They signed up for theater, not stereotypes.
Story by: Mariah Clute
Erik Peterson, a senior, has been mistaken for being gay before.
But only because he’s in theater.
“I’ve been at thespian conventions where guys have given me their number or something, and I’ve been like, ‘Thank you? I’m not...?’ It’s kind of a confusing moment, but outside of that it’s not an issue or a problem,” Peterson said.
Ethan Snapp, a junior, does his hair every morning, and takes pride in how he dresses and looks.
“There’s stigma that if you dress well, do your hair, and be in theater, you’re obviously gay. It usually just makes me laugh because if it’s that criteria, then I guess I take that as a compliment. And that I can tell funny stories about it,” said Snapp.
And Jake Rogers, also a junior, is also the victim of these inaccurate stereotypes, but the stereotypes that were generated about him weren’t as mild as the ones that Snapp and Peterson received.
“I went through that back in sixth grade- this was before I moved here. I lived in North Carolina, and I was bullied. People called me gay... ,” Rogers said.
“If that were to happen to me now, it wouldn’t affect me because it has already happened to me. That’s something that’s now in my past. But, now, I feel a little bit stronger. That’s me personally, however.”
People assume they’re gay, because they love to sing, dance, and act.
“For example, last year in my english class - I had Mr. Kurz - y’know I loved him. He’s the best. But [anyways], he recognized that I was a theater kid, so if he ever needed a student to do something extravagant and ‘out-there’, he would pick on me,” Rogers said. “ We were going over a song from Les Misérables, which was ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’.”
“If masculinity is taking pride in what you do, and being comfortable with who you are- then I’m the most masculine person I know.”
“He called on me to stand on a chair at the back of the class and just belt the song. I did it, of course, and I was happy to. But, then I noticed some of the kids in the class were looking at me weird afterwards, they’d start snickering,” Rogers said. “When you cross outside of the department, you’re not really viewed the same way.”
But they have an intense pride in what they do.
“...As a performer- I’m being somebody else. I am not Erik. If I’m playing a gay character, I’m not sacrificing Erik’s masculinity. I am playing that character truthfully,” Peterson said.“I think a lot of people respect the stage and think, ‘That’s impressive’, to go out and sing and dance and act in front of people. There’s some give and take. I love performing- that’s who I am.”
“I’m confident. I’m straight. If you’re gay, that’s fine, but I’m personally not. It’s nothing to dissuade me from doing it. I’ve been blessed- I’ve always played sports, too. So, luckily I don’t get it as bad as other boys do as I don’t read off as feminine,” Snapp said. “... But it’s all in their heart, and not what you see on the outside.”
“Feel empowered about it. If people are making those kind of comments and making fun of you, put a smile on your face and say, ‘Yeah, I was a homosexual onstage,” Rogers said.”’But that’s the character that I portrayed. I did a good job doing it, and it was funny.’”
A common misconception- men aren’t supposed to have feelings. If they cry, that makes them unmanly. Feelings are for girls.
And because acting is feeling emotions as a different person, that makes it totally girly, and totally gay.
They all strongly disagree.
“...Just imagine Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. He is masculinity, but I don’t feel that I’ve had to give up anything to do this. I’m still the same,” said Snapp. “...My dad is a counselor, so my family’s always stressed the vitality and importance of sharing your feelings. I’ve always been outward with how I feel.”
Indication of emotion is not an indicator of homosexuality.
“Of course, there’s that stigma that guys should just be strong, [like] bricks. But then, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that a true man is able to share his feelings. And I love how theater can be an extension of that,” Snapp said. “When you really think about it, I can be much more a man than a guy who never shares anything.”
There are prominent male figures in theater who also feel emotions,and there’s no assumption of homosexuality surrounding them at all.
“...‘Hey, when you grow up do you wanna be like Leonardo Dicaprio? You wanna be Matthew McConaughey?’ Like, who’s not gonna say ‘yes’ to that?” Peterson said.“I think it’s very freeing. To be able to become someone else and feel their emotions. You might be playing a character who’s experiencing things you’ve never experienced, and that’s very eye-opening to how to psychologically understand how people can think and act.”
Although, they aren’t gay, there are some guys in theater who are. They point out that theater has helped them greatly with how to act with them. They’re a person first, Peterson emphasizes, and their sexuality has nothing to do with any other aspect of their life. Being around them feels no different than being around a straight person.
Rogers clarifies that being straight isn’t normal, and being anything other than that isn’t abnormal. It’s just how something is.
Being in theater has created situations and experiences for them that they would never experience anywhere else.
With this in mind, they all have a personal definition of what it means to be “masculine”.
“I just want to stress the importance that true manhood is the ability to express your emotions. Being able to go deep, and being able to express your emotions profoundly- you can’t just emulate that by being a big guy,” Snapp said. “You’re acting tough, but we’re all humans. We’re all meant to feel, so if you can’t express that, you’re missing out on so much of life.”
“[If] masculinity is being muscular and doing a sport, yeah, I’m not masculine, then. I don’t do a sport,” Rogers said. “If masculinity is taking pride in what you do, and being comfortable with who you are- then I’m the most masculine person I know.”