3.14.13 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotStereotyping is a human trait. We’ve all done it, been the victim of it or have seen it directed at someone close to us. It’s a flaw that evolution has yet to eradicate and one that will no doubt be with us until our species ceases to exist.

As a gay man, I’ve seen plenty of it and I know I don’t always fit into the stereotypes so many hold in their mind. While I enjoy musical productions, I’m not obsessed with them, and I couldn’t name one reality TV host or star on the Bravo or HGTV networks without the help of Google. My home decorating skills are essentially non-existent and the fanciest entree I create is fried eggs with a side of toaster waffles drenched in syrup.

So to many, I don’t fit into their idea of what it means to be gay.

We’re not all drag queens and we’re not all limp-wristed pretty boys. We’re also not all bears and gym rats. Not all transgender people are lip-synching on stage each weekend and, as many ladies in our community can attest, flannel and Birkenstocks aren’t always their garments of choice.

I used to take it as a compliment when people would tell me they were surprised I was gay. The phrase, “You don’t seem gay” would actually make me swell with pride, like I had pulled off some big magicians’ prank. It was a stupid reaction and one I thankfully no longer share.

But stereotypes aren’t just limited to the LGBT community.

Members of the straight community, for example, aren’t always against us and just because a person is a few decades older than us or drives a certain type of vehicle doesn’t mean he or she is out signing petitions supporting amendments that will make it illegal for us to marry a person of the same sex.

I found myself guilty of this just last month while shopping for a new vehicle.

After my husband totaled my pickup (no one was hurt, thankfully), it was time to find a new mode of transportation. After almost three weeks of hunting and countless used car salesmen telling me one thing and then presenting another, I was fed up with the whole process.
So when we spotted the blue F-150 that prompted a U-turn on a busy thoroughfare, I was resistant to talk to another middle-aged, straight car salesman who struggles to hide his discomfort with my relationship.

But I wanted this truck and after the test drive my husband and I found ourselves seated in the office of the small dealership talking about the vehicle with two straight men. After some casual conversation, the inevitable question about what I do for a living came up, and when I explained that I was the editor of a newsmagazine covering “LGBT news,” the man behind the desk had a very confused look on his face.

“LGBT?” was his response, complete with the raised eyebrow. “What’s that?”
So I elaborated.

“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.”

As I braced for his gruff retort, I noticed the religious symbols hanging on the wall around his office. One word describes how I felt: Awkward!

But that feeling didn’t last. It was replaced with relief, then shame for jumping to conclusions when he smiled and shared stories about his lesbian friends, his escapades in the LGBT-friendly areas of Ybor City and the stupidity surrounding anti-marriage equality laws.

Both men – of different political parties, mind you – are accepting and supportive of the LGBT community and our fight for equality! My assessment of the situation was 100% incorrect and after a few more visits to them to complete paperwork and the detailing of the truck,
I found they had shared our encounter with their friends.

“So many of my friends have heard of your newspaper,” one of them told me when I went back to pick up the truck, adding with a laugh, “Apparently you’re kind of a big deal.”

Whether he meant the big deal was Watermark or me as its editor wasn’t clear. But it was clear I misjudged these guys – badly. And that’s something I hope I never do again.

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