Back in the late 1980s (dare I admit it?) when I attended high school, masculinity reigned. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I attended an all-boy’s school, but the “butcher” you were the better. We as a student body revered our athletes—one of whom went on to reach major heights in the NBA—and admired and respected any guy who was muscular and masculine. It was a true sign of manhood.
Tolerance was not something we were concerned with or taught. You either fit in or you didn’t. Heavy guys were fat, unpopular guys were nerds, and any guy that didn’t conform to the mold of masculinity was a faggot. There was no class offered on tolerance, differences were not generally applauded, and race was not much of an issue either, considering 90 percent of the student body was white.
Gay kids like me often felt isolated. There was no place to turn for guidance, no role models to emulate, and certainly no gay/straight alliance or LGBT organization—like those that exist in metropolitan high schools today—to offer solace. But I survived, developed a solid circle of friends and, by senior year, all was well—even if I did have to hide my true identity.
Do I wish I could have come out in high school and lived an open and honest life? No, I don’t, because I’m certain it would not have been accepted. My high school experience would have been drastically different, with even more obstacles to overcome and opposition to face. But the fact that gay students today have an available network of resources such as gay/straight alliances and other school organizations that create an environment conducive to coming out is remarkable and represents enormous advances in society and our educational system. But I wonder, are we becoming too accepting, almost to a fault?
Take for example, 18-year-old openly gay senior, Sergio Garcia of Fairfax High School. Garcia wanted to be a part of his school’s prom court—not as prom king, but as prom queen. He ran against a handful of female students and, after his peers voted, was shockingly crowned prom queen. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, he was quoted as saying he “felt invincible.” Fellow students expressed what incredible progress this was—a gay student no longer ridiculed by his classmates, but revered and awarded the honor of prom queen. Gender bending is hip with the lines of masculinity and femininity becoming blurred. But is this really the progress we as a gay community want? Did this unconventional act move us forward or just drag us backwards?
Traditionally, the role of prom queen has been synonymous with the female gender and the role of prom king synonymous with the male gender. But because Garcia is gay, this places him in the feminine role? Are we expected to accept and align “gay” with “girl”? I’m sorry, but this is not progress. Had Garcia been crowned prom king that would have been progressive.
Having an openly gay man earn the title of prom king and stand proudly in front of his peers would indeed represent true growth and a huge stride forward for gay teenagers across the nation. It would boldly redefine what it truly means to represent the traditionally “masculine” or “butch” role and solidly confirm that one’s manhood or supposed lack thereof is not defined by his sexuality. But crowning this young man as the prom “queen” only conveys the wrong message, one that accepts and perpetuates an archaic stereotype of homosexuality and reinforces an inaccurate portrayal of gay men as feminine, girlie caricatures.
I’ll be honest—I never had a desire to be prom king, but if I did, I’m certain I would never have received that title, simply because I was gay. I’m incredibly proud and thankful that a young man like Sergio Garcia is growing up in a much more accepting society, and that today’s teenagers comprehend that being gay is not abnormal or offensive. But by crowning this young man queen we are not only doing him a terrible disservice, but the entire gay community as well. And I certainly don’t want this “queen” representing me or my lifestyle. For once, let’s not settle for the term “queen,” but rather continue to fight to be “kings.”