For my project I created a video about a topic many bisexuals can relate to, which is how to present oneself in public. In the video, Ben, my protagonist, is getting ready to go to a gay club. It is his first time going to one and he is unsure of what to wear, but in the end he decides to go with what he is the most comfortable wearing. While my video discusses fashion, it also deals with male masculinityand being visibly queer.
The LGBTQ population is a smaller group compared to everyone else who identifies as heterosexual. Though we may not always be on the same “team” we are still expected to follow society’s rules, including fashion. This can be hard though because not everyone is seen the same way or acknowledged within this society, such as bisexuals.
Certain fashion stereotypes can sometimes be empowering. Lesbians and gay men have historically been typecast to look a certain way. Lesbian are usually seen with shorter hair and wear clothes that are more masculine or androgynous, while gay men have a wider range of perception but are seen wearing more feminine, tighter, flamboyant clothing. Of course, these images don’t reflect everyone who identifies as lesbian or gay, and that’s partly because these stereotypes are created by society as a whole. While stereotypes have their negative moments, they at least have provided a point of reference for gay men and lesbians as to who might be a part of their community. For those who identify as bisexual, there are no stereotypes because society often overlooks bisexual identities. This is because people often assume that if a female is with another female, she is a lesbian and if she is with a male, she is straight. There are also people who don’t believe in bisexuality. They assume someone who identifies as bi is really using it as a stepping stone to being gay or it’s “just a phase.”
Recently I went to Babes (a lesbian and gay bar in Richmond) to celebrate them being open for 33 years. While the night was fun, I was very disappointed to see the next day on Facebook that an acquaintance of mine who had also gone posted a complaint about how many “straight” people there were at Babes the previous night. While it is known that straight people have a tendency to intrude on queer spaces, this person’s comment really annoyed me. If I hadn’t been with my girlfriend, who has her own fashion sense but also happens to fit into society’s category of what a gay woman looks like, I would have been classified as straight. Sometimes I dress more in a more androgynous way but on that night I was presenting as feminine (fitted jeans and a sparkly tank top). Not only do straight people make incorrect assumptions about our sexual orientations, but so do those in the queer community. I hate that I feel like I have to openly show myself with my girlfriend or dress a certain way in order for others in the LGBTQ community to realize that I — like them — am queer. It’s frustrating when I see people openly presenting themselves as queer because unless I look the part they will not recognize me as one of them.
I wanted to create a video to show how difficult it can be to want to fit in but not know how, and to show some of the issues that those who identify as bisexual might face. I wanted my character to be a male because often when we talk about bisexuals we only refer to women. But my character Ben is different because not only is he a bisexual he is also a person of color. Bisexual men of color are largely underrepresented in the media and in culture in general, and that is a community that faces not only the marginalization of bisexual males but also of men of color. Since I am a white bisexual female and my character Ben, is a black bisexual male, there are still many issues that he would have to deal with, that I do not, still, I wanted to give a little bit of representation to this group of people.
Another reason why I picked a bisexual male as my protagonist is so that people can see another side of men. As we’ve discussed in class, men often feel pressure from society to behave in a more masculine manner. We expect men to not care as much or feel as deeply, and to just roll with everything. But in my video, Ben doesn’t behave that way. We see him trying on different clothes, worrying about fitting in and having to give himself a little pep talk, which is not something we see men struggling with in mainstream media, nor would we really expect to. It’s unfair that men are supposed to not show this type of side of themselves, and this is why I wanted to film Ben this way. I wanted to give examples of how “real men” act.
The story I created for my project reflects on issues we’ve talked about in class, such as fashion and the body, male masculinity and being visibly queer. What I like most about my video is that it shows these issues in a very real moment that some can identify with but also raise awareness for others about these issues.
Paige Elizabeth is a senior at ODU and will be graduating in the spring with a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a Minor in Public Service. She is slowly learning how to be an adult.