Thursday, November 29, 2007


Dismissing The ‘Gay Male’ Stereotype
By Gina Mobilio

As he sits down to begin his interview, Jamie Cohen, a 20 year-old Marymount Manhattan College student appears quite nervous. When asked about it, he replies with a smile and surprisingly, a calm tone escapes his mouth. “I am not really nervous, more, excited I guess that someone is willing to let me express how I feel about this issue.”

Cohen is one of the many young men at Marymount and in New York City who are publicly open about being gay and proud of it. “It’s something that I always knew. Even when I didn’t know it,” Cohen says laughing. “Trying to convince myself of being straight would be like a man trying to convince himself he was a dog or something.”

Jamie Cohen at play

Cohen speaks about coming out to his friends and family as if he was announcing the weather. “It was extremely easy for me; coming out, that is. I announced it when I was around 16 years-old, just when I was facing the sexual pressures that come along with being a teenager.” Cohen grew up in Queens; a place that he said was a very ‘safe’ place for him to come out in.

“Living in New York must have made it easier for me. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for me if I had chosen to come out in the south. Could you imagine? Four years ago, especially in the south, coming out would not have been acceptable, I feel if I hadn’t lived in such am accepting city. My parents are from New York too. They’ve [heard and seen] it all.”

Cohen admits, however, that coming out has had its downfalls. “Everyone has been accepting give or take a few ignorant people. It’s always the ignorant people who cause the problems,” he giggles, “But I just smile at them and am always willing to answer any questions that anyone might have for me. I understand that my lifestyle may be interesting for people to grasp. One thing I can’t tolerate, however, is those damn stereotypes.”

Cohen struggles with being categorized with the gay men who are referred to as feminine, and says he finds it to be insulting when someone thinks of himself that way. “I won’t stand for it. I don’t listen to Madonna, do Crystal Meth, and I definitely am not into fashion. That’s something my girl friends and female family members are into, not me. I think my dad might even know more designer names than I do!”

The bubbly college student continued, “It’s probably my biggest pet peeve in the world. It gives me a reason to actually understand why some people have a problem with gay men. I mean, to me, being gay is strictly based on my sexual orientation. I don’t understand where the whole ‘gay men like Barbara Streisand’ stereotype came into play. I must be missing that gay gene!”

Cohen laughs but then becomes serious. “I feel like when gay men contribute to any part of that stereotype, they turn our culture into something it’s not. We are simply men who want to have relationships with other men. That’s all. Why does all of that other stuff have to come along with it? For me, its humiliating.”

When asked if there is a possibility of the stereotype diminishing, he was less than positive. “There are always going to people of a certain culture who keep any stereotype alive. It’s not something that I feel will ever go away. Stereotypes are what make cultures recognizable. I’m not saying that it’s bad to play a part in a stereotype if that’s how you want to be. I’m just saying don’t include me in it!”

No comments: