The subject of this interview is a twenty-nine-year-old homosexual male of African-American descent, originally from Miami, Florida. He has been employed as a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer since his 1997 graduation from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he majored in Kinesthesiology and Movement Science
and minored in Broadcast Communications.
The subject seemed ideal for this interview because he is openly homosexual himself, but acutely irritated by the common homosexual "affect" that he characterizes as a learned or emulated set of effeminate mannerisms and speech patterns that many people have come to associate with (or even expect from) male homosexuals. The subject has repeatedly expressed his disgust with homosexuals whom he describes as "flames" or even "faggots," because as a comfortably assimilated homosexual male, he believes that he (and all homosexual males) suffer from stereotyping and the homophobia that he believes it inspires. Specifically, the subject compares the plight of "normal" male homosexuals to that of "normal" black
American males who suffer similarly from the stereotypes inspired by African
American males who, according to him, "have to act like hard-ass niggers."
Interestingly, the subject equates his "not sounding black" to his "not sounding gay," both of which he believes undermine the respective efforts of African
Americans and homosexuals to achieve complete social acceptance and professional success in America.
The fact that this subject seems to feel somewhat alienated by large segments of his peers in his race and so many within the homosexual community makes him a particularly interesting interview subject. This is especially true in that there seems to be such a close similarity between his feelings of alienation from mainstream African
American culture and from mainstream homosexuals.
At the outset of this project, the interviewer's expectations were already somewhat biased in that they were (unavoidably) influenced by a favorable prior impression of the subject as a function of having some familiarity with his social style, as well as from observing his social skills and personality in one-on-one
interactions and in general, within the professional environment of the fitness facility where he works as a Personal Trainer. Objectively, the focus of this project became determining whether (and to what degree) the subject's was able to justify his feelings about "affected" individuals sharing his sexual orientation and whether (and to what degree) his opinions might be functions of personal issues or displaced unconscious hostility.
For the sake of accuracy, the subject's responses have not been edited for politeness or changed in any way, but transcribed from a tape recording verbatim.
Quotation symbols within the interview indicate the subject's hand gestures mimicking the use of quotations in the air, while italics indicate verbal emphasis by voice inflection alone.
Q: I've heard you express such disdain for "flames" or "queers," yet you're quite open about your own homosexuality. Do you consider that a contradiction at all?
A: Absolutely not. I think a person's sexual preference is essentially irrelevant to all other aspects of a person's life. To me it's not something to base your whole identity on, especially when much of society at large is so threatened by homosexuality. You see, unlike my skin color, which can't be "kept private," my sexual orientation is nobody else's business. If someone is a racial bigot, there's not much I can do about it. On the other hand, sexual preference is not something that's outwardly visible to other people at all. If you're gay and you go around swishing like a faggot ... (he demonstrates with a very effeminate hand gesture) ... If carry yourself like this and you make yourself sound like a total faggot ... (he mimics an effeminate lisp as he speaks) ... If that's how you talk to people, then don't complain when some of them treat you differently.
Q: You think those mannerisms are under a person's control, then?
A: Yes, that's why the whole thing irritates me so much. I know that there's a huge biological component to a person's sexual preference, at least there is in the absence of pathological causes of sexual abuse or other environmental influences. And there's often a biological component to speech impediments or idiosyncrasies or whatever. But I don't think there's any biological link between homosexuality and speaking like this ... (he mimics an exaggerated
lisp and the effeminate hand gesture again) ... there's nothing biological that makes you talk like that. It's purely a learned or mimicked affect.
Q: What about heterosexual people who have a lisp? Is that an "affectation" too?
A: That's not what I'm saying at all. A small percentage of everybody is predisposed to lisping OK? Occasionally, I'm sure it happens that someone who is homosexual also has a natural speech impediment of that nature. Actually, this is something I
was a lot less sure about before reading a Tom Wolfe best seller:
The Right Stuff. He explains that Chuck Yeager (who was a racial bigot, by the way) was such a legend amongst World War II
fighter pilots that they all started copying his southern drawl, even if they were from the northeast or wherever. The book was written a good twenty years ago, give or take, and according to Wolfe,
many commercial airline pilots still talked like that, since most senior pilots were still World War II era pilots who'd idolized
Yeager. The point is, if you were born and raised in Alabama or Texas, then that's perfectly "natural"; if you were born in New
York but you adopt a southern drawl because you idolize someone, then it's an affectation. I don't know exactly how that particular mannerism became entrenched into homosexual culture, but I'm convinced that if naturally homosexual men were raised to adulthood in isolation ... I mean isolated from other homosexuals ... The percentage of homosexuals with a lisp would parallel the rest of society instead of every other, or every third gay man or whatever sounding exactly alike.
Q: What about the effeminate mannerisms? Are they all affectations too?
A: Same issue. There are heterosexual and homosexual men whose body language and so forth are characteristically more effeminate than most heterosexual males. There are also women (both heterosexual and lesbian) who are just naturally more masculine in some ways than most women. I think there's more of a gray area with this than with the speech thing because it's probably at least partly a function of very young gay male kids' identifying with females or modeling their own mannerisms after their female peers ... I'm talking about kindergarten years here ... they might become feminized, so to speak, in a natural way. To me, that's a lot different from adopting mannerisms in adolescence or even adulthood, which I know for a fact does happen.
Q: How do you know that for a fact?
A: Because I've witnessed it, first-hand. There was a kid I went to high school with in Miami, OK? I didn't know him well, but I
knew him plenty well enough to know that he absolutely did not have a lisp in high school, OK? A few years ago, I ran into him on South Beach after he'd obviously "come out." All of a sudden he sounded like your stereotypical faggot. I don't know the percentage of people or homosexuals who also have a natural lisp, but I know that anybody who first "develops" a lisp in adulthood does it as an affectation. It's the exact same thing with urban blacks, OK? Nobody is born going " ... knowhattahmsayinn ... "
every two seconds or "ah-iet" instead of "alright."
(Simultaneously demonstrates hand gestures to match his dialect imitation)
Those are ghetto affectations. Now, I was raised in a middle class community with educated parents, so Q: Wait, can I just get back to something else you just said first?
You just said that he "came out" after high school
A: Out of the closet...
Q: Yes, I know. I wanted to ask about your own "coming out" if that's not too personal. When you say "coming out" does that mean when you first realized you were gay or do you mean when you first became comfortable enough with it to admit it openly?
A: (Laughs) OK, let me tell you something: if you're gay, you don't suddenly "find that out" in college or whatever. (Laughs again)
You may or may not want to admit it to yourself, and you may or may not want to live it openly, for obvious reasons, but you always know you're gay, so "coming out" is always with respect to other people, OK?
Q: OK, so how old were you when you realized you were gay then?
A: (Laughs) Let me ask you something: How old were you when you knew you were straight? (Smiles)
Q: I guess I didn't know I was "straight" because I didn't know there was any "alternative" to straight. I started liking girls in first or second grade, but I didn't really admit it…