As a member of the LGBT community (I am a twenty four year old gay male), I have had my fair share of rants about how we’re treated in certain situations. It’s not like I’m some kind of gay rights activist or anything. In fact, I try to keep a low profile and only keep my rants to the closed confinement of close friends and family members. But when I was given the opportunity to write this column I began to think about using my voice. I looked at people I admire like Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham who use their voice to fight for feminism in their columns and essays and realised that if I don’t say anything then who’s going to hear me. So in this column I’m going to be talking about things that oppose LGBT people and LGBT related issues that make the news.
This week I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about stereotypes. We all ‘fit one’ no matter if we’re a goth, working class, a university student or even a young mother. Everyone has preconceived ideas and views about other people and the labels they identify with. I like to view myself as label free. To me and my friends, we’re all just people. But as a gay man I face stereotypes from people every single day. I even face them from people I know quite well. I’ll give you an example which most gay men will definitely be able to relate to.
I met my friend *Catherine a few years ago. We got on well and used to do a lot together when we had free time. But it wasn’t long before I started to feel like less of a person and more of a product. She began to refer to me as her ‘Gay BFF’ and her friends knew me as ‘Gay Josh’. She called me a ‘terrible gay’ because I didn’t want to go shopping with her or give her fashion advice and watch Mean Girls with red wine every weekend. I wanted to do other things like read comic books and go to rock bars and drink beer and it almost offended her as if I had signed a contract promising to attend weekly manicure appointments with her. I wasn’t gay enough for her.
I felt bad for her because the movies had lied to her. There’s a 99.9% chance that every movie with a gay character that you’ve seen potrays the ‘token gay’ as feminine and camp with pink clothes, blonde hair and an over the top personality which is borderline bitchy. Not to mention the gay pride flag that seems to follow them in every scene they’re in. It’s almost like the girls that watch these films leave the cinema wanting their very own ‘Gay Best Friend’ to be bitchy with and do all the ‘gay’ things like shopping etc. They never take into account that we’re people and the more we’re treated like the stereotypical token gay best friend from the chick flick they just watched, the more we begin to feel like a product. Like we’re the latest accessory that a designer launched at their latest fashion show that every girl wants. It can get infuriating.
I know that Catherine was joking when she called me a terrible gay but it still made me feel like I was disappointing her because I wasn’t what mainstream media told her I would be. I was gay and to her it must have been like a free ticket to another world. A world where girls with ‘Gay Best Friends’ are the ‘in thing’.
But we’re not. We’re (shock horror) real people with real interests and real opinions. Okay, some gay people might like shopping and might enjoy doing all those things and may actually fit the stereotype, but it doesn’t mean they should be treated any different because of it.
And this doesn’t just apply to the LGBT community. It applies to everyone. No matter what background you come from, your social circle or what part of town you were brought up in there’s been a time where you have had certain things said to or about you just because of somebody else’s views of the certain topic. Even we sometimes stereotype. When I think of France my mind automatically goes to beret’s and baguette’s and while it’s not a hurtful (I hope not) generalisation, it is a generalisation all the same. But there are others that can get to the point where you begin to take away someone’s feeling of self worth or self view.
If we take just a minute a day to remind ourselves of how different we all are it can help you to accept not only other people, but maybe even yourself. It’s a good feeling when you surround yourself with people with different interests and opinions and accept them for theirs while they love and accept you for yours.
Stereotyping is easy to do but just as easy not to. Take a moment and think about some of the people and things you stereotype and see how you can make changes to it. It may help you in the long run.