Soup or salad?

This post is prompted by a discussion that I have been having over with someone at Facebook.  It is also based on my beliefs, at least some of them, in relation to culture, our cultural identities, and how most persons in society view others.


Adam Lambert, American Idol’s second place winner, for those of you who don’t know him, is on the cover of this week’s Rolling Stone magazine.  In it, he definitively comes out as a gay man.  His style is flamboyant, his singing brilliant, and his energy is contagious, my my opinion.  Yet, there is some sense that his coming out does little good for the LGBT community; there are others that believe that his coming out is a great asset for LGBT persons everywhere.  And, this is where that difference of opinion seemed to get stuck:  his persona, or appearance.


For some in this discussion, they believed that it is all well and good that Adam is flamboyant, unique, AND gay, but that by being that way, he is not a good poster person for the LGBT community, because he doesn’t appear “mainstream” enough for the general public to tolerate that image.  Others of us believe that he is unique, and youthful, and absolutely applaud him as coming out.  That takes guts, no matter how comfortable you are with it.  AND, that members of the LGBT community, whether celebrity or not, are not here to make our appearance or selves more “pallatable” to the general public, in order for them to feel that we are deserving of equal marriage, equal rights, hate crimes legislation, or fair treatment in general. 


To associate one’s appearance, whether it be what we are born with or create our appearance to be, with what our sexual orientation is, to cater to that is to perpetuate myths, generalizations and stereotypes.  It diminishes the fact of who we are as people, by thinking that if we are not in an appropriate enough “package”, we might not get the rights that we are looking for.


I just don’t see that as the best way to approach it.


If we respond to stereotyping, homophobia, heterosexism, whatever the issue is, by appearing in a way that our dissenters feel most comfortable with, rather than who we really are or want to be, then we are submitting to every one of those stereotypes.  If Adam as himself, flamboyant dresser with black nails and a colorful story, says that he is gay and proud of it, is there a danger that some people may associate the LGBT community in general with that image?  Possibly. They might also possibly associate it with Ellen Degeneres and Portia DeRossi, and the fact that they are married.  They might associate it with Chastity Bono, who is now coming out stating that she is having gender reassignment surgery.


That doesn’t mean that we have to only present our most “mainstream” LGBT celebrities to represent our cause.  I don’t think so anyway.  I think what we need to do, instead, is to educate and inform the general public about what we are and what we are not.  And, we are not in some predictable package.


American culture, of which sexual/affectional orientation is one part of, has historically be defined as a melting pot.  America was the place where millions of immigrants came and thus this country became a melting pot of cultures, appearances, beliefs and the like.  A cream soup, if you will.  All the cultures come into one country, and eventually, even though there are many different types of cultures in the cream soup pot, all of the ingredients blend into one, so that the premise is that we are all the same, we are all one.  There are no major differences.


The more current descriptor that is often used to describe American and the cultures within it is the salad bowl.  The salad bowl is made up of several different ingredients, various colors, shapes, sizes, tastes and textures.  When you mix up all of those ingredients, every one of those cultural identities, they become part of the salad, BUT, they also maintain their individual identity.  They stay tomato, a cucumber, an avocado.  Those unique qualities are intact, and only serve to enhance and add to the overall flavor of the salad, the culture, the society.  Me, I’m a salad girl, for sure.


We all want to connect with human beings, with other people that we have common experiences with.  We all want to be heard and understood.  We may even want to know that there is someone out there in the world who represents part of who we are and what we are about.  However, I believe it is dangerous to think that we should generally think that we need to put forth a certain image for others, on behalf of a segment of our cultural identity, especially if it is to make others comfortable, or to put forth our rights.


The civil rights movement didn’t become a movement by staying quiet, by complying with what others thought their representation should look like.  It became mighty by many persons of many races and many different walks of life getting involved and stepping up.


So, think about it.  Would you prefer soup, or salad? 


13 thoughts on “Soup or salad?

  1. I have to admit, I didn’t pay much attention to Adam Lambert coming out. Now, Neil Patrick Harris? YES.

    Not because I was sad or anything, but because he seemed to get 100% MORE AWESOME overnight. I wonder if holding back in one area meant that he held back in others, or maybe he just felt more secure of himself in general. (As often comes with age.) But regardless, NPH is now one of my favorite ‘famous people’ because he is chock full of awesome. CHOCK FULL.

  2. Molly: Thanks, I kind of thought you might be a salad fan!

    Hayden: I am with you on that; his coming out, that being NPH, has released him to just be himself, in a full, real way. Yeah, he has got awesome down pretty darned well.

    Viv: If you must!

  3. Wow, what an interesting topic, and one that obviously goes much deeper than the title of soup or salad. I’m a big believer in just being yourself. People some times try to put a mold on a group of people, and I think even if you are grouped in the “gay” category, not one person is alike.

    From your descriptions, I’m definitely a salad girl, which surprised me, cause I don’t eat veggies. 😀

  4. Isn’t it nice when we surprise ourselves by who we are???? LD

    Yeah, Leah, you are so right, that no two people, even when part of a similar cultural group, are the same, or are affected in the exact same way about their experiences. We need to keep that in mind, and I think we forget about it much of the time, because it takes longer to really get to know someone, than to assume that we know about their personhood based on what groupings that they belong to.

    Doing it the best way takes longer, but is of higher quality and better pay off to the soul!!

  5. this is really funny – i was just talking with my mom about the salad vs the melting pot idea . . .

    about adam lambert . . . when the suggestion was made (on lots of news shows) that he took second only because he “looked gay” – that was one of those stereotyping things that piss me off. i didn’t get to watch much of idol this time around, but i do agree that adam was the better singer. guess what? the better singer (chris daughtry for example) has taken second before and gets a much more lucrative record deal than what the american idol winner is stuck with for a year. so maybe taking second in idol is actually the better spot to be!

    anyway – that was sort of off the topic.
    the salad thing. lets put it this way. i like salad. but i don’t like every vegetable that could go in a salad. so, maybe i am content to let an onion be an onion, but that doesn’t mean i’m putting one on my salad. i don’t think that onions should be banned or burned, though. ummm, for example, i know leah and i don’t think that she’ll mind if i use her as an example . . . her in-laws are from egypt. i bet they celebrate some holidays that i don’t celebrate, and i bet leah has started to celebrate some of those holidays with them. they have meaning for her because they have meaning for her husband. i think that’s wonderful! i don’t think that should get melted down and everyone in america only celebrates the same set of holidays. what makes you, you? as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others, be you!

    maybe it’s even like a salad bar – and we each add to our dish what we want? but we don’t go running down the salad bar throwing out the containers that hold the things that aren’t going on our salad. you know, languages, traditions, cultures, likes, preferences, religions – there are so many, and our country is so huge . . .

    hmmm, my salad starts with being swedish and german and speaking english, being a born-again christian, growing up in a home with parents who have stayed married to each other, and who taught us kids certain values and ethics and ideas. added to that are my years at school (both private and public), the bits of spanish i’ve learned, the reading i’ve done, the emotions i have, the experiences in my life, jobs i’ve done, friends i have, ideas i like, conversations i’ve had, research i’ve done, interests i’ve had or do have now . . . . it goes on and on. my salad is growing, and will continue to grow all through my life. i want to learn more about the ingredients on the salad bar, and as i do, a bit of that ingredient will make it’s way into my salad . . .

    so . . . there. that’s what you get from me today. 🙂

  6. “I think what we need to do, instead, is to educate and inform the general public about what we are and what we are not. And, we are not in some predictable package.” No one, no matter their sexual orientation, are predictable. We need to stop boxing people based on any orientation, race, gender, or anything. Let people be who they are!!! I’m sure that this man would not have won, had he have pretended to be anything less than what he is! I applaud the winner for being who he is and I applaud YOU for recognizing that we all are individuals who make up a grand, colorful, beautiful, tasty, wonderful, sald; of which if one ingrediant were missing, it would not be the same!

    Love ya Ness!!! 🙂

  7. Interesting post, I have always though things would be much better if we could just stop and see things and people for who they are. There is so much emphasis placed on image and fitting in to roles and stereo types that internally we develop a conflict between self and image, and often image wins, we become what we preceive others want to see, to avoid standing out, to avoid being the victim of abuse etc, in effect in so doing we loose the very core of us, of who we are…… People are a strange mix, society further complicates that mix and rules and regulations of normality etc enhance and gel that mix, some how some way in this crazy attempt at living we forget to breath we forget to live and see the true beauty of those around us, there was a time when the world was black and white for me, but I opened my eyes and the colours came and the world changed….everything is as it is, we just need to accept grow and learn…my thoughts anyway

  8. I wasn’t purely being facile; I just instinctively feel there is another way. Though what it is, I do not know…

  9. Vanessa, the metaphor of soup or salad is such a great one to nudge deep thinking.

    I like Elizabeth’s comment about likes and dislikes and the salad bar. I’m a salad woman, both literally and figuratively. I don’t really like onions, and always remove them from my salads. But there is one salad I get that doesn’t taste right if the onions are left off. I still don’t eat them, but not putting them on makes that particular salad taste bland. (and onions never go to waste, my husband loves them!)

    Life is like that. We need all the parts of humanity. We need the different colors and textures, the different cultures, religions, holidays, sexual orientations, lifestyles, politics, ages, etc. If we are a soup, it is much more paella than cream of asparagus!

  10. elizabeth: Great thoughts about taking what we most like, not because we have an aversion/hatred for the other items, they are just not part of our experiences. Makes sense to me. In real true life, I like both soup and salad, but enjoy salad the best, especially a really good salad bar. Sometimes I like to try something new, and sometimes, I just pick my old standbys. Whatever I do, it is always a mixture, and one that each item maintains its integrity even after I douse it with balsamic vinegarette……..

    Cordie: You are right; we as a society get so prone to just clumping people together. And, the truth is, it is comfortable to meet others like ourselves; helps us feel not so lost in the world. However, if we assume those similarities belong to all members, or even, most members, of a certain group, we don’t allow for individuality, which is essential to really get to know one another.

    Duma Key: Isn’t life that much sweeter and fulfilling when it becomes color as opposed to black and white? The whole world opens up!!!!!!

    Viv: keep thinking on this; I want to hear more of the more that is out there……..

    Tiny: You are so right; we need all of the parts; every delicious, different, exciting part. It keeps life rich with experience and joy!!!!!

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