The Sin Of Stigma
What makes one feminine in the gay world? For example, am I feminine because I have a passion for Barbra Joan Streisand and Real Housewives of all varieties? Photo Credit: Bravo.
This morning as I was listening to the Diane Rehms’ NPR special on HIV/AIDS and I continously heard the word “stigma” being used, and it struck me that I had heard this term being used quite frequently in my own life in the past several weeks (in terms) of those who are HIV positive. Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.” As I processed this idea of “stigma”, I questioned myself. Do we not all place stigmas on those who we do not understand?
The combination of the Diane Rehms program and a story from a friend opened my eyes to the stigma we place on those who are HIV positive. In the LGBTQ community we live in fear of this virus that we do not understand. At times we shun, or refuse to let those in, who are HIV positive, and most unfairly. As my friend related to me, “It is a disease I have, but that does not dictate who I am as a person.”
Within the sphere of gay men, we also place stigmas on others that we don’t identify with. As a gay man, there are so many ways to identify, so many terms to learn. In a land of twinks, bears, otters, disco queens (maybe that’s only me?), and everything in between, it is easy to feel lost. Then, you’re thrown through a loop when you’re forced to read things like “no fems.” Does that mean I’m excluded? What makes one feminine in the gay world? For example, am I feminine because I have a passion for Barbra Joan Streisand and Real Housewives of all varieties? Inversely, what makes one “masc” (masculine)? Enjoying football and having a deeper voice? We as humans put up barriers that force out others and can at times create self-imposed isolation.
On a more universal scale, do we not all place stigmas on others because of physical apperance? It’s so easy for us to make assumptions about one’s character and history by merely taking a glance at them. We criticize models for being too thin, or we criticize a stranger for being overweight. We even make assumptions based on skin color or ethnicity. Are we still living in a society that refuses to look for inner beauty and for truth in favor of snap judgments and preconceived notions?
Within the religious community we also hold strong stigmas. At times we can disrepect the beliefs or traditions of others because it isn’t what we believe, or it isn’t what we’re accustomed to. Within the various denominations of Christianity, there are constant struggles over who has the correct thinking. I myself have read different opinions on how one defines oneself as a Jew.
As Atticus Finch said in the classic Lee Harper creation “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” My goal, a goal I hope that is shared by those who read this, is to end “stigmas” in my personal life. Continously venture out of your comfort zone.
Try to understand a different perspective or fresh view point. Educate yourself about the beliefs of others, after all, isn’t education the key to tolerance? While we continue to place stigmas on those that we do not understand, we continue to isolate ourselves from new and exciting opportunities. Taking the time to learn about something you’re afraid of or something you don’t understand can be a truly spiritual experience that can you motivate you in your own journey to understanding yourself and the world you live in.
Nicholas T.B.C Artrip. 19. Gay Jew. VCU student, and Alpha Epsilon Pi brother. My life is a cabaret of religion and disco trash.
In addition to the presence of a well educated population, one of the reasons religion has withered in Western Europe is because the memory of the excesses of religion in the past are still remembered. Wars of religion, the special rights granted to the Church and general behavior which was the antithesis of true Christian [...]July 1, 2014
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