Photo Credit: Jennifer Wu

If I had to describe myself in a simple way, I would say this: My name is Jeremy Brener, I’m 17 years old, and I’m from the great city of Houston. If I had to describe myself in a more detailed way, it would be a much harder task because there are many things I could say. I’m a sports guy. I check my phone for sports updates the minute I wake up in the morning. I’m Jewish. I love entrepreneurship and marketing. I love to write. I participate in Academic Decathlon. I’m also very passionate about human rights, specifically LGBT rights. I’m a bundle of things that float across the spectrum of interests. However, very rarely do you see these entire interests pique the mind of a single person. That person is me.

I’m also a senior in high school. I’m taking sociology. We had to write a paper about a stranger based on impressions. My teacher asked a series of questions and made observations about each student in an effort to reveal what everyone was like. Questions like:

“What is your favorite color?”

“What do you most look for in a romantic partner?”

“What would you do if the world were to end in 10 minutes?”

My teacher was insistent in receiving a definitive answer from everyone. You couldn’t beat around the bush. You had to answer the questions. Then, a question came along that I couldn’t answer.

“What most irritates you about the opposite sex?”

I was not the first to answer, and took my time to think about a response. My sociology class is 80% girls, and their most popular answer was that men are too insensitive. It hurt. I’m a sensitive guy, at times. (The part in Jerry Maguire when Dorothy says, “You had me at hello,” gets me every time. It’s my favorite movie.) You don’t have to be a guy to be insensitive, and girls can be as insensitive as guys. Gender doesn’t matter. Answers from the guys who had gone before me, were across the board. Most agreed, girls are too vain. But I was thinking, Guys can be vain, too!  I’m guilty of being vain. Right after I checkout my sports news in the morning, I check out myself in the mirror, making sure my hair looks sharp and point. (It does, almost all of the time.) I’ll admit it, I like to look at myself in the mirror. It’s a bad habit, but most people are guilty of being too vain, both men and women.

Then, it was my turn to answer. I paused. My mind went blank. One girl said, “It’s okay, you can say we are moody.” I replied, “Yes, but guys can be moody as well.”

I honestly didn’t have a good answer. Finally, I told my teacher I simply couldn’t answer the question. I told him I felt it was not right to stereotype girls’ and boys’ behaviors, or preconceived ideas of behaviors about anyone. Guys can be moody and vain. Or, they can like Barbie dolls and high heels as much as girls. Girls can be insensitive, enjoy football, or feel comfortable wearing a tuxedo. Gender does not matter.

My teacher accepted my answer.

I couldn’t give an answer I didn’t believe in, even if it was for an insignificant game in my sociology class. I want to live my life truthfully and honestly, and I simply carried out a moral of mine.

My opinion regarding gender stereotypes stems from my personality. I’m a gay guy who is interested in stereotypically “straight” things. Football is my church on Sundays during the fall. I wear T-shirts and athletic shorts six of seven days out of the week. When I go to college, I want to join a fraternity. I’m not a big fan of theatre. It’s not my thing, nor my crowd (sorry, theatre geeks. Y’all are wonderful people). If you saw me on the street, you might not think I’m gay. I don’t fit the “stereotypical” gay guy. I get to prove people wrong, and break stereotypes every day of my life. I love doing it.

Fracturing stereotypes is important to me. I’m very proud to be gay. It’s not something I want to hide from people. Yet, I do not want to be known as “the gay guy” to my friends. I’d much rather be “just one of the guys.” I am a guy, who lives and breathes sports, practices Judaism, and prefers to date guys. I am not “the gay guy.” I am not “the Jew.” I’m just a dude. That’s how I want others to see me.

For me to be seen and known as I wish, I have to be in charge of who I am and how I present myself. We, as a community, have to be in charge of who we are and how we present ourselves. Our characteristics should not define us, but our character and how we treat others should define us.

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Jeremy Brener, 17, will is a senior at Clements HS in the Houston area. He played soccer until an injury cut his career short, but it remains one of his favorite sports along with basketball and football. He can be reached via email (jeremybrenerchs@gmail.com) or Twitter (@BrenerJeremy).

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