Some gay stereotypes aren’t so bad—and you might fit more of them than you think!
When it comes to the subject of stereotypes in the gay community, it seems you can never be right. If you’re masculine, you’re hiding who you really are. If you’re feminine, you’re reinforcing stereotypes and setting the movement back. There are arguments for either side—some more convincing than others—but it doesn’t have to be so black and white. While people shouldn’t make generalizations about any group of people, when it comes to stereotypes about the gay community, some of them aren’t so bad.
Not that you should try to fit a mold just because you’re gay, but you definitely shouldn’t reject certain ideas out of a fear of being seen as a stereotype. And I’m not trying to stereotype, but if you look closely and read between the lines, you may find that you fit more stereotypes than you think. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of stereotypical traits that I think everyone—not just gay guys—should aspire to in some way.
Be into fashion.
At it’s worst, fashion can be shallow and limiting, but at it’s best fashion is about self-expression and making yourself look and feel amazing. You don’t have to be to be Tim Gunn or look like a GQ model, but learn what clothes make you look your best. Because knowing how to dress yourself so that you look put-together and confident can be a good first step to being put-together and confident. After all, once you know what works for you, you can stop worrying about whether or not you look good and focus on more important things, whether it’s having fun on a date with a cute guy or totally acing a job interview.
Don’t feel particularly put-together or confident? You can also try using fashion to express something else altogether—whether it’s your gender identity, personality or mood. No matter what message you’re trying to communicate with your clothing, knowing how to express yourself through what you wear—even if it’s saying, ‘I don’t care about fashion’ by wearing jeans and a tee—is fashion.
Be a great cook.
Cooking is a great skill to have. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that has been gendered by society as being for women and because of that, many men who have an interest in cooking are assumed to be gay. In reality, the culinary industry is a male-dominated industry that thrives on the “high-testosterone” working environment, according to the Advocate. This can make the industry tough to break into—especially for gay men who are perceived as effeminate and women, who are underpaid and underrepresented in commercial kitchens.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a five-star chef to know how to do your favorite dish justice. If you’re a beginner, try out some simple recipes to get comfortable in the kitchen. Make your goal to learn how to make one great dish. Not only will you be able to feed yourself, you’ll be able to whip up an impressive meal for friends, family and maybe even a date. Who knows, maybe learning how to cook will add a spark to your love life? At the very least, it’s sure to be a blast.
Femininity is a controversial issue in the gay community. It makes sense—after all, a lot of gay stereotypes are based on the assumption that gay men want to be women. And while those assumptions are based on outdated stereotypes of women, many of those “feminine” traits can be used for good. You don’t have to wear high heels and watch Lifetime and cry during the Notebook—not that any of those things are inherently feminine (after all, who doesn’t cry during the Notebook?)—but everyone can benefit from embracing certain aspects of their “feminine” side.
According to communication experts, there are both “masculine” and “feminine” communication styles. While the labels are pretty outdated, the idea is that any person can have a mixture of the two communication styles, with the “feminine” side representing a more open, emotional and empathetic approach. There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles, so it’s a good idea to try to strike a balance. However, it could be beneficial for more masculine-oriented people to explore some of the “feminine” aspects of their communication style. It could help you get closer to your friends and maybe even make some new connections!
A sort of combination of the feminine and fashionable stereotype is the stereotype of the “fierce” gay man. He’s a fashionista—he knows (and rocks) all the latest trends, probably wears eyeliner and has better eyebrows than Kim Kardashian. He’s hot and he knows it. And, contrary to popular belief, it’s not the clothes or the make-up that make this guy fierce—it’s his confidence.
So maybe you’re not into fashion the same way he is. Maybe you don’t get your eyebrows done. Maybe you don’t know who Kim Kardashian is. That doesn’t mean you can’t be fierce. Because while many people use the world to refer to a specific type of person or aesthetic—usually bold, in-your-face styles and the people who rock those looks—being unapologetically yourself, no matter what that looks like, is what’s really fierce.
Be out & proud.
“Out & proud” is a nice way of putting one of the major complaints people usually have with “stereotypical” gay people. “Why do they have to be so in-your-face about it?” While participating in activist activities, like pride parades and protests, isn’t for everyone, comments like this imply that being queer isn’t something that should be talked about. “It’s nobodies business who I love,” is usually what people say. And it’s fine if someone isn’t comfortable sharing facts about their personal life, but why does that have to affect how other people live their lives? Because if everyone thought that way, the LGBT movement wouldn’t have come as far as it has today.
But a lot of the time, these comments aren’t even referring to activist things. These comments are usually made in response to people who exhibit stereotypical traits. Not only is that mean—shaming people for being who they are is never a good look—but that sort of thinking may actually reinforce stereotypes. Because if you say, “I wish he wouldn’t be so in-your-face with his sexuality,” about a gay guy wearing eyeliner, you’re implying that there’s an association between what he looks like (or the way he acts, or how he talks, etc.) and his sexuality. And that’s the problem with stereotyping—it’s not the action, it’s making assumptions about large groups of people.
And so when I say to “embrace” these stereotypical traits, I mean embrace the trait, not the stereotype. Don’t let people box you in. Don’t let people assume that you like certain things because of your sexuality. But don’t let fear of being seen as a stereotype keep you from being who you are or exploring different things to figure out who you are.
But most of all, never shame anyone else for being who they are, whether or not it’s “stereotypical.” Because nobody’s harming the reputation of the community except people who judge others. Whether it’s a straight person assuming all gay people act a certain way, or a gay man thinking that “flag wavers” are giving the community a bad name. The LGBT movement is (or should be) all about being yourself. So be you and love and support your queer family for who they are. Because you wouldn’t be here without them.