The LGBTQ+ stereotype
With recently the topic of “why don't kid shows have more LGBTQ+ characters” being suddenly relevant again (a cursory google search can't find any particular source on this, anyone who knows, please tell me), I kinda feel like sharing some experiences of my own.
Me and who I am
If you're reading this and somehow aren't aware of who I am, my name is Valentijn “noirscape” V. I live in the Netherlands and am a bisexual male. In my spare time I'm a programmer and I have a love for console homebrew, as the rest of this blog should indicate.
However... I just want to note, that up until very recently, I denied the possiblity that I could even be anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum as anything but potentially aromantic. And... if there's any specific reason for this, it's to do with the subject of today's post.
I'm extraordinarily lucky. I'm born in the Netherlands, which has excellent LGBTQ+ rights. Discrimination on sexuality is explicitly forbidden by law, discrimination on gender expression was also recently added to the list, and barring our most extreme christian right wing party (not the alt-right parties, go figure there!) the idea of scrapping gay marriage or criminalizing it is not even considered an idea.
When said party's leader signed the Nashville declaration, it was basically a national decry. There's occasional gaffes by some personalities, but most of these seem to be born from ignorance rather than outright malice.
Personally, my parents have said that they're “okay with whatever I want to be”. That said... I'm not out to them yet. They don't know I operate this blog and I hope that it doesn't really end up in their face, but... if they do see it, I greet you like anyone else here and hope you kind of understand why I'm not out of the closet so to speak and why I'll end up being it if you do see it.
Note: I'm about to describe a stereotype. A stereotype is more or less what a large group of people describes as traits belonging to a certain group of people. Wether these are accurate or not, is another question. Most stereotypes are more or less grounded in a basis of truth, but some aren't. If you do express these attributes, that's your choice and it's not my place to tell you who you should be and who you want to be and this isn't a request for you to change. It's more of a plea to any reporters, newscasters, writers or any other creator. Anyway, on with the blog.
So... the big thing. It basically starts with what the modern day “gay dude” is like. It also technically all applies to lesbians and trans people, but for now my focus is specifically on “gay dudes”.
Specifically, this is how gay men are represented in modern media:
- Hypersexual. Specifically, pride parades focusing on the BDSM boats, every picture of an explicitly gay dude that garners attention being a picture of him shirtless and usually ripped and so on and so forth.
- “Bright”. Bright, happy colors. Rainbows. Everything. The pride flag is a rainbow for goodness sake, but the way the stereotype represents it is ranging in anywhere from hair color to the general color of their clothes.
- In your face and obnoxious.
I have several issues with this entire stereotype, because basically uh... none of this really applies to me at all.
I think the first time I heard about the concept of lesbian and gay people when I was... 6 I think? That's about the time your fellow primary school kids start forming crushes on one another and the books I ended up reading started covering the idea of a crush too. Sure, it's not much, but hey. Now of course, as a 6 year old kid, you're gonna have some questions and I distinctively recall one of those questions being “can a boy love another boy”. Parents said yes, and I asked a couple more questions (ie. can a girl love another girl) and they kind of gave me the terms for what this meant and asked me if I was ok with it.
I'm the kind of dude that mostly operates on a “you do you” kind of way, so my answer was yes, I'm ok with it.
This is apparently in a modern day situation scarring your child and means CPS should be called on you as a parent if I understand the Christian conservative rethoric properly, but that's besides the point.
So I basically started growing up and as I grew up, the books I read mostly covered straight dudes having love with a girl and so on. As for myself, aside from some three month long “I'm totally in love” when I was 5 (which suprise suprise suddenly ended when I changed primary school, which means it probably didn't mean much to young me at the time), I never really formed a crush on anyone.
I did become slowly more or less aware of the aforementioned stereotype. I eventually learned of the concept of a “pride parade” and... the media footage shown for these pride parades covered these in what I can only describe as the most unappealing light ever. People being loud, flamboyant and in your face basically. It's not that I had an issue with gay people, but young me managed to associate that imagery (and I've always been a pretty closed-off person unless I know you) to gay people and I basically managed to end up with the “Your dad” mentality (a term coined by PhilosophyTube) of gay people; which is “not in my face, but be as gay as you want when I'm not looking”.
Yeah, nowadays that's kinda homophobic to say, but what gives, that's the conclusion young me drew at the time.
Trans people I'm not sure when I learned about them. I think it was when watching a crime show on ID Network (14-15 year old me) and one of the covered cases was a kid who was killed for being trans. My mom asked me if I were ok with dating a girl who then would reveal “yeah i once was a boy” (the vice versa wasn't really an idea I considered at the time and my mom knew that), to which the answer from yours truly was “as long as I know beforehand that they're trans, sure thing”.
Ironically I ended up with a better starting out perspective on trans people than on gay people.
These stereotypes persisted up until I was 16, and up until then, I refused to even entertain the notion that I might be anywhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Now here's when things get interesting. You see, when I became 16, two things happened. First, I got a job. Second, I started getting much more involved in the Homebrew scene than I had previously been. These two experiences basically shifted my views on gay people almost completely.
Let's start with the Homebrew scene since it happened first. As it happens, the homebrew scene is filled with quite a bit of LGBTQ+ folks. Or uh... used to be. Nowadays it's mostly, but not entirely, overran with angry young teenagers again who take the recent shift in politics as the perfect excuse to be a massive bigot, which has driven quite a number of people away from the scene. (If you feel offended by what I just said, that's probably a sign you're a part of this problem, even if you're not a teenager.)
And like I said, I became more active and I started making friends. As it happened, quite a number of those friends ended up being gay or lesbian and uh... that really shifted my view. Because I'll be frank: the Homebrew scene doesn't really match the stereotype. At all. Most of the people I know are just... people, like you and me. They wake up in the morning, they go to work or school, they go home, they eat, they express their hobbies and when it's late they might have a wank.
Secondly, my work. This is specifically related to an ex-colleague of mine who I basically ended up having a striking chat with. Then I learned she was gay. She just brought it up in casual conversation and shrugged it off as no big deal and also explained to me that those pride parades only focus on a couple of specific boats which happen to contain the full-leather suited BDSM people.
To say that these experiences combined were an eye opener for me is an underestimation and that previous belief was basically half-turned onto it's head.
I still despise displays of public affection like overly drawn out makeout sessions, but I have no issues with a hug or holding hands. That doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, I just believe makeout sessions shouldn't occur in fucking public, we have bathrooms and other more private areas for those. Again, even if you're bloody straight, find a private spot okay? They're not hard to find, most restaurants have a bathroom nowadays or find a park bench or something.
I also dislike pride parades, but no mostly for the same reason I dislike other public gatherings: they're loud, noisy and generally a nuisance. Again, this isn't anything specific against the LGBTQ+ crowd and if you go to one, please don't feel like you should stop or anything. If that's what you want to do, all on you. I just hate public gatherings like that. Same for a music festival.
Then add in about a year of casually thinking things over and then you suddenly reach the conclusion that uh... dudes and dicks can be kinda hot too. :p
Why I'm not out the closet
- The stereotype I just described. Basically, my parents would accept me, but they highly believe the stereotype and would try to fit me in it while I am nothing like that at all. I'm the fucking guy that ideally would wear a black coat in the fucking summer, my favorite pasttime is locking myself in my room and waste time on my computer or hone my programming skills. I'm not an outgoing person and probably never will be. I just like tits and dicks equally.
- My dad believes bi people should just pick a side and not “feed on both sides of the aisle”. Here's a hint dad. Sometimes someone just finds both hot.
- To elaborate on this one a bit more; He also believes that I won't know for sure until I “have a boyfriend or a girlfriend and have had sex”. Except I know kind of exactly what gets my gears grinding and makes my insides happy. It just happens that that can occur regardless of the object in question having an electrical outlet or a power plug so to speak (yes yes, genitalia aren't neccesarily your gender, this is a metaphor m'kay).
- “People who are LGBTQ+ figure this out when they're 12”. Mostly again perpetuated by my dad although my mom believes in it too. I hope my previous experience can kind of explain why a kid might just end up repressing these feelings.
I don't know how many people share my experience here. I know it's a unique one and... maybe I'm the only one. I don't know. But I do believe that due to the fact that I felt like this, there is an issue with the stereotype.
The origins obviously come from the original LGBTQ+ movement. To try and set itself off and gather attention to force them to be accepted, the movement opted to go for bright colors to draw attention and the obnoxious part is thanks to what well... any movement is really. They're obnoxious because they are a movement. If you're not trying to shift gears, you can hardly call yourself a movement. The hypersexualized part seems to have been an overresponse to pedophile allegations to try and push the movement as far away from kids as possible.
And I'd like to stress. If you do believe that bright colors or the hypersexualization or hell, the in your face obnoxiousness that the media loves to focus on are indeed your thing... do it. I don't resent you. I don't even resent the people who originally did it, it had a purpose back then.
I resent the modern media that continues to portray people like this. The media that as a result ingrained an idea in 8-16 year old me of gay people that was pretty bloody dated and one that didn't fall until I was 16. Hell, an idea of gay people that made me refuse to even consider my sexuality as anything other than straight.
And if you are a creator of content or a newscaster or a reporter or whomever... please. If you are gonna report on gay folks. Could you also try and report on the “not so in your face” people. I know you're getting better at it. When that recent gaffe with the football commentator who said that “gay people should just come out of the closet, I don't do that”, the person the news asked for comment wasn't the same group that gets highlighted on the pride parades.
All I ask is... could you do that more? I know people that go to pride parades aren't all BDSM gearing leather-clad fetishists or shirtless muscular dudes now. But not because of your reports. A pride parade is effectively an idea of “we exist and we should keep existing” for the LGBTQ+ movement and by portraying the idea like that... you associate very negative imagery for young people that are or were like me. Because to many young kids, a news report on a pride parade is gonna be their first exposure if they don't have friends with gay parents or a friend who is gay.
Hell, learning that some media personalities I really like are LGBTQ+ and for the most part don't fit the movement helped me a lot to reshape this view after those initial two experiences.
Be who you are. Be who you want to be. Honestly, it's not my life, it's yours. If it makes you happy and you're not treading on other peoples safety, do it.
To quote an image I once saw: Be gay. Do crime.
But if I could add to that... don't be afraid. What the media shows you people are like isn't neccesarily what they're like. Don't feel like just because what they're showing is what people are neccesarily like. I just want to say this to you specifically.
So... “Be yourself. Don't not... consider(?)”.
I usually don't talk about myself and who I am in public like this. But... I felt like writing this. It's a bit of a derivation from my usual ramblings about other people and how bad or good their behavior is or a close examination of why something is good or sucks, but I felt like putting this out. That's all I have to say on the matter.