I have a dream that
my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr., 28 August 1963
One of the most jarring dissonances I observe between Adam Lambert fans and those who are not is how they react to Adam as a man. This often manifests in a comment that we have all seen directed to his female fans: “How can you find him sexy when he’s gay?” The women I know who appreciate Adam have mastered a catchall response; one I have seen used on Twitter, blogs and in person: “Sexy is sexy.”
For me the circumstances are different. While I can clearly see that Adam is a sexy man and I wholeheartedly understand why so many women fawn over him, I am not sexually attracted to him. Still, I find myself questioned about why I like Adam. Too often, these inquiries take the form of challenging either Adam’s manhood or my own.
“Oh, you like Adam Lambert? He was good on Idol but he looks like such a girl.”
“Is Adam turning you gay?”
“I see you’re listening to your boyfriend’s album again.”
As a confident person with a good sense of humor, I typically parry with a clever riposte. Yet, I admit it can become tiresome. Why should I feel like any less of a man for liking the work of a gay performer? More important, why should anyone presume that Adam Lambert is any less of a man just because he is a gay man?
If it’s true that sexy is sexy, then it’s just as true that manly is manly.
For too long, men have sought to establish their heterosexual bona fides by distancing themselves from gayness. Just this week, as I was boarding an airplane, I had to slide into an occupied row to let some people pass. As it happened, there was a delay and I stood there for a minute or two, with my waist only a few inches from a man who was seated before me. To lighten the mood I said, “You know, if they don’t clear the aisle soon, I’m going to have to buy you a drink.” His response was disappointing, if not predictable: “Oh, man, I don’t wanna even think about that. I’m looking left, I’m looking right; I’m trying to ignore it.”
I suppose it’s his loss if he can’t appreciate the humor of having a crotch unceremoniously thrust in his face on an airplane.
Dr. King’s call a generation ago still rings clear. Much progress has been won for our brothers and sisters of color, but even as the mountaintop draws nearer a challenging summit looms ahead. While never forgetting his original dream, I have a new hope for the years ahead. By the time today's children reach maturity, I am confident that society will redefine what it means to be manly.
Gone will be superficial things that create the illusion of manliness. Brawny men with muscles bigger than their minds will be out, replaced by men of strong character, inspiring talents and lofty intellect. Also gone will be men who tear others down just to enhance their own egos or those who disrespect people because they want to get them into bed or, more likely, because they can’t.
Being a man has nothing at all to do with how one looks and everything to do with how one acts. It doesn’t matter if you are tall or short, wear makeup or have a beard, speak in a deep baritone or a higher-pitched lilt. It doesn’t matter how you walk or how you talk or how you look.
Being a man is, at its core, what is always has been: acting with integrity, being loyal, loving those who love you, respecting others, leading when you need to lead and following when a better leader emerges.
Sexy is sexy.
Manly is manly.
And Adam Lambert is one of the manliest men around.