Natasha Balaj Developing Adolescent Professor Dorney 12 April 2012 Matthew My interviewee's name is Matthew.

He is twenty years old and a student at SUNY New Paltz. His hometown is located in West Islip, Long Island. In high school, he was on the football team. That football team won the Long Island championship during his senior year. He is an amiable and social boy with many friends. In his spare time he enjoys playing sports with them. When he's alone, his hobbies include playing bass, playing video games and singing. Matt is a very compassionate family oriented person. Even though his parents are divorced, he still has a great relationship with both of them at the moment. When his parents first divorced, this was not the case. At one point, he ended up getting into such a large fight with his father that he did not talk to him for over a year after moving out of his father‟s house. Thankfully, Matthew has reconciled with his father and now considers his father his number one role model. Matthew also has a brother that he is very close to. His brother graduated from SUNY New Paltz two years ago and Matthew chose to come to New Paltz because of the fact that his brother attended. During an interview I set up with him, I asked him a series of questions about adolescent behavior. By the end of the interview, he confessed that he had told me things that he never discussed with anyone during our conversation. Both of us learned a lot from this experience.

While interviewing Matthew, I noticed that some of the topics he was talking about were topics that we have discussed in the classroom. These topics especially stood out to me considering I have been educated on these subjects. For instance, Matthew went into great detail about masculinity. What I found to be really interesting about Matthew‟s definition of masculinity was the fact that he mentioned homosexuality. When I asked him about his ideas about being a man/woman, he responded by saying “I try to, it‟s probably a problem, but I try to be a guy too much. If something‟s feminine or considered quote unquote gay I try to stay away from it. Not in a homophobic way. I don‟t care if somebody‟s gay, but I just don‟t find that masculine so I don‟t do it.” (Matthew) He considers himself a masculine guy and went on to say, “The epitome of everything you can define as masculine is how I would define it. Being able to fix a car, being able to take care of the person you‟re in love with being able to protect them, being able to take care of yourself, being tough, not showing emotions. Don‟t cry ever.” (Matthew) His ideals for what masculinity is seemed very specific. He also pointed out that if I were to ask ten different people the same question; I would get ten different answers. A fascinating point of our conversation was Matthew‟s views on races. His opinions were strong regarding how different races interact with one another. For example, “I think race kind of defines who you hang out with. I don‟t think that‟s right but that‟s how what I think.” (Matthew) When I asked Matthew his feelings about this, he elaborated in great detail. “People are going to hang out with who they want to hang out with. Going up to someone and telling them that they‟re wrong for not hanging out with a black person is stupid. Going up to someone and telling them that they‟re wrong for not

hanging out with a white person is stupid. People are going to hang out with who they want to hang out with. What I think about it doesn‟t really matter, because I like who I hang out with. Whether who I hang out with is white, black, green or blue, it doesn‟t matter. If someone thinks I hang out with too little or too many black people, then that‟s their problem and they have to get over it. I‟ve heard people say, „oh I think it‟s a problem that all the black people hang out with all the black people and all the white people hang out with the white people.‟ No, it‟s not. That‟s who they want to hang out with so that‟s who they‟re going to hang out with. If you assume that it‟s racist that they‟re not hanging out with the other race, then everyone‟s a racist, which they may not be. There are the occasional white kids hanging out with the black kids. Chances are, the way our society is structured, the black kids know more how it is to be black so they‟re going to have more in common.” (Matthew) These quotes reflect topics which were discussed in Professor Dorney‟s Developing Adolescents class such as homosexuality, masculinity and races. I found Matt‟s comments about his masculinity to be most interesting. The fact that he was discussing times that he has to reject anything girly or “gay” astounded me. As a girl, I‟ve never had an experience like this so it never occurred to me that men have to make a conscience effort to avoid girly or “gay” things. A straight person being asked if they are gay is nothing to be ashamed of. It is amazing how the word “gay” has become such a negative word that it has become a problem for people to be mistaken as gay. It should not be this way. Gay people have the same kind of feelings as anyone else. They are not less intelligent in any way and there is no difference between gay and straight people, aside from sexuality. Listening to Matthew talk about homosexuality made me

feel as if I was getting a reality check of how judgmental a society can become. I also experienced feelings of sadness and anger as I thought about how unfair gay people are treated in today‟s day and age. The idea of being gay is nothing new. People have been gay for centuries. The fact that there are still problems involving unequal treatment of gay people does not make sense. There is nothing out of the ordinary about being gay. Other than this, Matt‟s comments did not really surprise me. Like Matt, I‟ve sat down in a cafeteria to find that the tables are separated based on race. I felt a sense of understanding when we discussed this point. Even if someone only happens to hang out with their own race and no one outside of their race, there is still a good chance that that person is not a racist. It makes sense that people that look alike have a lot in common. In turn, people with a lot in common tend to become friends more easily than relationships between people that do not have many things in common. Because of this, it‟s not surprising to me that some people only talk to people that are their own race. I learned a lot from this conversation. For one, I know a lot more about my friend Matthew now. The experience was a good one and I believe that that conversation has strengthened our relationship. It was interesting to hear a male directly explain the roles that society expects of the male gender. The way Matt explained it helped me realize the great pressure that men feel to always keep on a manly façade. I never knew that men go out of their way to never cry no matter how upset they are. This idea seems absolutely ludacris. It is natural for people to feel sadness, and sometimes so much so that people cry. However, some guys will refuse to cry just to prove their manliness. When it comes to gay discrimination I did not learn a lot that was new. The fact that Matt mentioned staying away from “gay” things gave me a new perspective though.

It was a new way to look at how individual straight guys have to stay alert and never appear to be gay and put so much emphasis on appearing strong. Besides that, I already learned that gay people experience much discrimination. My mother once told me about how gay people were actually tied to trees in the eighty‟s and beaten just for being gay and this type of activity was called “gay bashing.” Anyone who feels that they have to bully someone for being gay has some sort of personal problems and should receive help. Racism is something that used to be a huge problem in our country, and is slowly fading away. It still is a problem, but not as large as it used to be. As Matt was explaining his feelings about races, I could relate to what he was saying so well. I concur with his idea that different races have more in common by just being that race. When talking about races, Matt believes that race defines who you hang out with. This type of ideology seemed a little biased. People that are a part of the same race tend to hang out with each other in groups, but no one is limited to who they hang out with. This separation of races is not good considering it implies that one group is better than the other one and victimizes the other groups. According to David Tatum in “The Development of White Identity,” the United States is a racist society. It is important that African Americans have a strong sense of identity and turn away from the racism that exists in society. In order to do this, Tatum has come up with a plan with several steps. The first step is the contact stage. This stage involves coming to terms with the fact that someone lives in a racist society. A lot of times people just assume that racism is the act of individuals acting out against other individuals. It must be made aware that racism also occurs on a larger scale. In fact some people are so racist that they join the Ku Klux Klan. This type of racism needs to be acknowledged and people must

understand why racist rationale is wrong. It would be impossible for such one large group of people to share one same bad quality. However every person in a race can share a physical feature. Because racism comes from judging someone based on physical features, it is not logical. The last stage is called autonomy. This stage is a slow process that involves redefining the white race. This is the most important step and occurs every day. It‟s slow because it is a process that is constantly changing. Basically, it is mixing different races‟ cultures together so that divisions between the races are abolished. (Tatum) Matthew claims that he is not homophobic, but yet he says he goes out of his way to stay away from anything feminine or “gay.” This may seem close minded, but it is likely that he acts in this way to protect himself so that he does not get bullied. In the book, “Dude You‟re a Fag,” by C.J. Pascoe, the author talks about a boy named Ricky who is gay. Ricky encounters so much bullying at his school that he didn‟t like to go and would try to skip as much as he possibly could. The word “fag” itself has multiple meanings. The most common meaning of this word when it is used is to refer to a gay person. However it is also commonly used as an insult to straight men. Apparently a straight man that is called a fag would be very offended at hearing this because sometimes being called a fag means not being a man. The word “fag” can also be interchangeable with dumb, stupid and many statements with negative connotations. For Ricky, he could always tell that he was gay. His difference between the other boys was quite noticeable and the other boys in his school did not accept Ricky because of it. It seems as if the straight boys were nervous around him because they didn‟t want

him to like them in a sexual way. They made comments about not wanting to go to school dances if Ricky wanted to go and they publically humiliated him on a regular basis. For whatever reason, there is a stereotype that if someone is gay, they have to be weak. This totally contradicts most definitions of masculinity. In turn, boys don‟t want to be anywhere near a place considered “gay” because they do not want to be mistaken as being gay. This is a homophobic reaction, which is having a negative reaction and feelings toward people that are homosexual. (Pascoe) There are two readings from to book “Guy Code” by Michael Kimmel, which explains how the average adolescent boy acts and what the average teenage boy would consider masculine. There is much emphasis on adolescent boys avoiding bullies. Certain characteristics of some boys make them targets to be picked on such as being smart or “geeky.” On the other hand, bullies tend to be considered very masculine. Being gay is also a characteristic that bullies pick on. This only happens to boys though. If a girl says that she is a lesbian, she is usually not picked on like a boy would be for being gay. The number one rule on “The Guy Code” was Boys Don‟t Cry. In Matthew‟s interview, he said that same thing when I asked him what he considers to be masculine. According to societal norms, men are supposed to ignore any sad feelings that they get. The text explains that this is probably not good for boys psychologically considering emotions are a natural response. They must act in this way because males want to appear masculine at all times with no exceptions. Suppressing sad feelings causes males to feel a disconnection within them though. This kind of disconnection leads to depression, which may be why guys are a lot more likely to commit suicide than adolescent girls. Bottling up emotions can also result in a rage of violence. After going into a rage, the emotions

are let out and the male feels pride. These acts are usually dangerous and could be avoided if guys would just let out their emotions, without worrying who is judging them.

One boy in the reading, “High School: Bootcamp for Guyland” has his story told. He was fourteen years old and very thin. Because he was not a large kid, bullies found him as an easy target to pick on. When they would bully him, they would call him “faggot” and “gay” and Michael would cry. He was neither of these names. This boy was continuously harassed and tortured. After Michael took so much abuse, he decided to bring a rifle to school. That day he killed three peers in a prayer circle. He was sent to jail and is now serving a life sentence. This child undeniably was mentally unstable, but it is likely that this incident would not have occurred if Michael were not bullied. The text mentions that he only brought the rifle to school so that he could gain respect from the other boys, but never got that respect. There is a lot of bullying that goes on during the adolescent stages and I can understand why Matthew avoids anything girly or “gay” after reading a story like this. The author of this book gives advice on how to handle gay discrimination in school. There should be anti-bullying policies with consequences for breaking the rules. Students that are experiencing anxiety and fear should be offered some sort of resilience such as a safe place. The author also believes that when bullying occurs, parents teachers and government should be involved. (Kimmel) Listening to Matt talk made it obvious to me that our society has a lot of problems that need to be fixed. It may take a long time for total change to occur, but every little change counts. It is important that the divisions between races and sexualities are

acknowledged. After making these differences known, people can start redefining them. This is necessary for humans to live in peace. If each race understood and respected each other‟s differences, the hatred between these groups of people can be taken away. I believe that this is necessary in order to better the human condition.

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