Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a lifestyle as such.
:the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture
In its purest of forms this make people calling how LGBT people live a lifestyle correct. BUT, one thing they are forgetting is that we do not refer to the heterosexual way of life as a lifestyle. We do not refer to it as a choice. It is just what they do. This is why the word has garnered such a bad reputation among the LGBT population.
There are plenty of words that have been used to describe LGBT people. Most of which are no longer acceptable to say despite their more traditional meanings. Calling some one gay in a derogatory manner is frowned upon. Yet no one remembers what its original meaning is. The same is said for the word queer. The word simply meant happy. It still does. No one complained about the film Nightmare Before Christmas when Jack Skelington sang the words ‘how queer”.
The song described Jacks new experiences in Christmas town. Its use of the word queer came from the more traditional definition so the audience had very little to complain about. Now had he said it about another character in the film I am sure it would have taken on a completely different meaning.
On the opposite end of this is the Green Day song American Idiot where the song used the line “maybe I’m the faggot america”. This caused an uproar and forced the song to be censored without even knowing the meaning of the lyrics. The following line in the song is “I’m not a part of the redneck agenda”. A very provocative statement. Especially in this era where the conservative movement has pushed harder to deny LGBT rights.The use of the word was all anyone heard. It was enough for an uproar. At least for those who are incapable of looking at the bigger picture.
The worse use I can remember over the last decade has been in some of my favorite films. I love watching Kevin Smith films. From Clerks all the way to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. These are great classic comedies that talked a lot about the culture at the time and often poked fun at it. Jay and Silent Bob Strike back had one joke though that pointed out a very dark look at his films for me. In it a female bad guy does something that is considered weird or abnormal. Her friend turns to her and simply says “you are so gay”.
As funny as his films are they quite often have very derogatory views on the LGBT community. I do excuse Chasing Amy from this because of the many LGBT issues and messages it gets across, but this only furthers my confusion when I think about it. The earlier films were a voice of their time. The early 90s were full of this kind of talk. By the turn of the decade though things were not so crude. So it made the comment in Jay and Silent Bob very uncomfortable.
Another great point of how those who aren’t labeled by the terms is when actor John Barrowman defended his use of the term tranny. In his opinion the trangendered people of the world should quit whining and be okay with the term. Yet I can only imagine how angry he would feel if he was casually referred to as a faggot and told to accept it because that is what he is to some people. He of anyone should have known better. The power of labels can be hurtful.
So why do I bring all this up you ask? As much as I would like to say I have a simple point I do not.The use of the word lifestyle in our current culture carries one meaning when regarding the LGBT community. It is a way for those who don’t understand LGBT people to understand what they consider to be a choice. This is the only answer I can think of that makes sense and this answer makes the term very unhealthy.
This version of the word has been around for a while. It was further re enforced to me over the weekend when a family member was talking about how she knows gay people and a gay friend was offended when she referred his lifestyle. She felt he was being to sensitive. I even told her as an example what if he was to refer to your religious views as a lifestyle. Yet she pointed out how its not a lifestyle and kept on saying how people are too sensitive.
Like I said earlier. No one refers to heterosexuality as a choice. We don’t refer to being human as a choice. We don’t even refer to ones religion as a lifestyle choice even though people chose which religion they believe in. So why should we hear about our “lifestyle” when it is naturally who we are?
What I personally hear when I hear my life being referred to as a lifestyle is that I have chosen a fetish that I live unhealthily. When I came out my sisters response was “that’s fine just keep it in the bedroom”. Like it was some sort of turn on. This opens up to a much bigger conversation for a later time. For now I want to stick to the issue at hand.
If you feel I missed the mark or see things differently please feel free to comment. I would love to talk about this.