In the year 2012, close of all of us in Generation Y knows, or is friends with, someone that is gay or bisexual. Yet, how many of us know a transgender individual? The most eye opening experience for me on this topic was when I met entertainer Ian Harvie, a man who was born a woman, when I was a student at Canisius College. During our time spent together, I was able to have a lot of questions answered and was exposed to an individual that not many people have the opportunity to meet.
Honestly, even as a gay man, I was a bit uncomfortable. Just as many people are unable to understand why I am attracted to the same sex, I was unable to understand why Harvie wanted to live as a man. What I learned, which is something that I will always keep with me, is that is does not matter if I cannot understand it, and it does not matter if others will not accept it. As member of the human race, one must learn to help foster a world where others are able to live as they please. And for me, of course, my thoughts began after a controversy.
Outrageous. Controversial. Scandalous.
These are the words that are being used to describe an innocent J. Crew ad that portrays an employee of the company, Jenna Lyons, and her son when it ran last year. The issue with the advertisement is that the young boy, who is five years old, is wearing pink nail polish on his toes. Below the picture, a quote from Lyons states, "Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."
As a country that appears to be more inclusive to gay rights and freedom of expression, I must ask: What does it say about a nation, particularly its adults, who are quick to judge and ridicule others who do not follow the strict stereotypical gender roles that are still evident in the United States? Further, how can the issue of bullying and verbal abuse, an overwhelming problem that seems to have been intensified and publicized over the past year, be abolished when the older generation continues to condone this type of negative behavior?
Many conservatives have been quick to state their opinion on the manner. Erin Brown, who is associated with the Media Research Center, stated that the ad is "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children." If a child does happen to be transgender, should they not be celebrated? Does one only "celebrate" a son who plays sports and is the stereotypical mold of what society considers masculine? Brown goes on to say, "J. Crew, known for its tasteful and modest clothing, apparently does not mind exploiting Beckett behind the facade of liberal, transgendered identity politics."
Please, Erin Brown, are you jealous that neon pink does not look good on you? And maybe this is my English degree speaking, but "transgendered" is not a word.
Does portraying a loving mother who allows her son the freedom to act like a child in an ad campaign make you uncomfortable? I believe the main issue behind this controversy is not how Americans view homosexuality, but how individuals view the transgender community, which for those of you who do not know, are people who chose to live their life in the opposite sex of which they were born.
And when I say chose, I use the term loosely, as I believe that this is not a choice, and along with homosexuality, is an aspect of life that one is born with. One is born gay or transgender, and their choice is to live openly.
Does this ad portray a transgender youth? No. Will the boy grow up to be gay? Probably not. Although this issue was raised for no reason, I am glad it was brought up. When was the last time there was a public and national dialogue on the issue of transgender individuals?
Those of us in Generation Y age who are 18 to 30-year-olds and college educated individuals, are unique in how we view gay rights and the modern LGBT movement. An astonishing 80 percent of us believe in full rights for gay people, but surprisingly, we believe that only 30 percent of our peers do. While many people are apprehensive about "coming out" as gay, many of us feel the same way about coming out as a heterosexual advocate for the gay community.
Be loud, be proud. Expose yourself to diversity, because if you shelter yourself and do not accept the aspect of being ones true self, I promise, you will soon be the one on the outside looking in.