Daniel Hernandez Jr. and the 'Real Man'

8.27.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

Homophobic smears of Giffords hero keep stereotype alive, but for how long?

Jason Collins, a basketball player known for his aggression on the court, came out this earlier year. Neil Patrick Harris did the same in 2006, after the heartthrob's had already regained fame for playing a womanizer on a popular sitcom. And Orlando Cruz, a man who makes living in the boxing ring, revealed his homosexuality last year. None of these men, or millions of others, fit into the outdated stereotype of the limp-wristed, flamboyant, "sissy boy" that remains associated with gay men. Yet here we are, in 2013, and anti-gay conservatives are accusing Daniel Hernandez Jr., a public servant who saved former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords's life after she was shot (and an Out100 honoree), of not being a "real man."

As you may have heard, Hernandez ran for and won a seat on Arizona's Sunnyside Unified School District in 2011 (he also wrote a YA book about that experience along with the pivotal day with Giffords, titled They Call Me a Hero), but is currently being recalled along with four of the other five members of the board. The recall has nothing to do with sexuality — it's all internal board politics — but that hasn't stopped Hernandez's opponents from distributing flyers that definitely make this personal.

"Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board," it says, before continuing, "Daniel Hernandez is LGBT...We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who hates our values.” "Real men" can't be gay, and gay men can't like sports of children, according to Hernandez's anonymous opponents.

Though unsettled by the hateful messaging, Hernandez seems to be taking it with a grain of salt. "I’ve had a target on my back from my fellow board members for awhile because I don’t go with the flow, and if something doesn’t sound right or make sense, I call them out on it," he told The Huffington Post. “My governing board president has started the recall process on me, with the people who are his friends and closest allies in the community. I’m not overly concerned they’re going to get the 1,300 signatures, but just the negative tone and nature of the way they’re doing it has been really bothersome and upsetting. It’s disheartening that this is where we are in 2013, that people think it’s okay to put out these kinds of flyers about anybody.”

"Disheartening" doesn't even begin to describe this unwholesome tactic, and this all makes me wonder whether will gay men ever escape archaic stereotypes? Will gay men as a whole be seen for what we are: a diverse group of people with different tastes, phenotypes, weight classes, and experiences? And, more importantly, can't we be the sum of our parts, not just one of them? Can we be both limp-wristed and masculine? What is a real man, anyway? But the most important question here, and perhaps the easiest to answer, is why do Hernandez's cowardly opponents refuse to identify themselves?

(Image via Right Wing Watch.)

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