Do Gay Stereotypes Hurt or Help the Gay Community?

Stereotypes throughout history have helped to shape and mold the way our communities and our culture has viewed different ethnic groups in our society.

Stereotypical views about cultural groups have stigmatized and at the same time helped.

Shape these groups as diverse as they may be into what now we call mainstream America. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender are conventional, and familiar generalizations, opinions, or images about persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity Stereotypes may be learned through personal experience or indirect means, parents , teachers, peers or the mass media and a lack of first had experience tends to lead to more reliance on stereotypes.

Within the gay community we have our own set of stereotypes that have both helped and hurt us at the same time. Some of these stereotypes have been perpetrated by our own community and some have be thrust upon us by homophobic groups and individuals. Here are a few that come to mind that have been around for a long time. Gay men always want to be the center of the attention. Gay men have oral fixation. Gay men throw like a girl. Gay men are mom’s boy. Gay men think sports are boring. Gay men are obsessed with fashion, (one of my favorites). Gay men love to dance. Gay men are incompetent running machinery. Gay men lack strong male models. Gay men are clean, now this I know is not always true, I have had my share of lazy, dirty gay roommates.

Gay men always have a trust girl-pal by their side, fag hags don’t always come attached at the hip with every gay male. Gay men have limp wrist. Gay men are catty, now this one am not sure about cause well, I know so many catty fags, well that’s just in my circle of gays I guess (?). Gay men are drama queens, hmm, yes yes yes lol. Now enough of these stereotypes are manifested in every day lives of gay men. Some of these are laughable and some well, I hate to say it are true, but of all gay men, of course no is the answer, but in some instances are the numbers just don’t lie.

Now the rumor that there is a Gay Mafia has been a cultural myth of sorts for years, but I have visited enough 70 years olds with twenty something twinks laying around the pool to say that, hey I believe there is a gay mafia. Would not Gore Vidal, David Geffen and the likes count as good role models and also be thought of as gay mafia? Nevertheless, the gay mafia is the voice and face of the gay community. It’s the reason why people, including black America, think that all gays are white. The agenda the gay mafia may have is commonly referred to, is largely the brainchild of the gay mafia, which at the end of the day really doesn’t include minority voices.

The questions poses, or rather makes the case that gay stereotypes are more detrimental to the gay community than good. But the danger is that gay bars and pubs and clubs increasingly expect and cater to and for a series of stereotypical “types”. Active or Passive? Bear or Cub? Daddy or Twink? Muscled or stocky? Asian or white? Camp or Butch? It’s demeaning to have to reduce oneself to a few descriptive epithets. Its bad enough when people ask me where am from originally just because am not white, its worse when they ask, as inquiring minds want to know . Whether am a bloke or a bitch. I don’t believe that anyone should be criticized or ostracized for being true to who they are, as long as they actually are being true to who they are, and not what they think they should be, because that’s what a culture tells you to be. But, I also have a degree of dislike for stereotypes and I too think they have been one reason the growth of the equality movement has been stunted. The only representation of the GLBT community on TV, has largely been the more flamboyant, effeminate type.

One thing people need to understand, we’re just as different as our heterosexual counterparts. We come in all shapes, sizes and colors. We come with a huge array of interest. We are only the same in that we love people of the same gender. This is what the general public needs to understand before we’re more widely accepted.

Unfortunately most people, gay or otherwise, when speaking of gay-specific venues, immediately think of bars and nightclubs, and about finding potential sexual partners. I do not want to be judgmental. There are two urban myths that I find myself constantly challenging. One is that the most important goal in socializing for sexual minorities is to find sexual partners. Two, that awareness of people’s orientation is a quintessential requirement to be able to socialize. More fundamentally, it is wrong to presume that by merely being gay (an identity more complex than merely a term for sleeping with someone of the same sex), the lives of gay men and women are primarily defined and driven by sex. Here, even gay-specific outlets play a harmful role, albeit often unintentionally. Consider the clienteles served and vigorously promoted by gay bars – “macho”, “bears”, “S&M”, “cheese”, and so on; the gay press is filled with underwear adverts and escort services; and gay men and women are depicted as apolitical automatons obsessed with bodies, sex, and pop culture. But we can not let these depictions of gay men and or women define us all.

We have to stand up and speak as individuals and show respect for diversity within our own community before we can begin to expect the rest of the cultural community we live in to accepts our movement as one driven by a common goal to achieve equal protection and rights under the law, without lumping every one into sub groups within our own group of gay men and women.

By: Rey Torres