Acceptance to the extreme: Identifying sexuality has become a spectator sport

Rolling Stone’s cover featuring Shawn Mendes

We live in the most progressive era for the LGBTQ+ community because of the help of the media, giving access to a platform for individuals where they believe they can be heard and understood. However, that same acceptance is pressuring individuals into boxes that might not apply to them.

Recently, Shawn Mendes had an interview with Rolling Stone, “Shawn Mendes: Confessions of a Neurotic Teen Idol” (which can be found here) in where he explained the pressures he faces everyday of how he acts and who he is seen with. He makes conscience decisions of how to appear, and although the pop star has explained that being gay isn’t “a bad thing,” he is still constantly worried about how he is portrayed.

For the past five years, the idol has had to constantly deny being gay, to the point of feeling he had to prove that he wasn’t through how he acts every time he’s in the eye of the public. The young artist’s perspective came up on a Snapchat story, in an emotional video where he simply said “First of all, I’m not gay. Second of all, it shouldn’t make a difference if I was or wasn’t.”

He went into more of the great lengths that people have gone to prove that he is gay, pointing out things from certain hand gestures to even way he crosses his legs. Shawn Mendes’ sexuality and proving his sexuality, despite his protests, have become a “a spectator sport,” according to Rolling Stone, and has forced the celebrity to analyze himself critically. He has labeled himself as “extremely neurotic;” just at only 21 years old, yet constantly second guessing his actions.

In the world today, we have much to be grateful for: On-demand live streaming shows. Self-driving cars have become reality. And most relevant, people have become advent advocates to gay rights. For example, just recently Virgin Atlantic launched the Pride Flight project with an all LGBTQ+ crew due to fly in June 2019 (which tickets can be bought now here). Although this spur of LGBTQ+ pride is a major breakthrough compared to previous years, there is of course, as many good things, another side.

Using Shawn Mendes’s interview as an example, have we gone too far into our acceptance? Are we pushing our welcoming committee so far that puts labels on people who don’t want them? YouTuber for eight years, Connor Franta recently made a video, “On ‘Assuming Someone is Gay’,”  voicing his thoughts about the Rolling Stone interview with Shawn Mendes (which can be found here) and even gives his own perspective and the pressures he felt before coming out.

Although Mendes is straight and Franta isn’t, Mendes is now going through what Franta had to go through before he came out; both men had/have to censor themselves and be overly cautious of their actions. Franta goes more into depth about the pressures of identity as a whole, in addition to focusing on Shawn Mendes. He implores his viewers and society to “stop judging people on archaic stereotypes” and even moreso to stop assuming someone’s identity based on what is presented through “Hollywood and the media.”

Franta brings up the point that “stereotypes don’t mean sh*t,” and although the subject is focusing on the stereotypes of gay men portrayed to the general public, this can be applied to all stereotypes for there are stereotypes for all types of  appearances: height, weight, race, accent, dress, etc. If we all know that stereotypes don’t mean anything or don’t apply to people that fall into the group the stereotype is targeted for, then why are we suddenly using those same stereotypes to put people into groups when they have constantly (and respectfully) explained they don’t apply?

Let’s continue accepting those that have in the past been ostracized or left out based on their identity and who they are, but don’t assume who they are before they have even told you, or in Mendes’s case, don’t deny their identity and force another one on to them.

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