A good man is hard to find, as Alexa Megna finds out in this piece. In recruitment for her thesis about heterosexual men in LGBTQ activism programs, Alexa struggles to understand reactions and reasons why heterosexual men in these programs are so hard to find.
I’m desperately seeking allies. I’m on the verge of sitting outside the mall with a cardboard sign that reads, “Sociologist seeks heterosexual males who support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community.” I am just looking for straight dudes who support sexual equlity for everyone.
Being in my last year of my Master’s program I get the privilege (or horror) to conduct my own research and write a thesis. I decided I would conduct a qualitative study on heterosexual men who participate in LGBTQ activism programs, like Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s) and other pro-LGBTQ programs. Interesting, right? Sounds simple, no?
In order to recruit participants for my research, I decided to attend PFLAG, GSA, and other groups’ meetings instead of just emailing out blanket email that could possible be perceived as spam mail (my study is not spam, I promise!). During the first PFLAG meeting I attended, something fairly interesting occurred other than having a bunch of different LGBTQ personalities all in one place. As I announced that I was looking for heterosexual men specifically for this study, one member jokingly said, “Good luck with that!” This, of course, was followed by an eruption of laughter from the entire room and pity looks sent in my general direction. Laughing with them, I had a brief moment of paralyzing “I am never going to finish my thesis” fear and then regained composure by making a joke about how its hard enough for me, as a heterosexual woman to find even a heterosexual man. They really liked that joke, laughed some more, and I continued on with my recruitment speech.
As I announced that I was looking for heterosexual men specifically for this study, one member jokingly said, “Good luck with that!”
It’s not like I don’t know that I picked a difficult topic. But some small part of me was actually surprised that even at a PFLAG meeting I would get these same reactions.
This real life (and not academic, because there is a difference) realization made me feel incredibly sad. I was sad for all LGBTQ people who feel like there are no heterosexual men as allies. I was sad for all the women allies who attend meetings every week and do not see equal representation of sexuality and gender. I was sad for the young LGBTQ boys at the meeting who only see other LGBTQ men supporting them. Overall, I was just sad because in this situation, everyone, queer or not, loses.
bell hooks, a renowned social thinker, explains that, in the case of feminism and the fight for equality, both women and men are hurt by the lack of men participating. She writes that men have a “tremendous contribution to make to the feminist struggle in the area of exposing, confronting, opposing, and transforming the sexism of their male peers.” Yet this is not always acknowledged in feminist circles. Although her article appeals to women feminists to understand that men are comrades in the same struggle, it is hard to ignore the similarities in the fight for feminism and in the fight for LGBTQ rights. We need heterosexual men as allies in LGBTQ communities to stand together in support and help change the institutional discrimination that LGBTQ people are subject to.
1. What are allies? Do you see yourself as an ally to a community? Reflect on your own experience in activism or even in thinking about being a part of activism.
2. Do you think that men are encouraged or discouraged from being a part of activism communities? Why or why not? What role does media play in this?
3. In recent years, there has been a push to get men involved in anti-domestic violence and anti-rape campaigns. How can society encourage heterosexual men to participate in these programs? How can society encourage men to participate in LGBTQ activism? What steps would we have to take to get there?