You won't believe what straight men are doing
Eric Anderson paced up and down the stairs of the packed McCarthy Arts Center on April 8, speaking without a microphone to the riveted crowd, which ended with his first ever standing ovation.
“It’s an awesome day to be in Vermont,” he said, the day after the Equal Marriage Bill passed in the Vermont legislature.
His speech was entitled “You won’t believe what straight men are doing” and it detailed everything from his own story of coming out as a gay man to his experiences as a teacher in Bath, England.
|Anderson discussed his personal experience of coming out.
(Photo by Lucia Suarez)
Anderson was brought here by Common Ground, the gay-straight alliance group on campus. Dustin Hunter, a member of Common Ground, studied abroad in Bath, and was able to meet him and bring him to St. Michael’s, Erika Ahbel, junior Common Ground member, said.
Anderson said in the speech he knew he was gay from the age of 7 or 8 while living in Orange County, Calif., a very conservative area. He didn’t know any gays or lesbians while he was growing up, he said, which made for a very hard childhood, driving him to become suicidal.
“Preachers were advocating the death penalty for gays,” he said. “It’s no wonder I tried to kill myself.”
By the time he was 24, and a track coach at his old high school in Orange County, he said he was the most miserable he had ever been because he had to keep his sexuality a secret.
In 1993, when he was 25, he decided to come out and said he called 75 people in one night, and not one of them had a problem with him being gay.
“It was an unbelievable sense of relief,” he said.
When he came out to his team, he became America’s first openly gay high school coach, a title which Anderson said he didn’t even know he was receiving. His runners were very supportive of him, he said, however others in the school weren’t.
“I went from being the most popular teacher to the most hated,” he said.
After years of struggle, Anderson said gay men are becoming more and more accepted and it is getting better for them, but to a certain point.
“Just as we are beginning to accept gay men now, we still accept them more if they are masculine,” he said. “There’s still some phobia against femininity amongst men. And that’s regardless of whether they’re gay or straight.”
|The crowd turns their heads to follow Anderson as he walks through the aisles.
(Photo by Lucia Suarez)
Ahbel said her favorite part of the speech was when Anderson talked about those automatic assumptions we make about people based on the way they present themselves.
“He talked about the ways in which a person sits to make us assume they are gay,” she said.
This is where the notion of “homo-hysteria” is coming from, Anderson said. Homo-hysteria is a hysteria about being thought gay, so men overcompensate by being overly masculine, he said.
Junior Beth Dellipriscoli, who attended the speech, said she thought that was the most valid and interesting point, the restrictions society puts on males, and their masculinity, from acting completely freely.
Anderson, for the last few years, has lived in Bath, England with his boyfriend and studies mainly the actions of straight men towards each other, but also studies those of gay men. He said straight men in England show affection towards each other by kissing on the lips, and it is not seen as gay or anything to be looked down upon.
“This is the death of the polarization of sexuality,” Anderson said. “There is a contempt for homosexuality.”
Anderson showed dozens of pictures of his straight male students kissing each other, to the crowds chuckles and “aww”s.
“This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Anderson said about one of the pictures.
Many of his straight male students even make out with each other and cuddle together, he said. This is also debunking the “one-time rule,” that two men even just kissing once makes them both gay, and there are no assumptions.
“What makes you gay is when you say ‘I’m gay’,” he said. “How wonderful is that?”
This movement has only been happening for a few years in England, Anderson said, but he thinks it is moving to the United States.
A growing movement
|Anderson studies the actions of straight men toward one another.
(Photo by Lucia Suarez)
Dellipriscoli said she thinks eventually this notion of straight men kissing will move to the United States.
“It won’t be in the immediate future,” she said. “I think there are still parts of the U.S. that won’t accept that kind of emotional display of heterosexual men.”
Ahbel said she believes that we could see straight men kissing in the U.S., but it will probably take some time.
“It’s not going to happen tomorrow, it’s not going to happen next year,” she said. “But, the generation that my parents grew up in is far different than the one I live in now. Give it 20 years and maybe we’ll see.”
Anderson said the level of homophobia in the U.S. has decreased, and he has studied colleges and universities from all over the country, in all areas, and men are starting to engage in these affectionate activities. Anderson said he hopes more men will “express love to their straight mates.” He said he believes this decrease is because the younger people aren’t bothered by homosexuality the way older generations are.
“Times are changing and the youth get credit for reducing homophobia,” he said. “Your generation goes down in history as putting the nail in the coffin of homophobia.”