Gays’, Lesbians’, And Bisexuals’ Roles Of “Otherness” In Dominant Culture

Gays’, Lesbians’, and Bisexuals’ Roles of “Otherness” in Dominant Culture
Despite no visible differences such as those of ethnicity and race, homosexuals and bisexuals are still commonly defined as “other” in our society. Based soley on their sexual orientation, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are continually targetted by intolerance, ignorance, and segregation because of their role as an “other” in the dominant culture. This “otherness” is a departure in characteristics and behavior from the range expressed as the local, safe norm. It causes intense concern and an attempt at comprehension. From this, the mind either quickly moves to apprehension, misunderstanding, and fear, or to repulsion and hatred. Although the dominant group’s mindset still exists today, the situation is gradually improving through pro-gay legislation and continually more liberal views pertaining to sexuality.
A bisexual friend of mine gave me her opinion when she heard the topic of my “otherness” paper. “I don’t feel my ‘otherness’ on a daily basis because of the ease of ‘passing’ in a heterosexual world. Actually, my sexual preference is never an issue until someone makes an ignorant remark or assumption about it,” she told me. The way gays, lesbians, and bisexuals view themselves as a group contradicts the mainstream opinion of the dominant culture. Their sexuality is normal and natural to them, and poses no issue until someone reminds them of their “otherness”. Many people in the dominant culture emphasize that being gay is a choice. Sexual orientation, whether it be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual does not appear to be something that one chooses. Recent studies suggest that sexual orientation has a genetic or biological component, and is probably determined before or shortly after birth. Like heterosexuals, gays and lesbians discover their sexuality as a process of maturing; they are not recruited, seduced or taught to be homosexual. The only choice gay or lesbian people have is whether or not to live their lives honestly, or according to societies unrealistic expectations (Bell, Weinberg, M.S., & Hammersmith), (Troiden).
Upon coming out to her old friends and people upon first encounters, my friend faces an internal struggle. Fear of rejection and loss are always a concern. However, coming out to her parents and family was even more difficult, “I was afraid they would define me by my gayness, not by my personality or self worth. Not knowing their reaction, I put myself at risk for losing my family’s love and much of what I consider to be important in my life.” Because of false stereotypes and unwarranted prejudice towards them, the process of "coming out" for lesbians and gay men can be a very challenging process which may cause a great deal of emotional pain. Lesbian and gay people often feel different and alone when they first become aware of same-sex attractions. They may also fear rejection from family, friends, co-workers and religious institutions if they do "come out"(American Psychological Association). Another struggle for homosexuals and bisexuals includes confronting their religious backgrounds and beliefs. In the Judeo-Christian society in which we live, homosexuality is heavily frowned upon by religion. In the past, religious leaders supported the dominant culture’s ignorance about homosexuality by calling it a \'sin\'. Strong believers in the biblical translation concur that man to man or woman to woman intimate relationships are grave sins. Religious people who are gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are often ostracized by the church community and are looked upon as sinners, child molesters, and promiscuous individuals. In fact, promiscuity has nothing to do with one\'s sexual orientation, but rather one\'s values and beliefs. Just as in the heterosexual community, some gay people are promiscuous, some are not. In a 1992 study, 55.5% of gay men and 71.2% of lesbians reported to be in steady relationships (Overlooked Opinions, 1993).
The dominant group in American society (white, heterosexual, Protestant) continues to view homosexuality as a major social stigma. Gay culture and lifestyle is often on the receiving end of many socially acceptable, yet hatefully motivated actions and jokes. Until recently, AIDS was considered a “gay disease” or a punishment from God by many misinformed people. The link in people\'s minds between homosexuality and AIDS is so firmly established that discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS is inseparable from discrimination on the basis of