raised as straight by default, and people are a lot more understanding of women questioning their sexuality than of men doing the same. As for the boys in the coffee shop, they could very well be gay, but they’ve already been conditioned to believe that being gay is less-than and overall an unfavorable option.
Not only are there societal pressures placed on men to uphold a certain standard, but also similar cultural pressures men must face as well.
“As a gay man, I’m viewed as soft and submissive, but within the context of my family, I’m expected to be strong and stable,” reflects Adrian Carrasquillo (SR).
The traditional role of a woman has always been to raise and nurture her family, but these ideals are being challenged and altered constantly by women who have learned that they can be both a mother and a business owner. In the same breath, there has been an increase in men who would rather be a stay-at-home father than run board meetings.
These ideas are not only oppressive, they also instill shame in those who differ from the norm. In an effort to provide proper research for this article, I bought flowers for my mother and father. My mother took them graciously and before I knew it, they’d been displayed in the house. However, when I gave the flowers to my father, I was met with confusion. I’m positive that he was happy to have them, but I don’t think it was because he wanted them. And I don’t think he would have had the same reaction had his brother or son done the same for him. Has heteronormativity been instilled in us so thoroughly that we can’t even accept gifts without fear of the implications?
More and more each day, there are men who choose to defy these stereotypes. There are men who are beginning to feel more comfortable being themselves. Whether that means men are buying flowers for themselves, sharing drinks or simply rejecting oppressive heteronormativity, it’s important that society continues to make strides for the better.