The modern gay male: Consumer profile research- “A”
The social butterfly
Issue: Lacking representation
A was the first gay man I interviewed for this series and I learned a lot about what it means to be a queer, social extrovert in the traditionally introverted, clean-cut environment that is finance. Outgoing and social, A has always known inside his intentions are to work in a face-to-face, people centric environment. In some respect, his degree of finance has opportunity in that way; working with clients on investment portfolios, building meaningful relationships and establishing a solid reputation coinciding with that theme. However, as revealed throughout the interview, representation has squandered that idea in the eyes of a young, gay finance major.
Somehow organically, A began with “I realized with what I wanted to get out of my life, maybe finance wasn’t for me.”
Right off the bat, we may be asking ‘Why is that? ‘ A revealed that he believes several reasons are attributable to his difficulties finding his place in the professional world of finance as a young gay man. “I always knew I wanted to go into finance, I have a math brain,” but acknowledging, “I didn’t really think of the lifestyle.” I wanted to understand the lifestyle portion, and he expanded upon the topic, stating as another point “I never realized as a gay man where we stand. I put myself lower than others. In classes I’m surrounded by straight white people, no one’s doing it to me, but it’s like I’m personally beating myself up, comparing myself to others. Kind of like women in the workplace.”
Clearly, there is a reason why someone would either consciously or subconsciously be inclined to be self- critical to the extent of doubting their path into the future. I asked A his thoughts on how representation directly impacted his experience both academically and personally, and he brought up the reality of suppression. “Employers are gonna go for, naturally, the straight people. I feel like I’m naturally put at a disadvantage because of my sexuality.”
This was interesting, because I was wondering what experience he had which created this perception. “Why do you think you have this preconceived notion that this is going to happen to you?” I asked. “I feel I have to put in extra effort to match everyone else,” being straight professionals, “people look at me like I’m immature, like I’m a crazy, wild gay person. I think professionals would look down on me because of how…gay I am.”
Playing devil’s advocate, I argued, “There’s a difference between personality and sexuality. I think you’re confusing the two in terms of introspection.” A replied, “I know what you’re saying but I feel like when it comes to my personality a lot of this comes from me being gay, being flamboyant. It has its ties to promiscuity and theatrics, and I beat myself up. In a professional workplace sense, I just think the whole flamboyant gay thing is not a thing. Have you ever seen someone like me be a financial advisor?”
I brought up the topic of being in the closet, “There might be people like that but they’re very repressed.” I further praised A for living his truth and reiterated there are and will be people hiding because they are intimidated by an unwelcoming, underrepresented sector.
While on the topic of representation, I wanted to get his opinion on pop culture, media and the stereotypical identity of our community. “I think its entertainment,” I said. A then agreed, saying “People like to paint us out as dramatic and stereotypes are very strong. Our stereotypes are so very strong in media, you know, gay-best-friend” he replied.
We then agreed on noticing some inclusive commercials starting to rise, but he believes “The gays on social media are vultures, easily offended and trying to not walk on eggshells. People are bending with that to fit in.”
“I hear what you’re saying about commercials,” I said, “what kind of ads or brands would you want more representation in for our community?” This is when things got real.
“More in the finance sector. Business. Inspiration. I’m struggling because I don’t see myself in the finance industry and it’s not because I’m not good at finance but me as a person I don’t fit in…Even my finance internship.”
We paused. “Everyone treated me amazing…People were so nice, I loved it. This could be just a ‘me’ thing, but I could sense everyone was stepping on eggshells around me, making sure I was well-fit-in and it made me feel weird. Didn’t want to make me feel different. Us gay people, we can see right through that. Previous interns? Straight white jocks.”
“This says a lot,” I replied, asking “Do you think it has to do with the gay community being underrepresented in the finance world?” He agreed, “I definitely don’t think that’s out-of-pocket; I can’t wrap my head around me being in the finance industry. How do I act? Do I repress myself more?”
I asked him, “Do you think the way you repress yourself now would continue into the future?” “I would change things up,” A said, “I wouldn’t repress myself as much.” “What about starting your own firm and defining what gay finance is?” I asked, “The less a community is represented, the less awareness.” “Well,” A said, “In part…Lack of representation doesn’t make me see myself in finance at all.”