Friday, June 05, 2009

Rant on Stereotyping

While perusing Digg today, I happened to follow a link to this video.

While it was campy and I found it mildly amusing, it was also offensive in it's stereotyping. I realize that in a broader social context, things like this may ultimately help the LGBTQ community in much the same way that inroads in the entertainment industry (despite some of the shameful exploitation and stereotyping) gave the black community more public exposure and helped to start a long-running dialogue with the rest of what was (and in some ways still is) a very privilege-based, racist society.

What bothered me most about this video I think is that I and many others are the target of this sort of stereotyping and misunderstanding. It brought back an incident which happened last year where I was introduced to a woman via a friend and the first thing which came out of her mouth was "Oh, so **** mentioned that you are gay, this is awesome, I love gay friends!" I shrugged this off at first because I have encountered it many times before and despite the fact that I know it is based on a stereotype, it is at least well-intentioned. Soon after that awkward introduction she proposed the idea of going out shopping, with me as her fashion critique and then hitting the clubs. This was a bit too much to take and I explained to her in an indelicate manner that I was not a walking stereotype.... I generally dislike the world of fashion, am not interested in pop-culture, don't like clubs and I am not terribly good at dancing. Further, I explained to her that, "I am nobody's TOKEN GAY FRIEND!"

Just because someone wants a guy in their life who has the potential to give them support & social interaction without the possibility for sexual entreaties complicating things, does not mean that anybody who happens to be gay will be a good fit. I for one am a direct, plain-spoken, grumpy bastard much of the time and I generally have no taste for partaking in most of the things which gay stereotypes represent. Stereotypes of most forms do exist, but they are only a small, prominent social bookmark within a much wider community which is far more reserved and eclectic. Further, I wholly support their right to be as they are and live as they see fit but for Heaven's sake, don't assume that just because I have an innate attraction to the same gender that I enjoy shopping for $900 clothing ensembles, have an inborn talent for applying makeup, and spend my free time drinking cocktails and popping pills to remove myself from reality while bringing my body to a state of near-collapse in a large, dark, people-filled room pulsing with laser lights and pounding house music. Does this sound like I am stereotyping my own sisters & brothers within the LBGTQ community? Hey, I've observed that the typification exists. I tried the clubbing/partying scene for a short time, seen what people turned into when they got caught in it for a long time and discovered that it wasn't conducive to a fulfilling, meaningful life.

If people like me, I want it to be because I am good with my hands and can build cool stuff out of discarded junk. I want it to be because I am filled with good advice and maintain a belief in the power of being truthful, because I can coax landscapes, broken lives and broken objects back into productivity; this coupled with an encyclopedic knowledge of nature and how things work. If people dislike me, I want it to be because I am eccentric, socially awkward and have a short fuse sometimes, because I am unfriendly and vicious when life gets to be too much to handle. I just want to be regarded as a person who has all the same strengths and flaws as anybody else in my particular situation. I detest the idea of somebody liking or disliking me just because I am gay.

Yeah, I feel badly for not being more sensitive and patient with that woman who assumed a connection/relationship where there wasn't one, but at least now she probably dislikes me for the right reasons.


CrackerLilo said...

The end sentence is awesome!

I get pissed at stereotypes, too. You should have heard what I got as a bi woman (oh, wait, since I'm married to a woman, aren't I lesbian?) getting an interior decorating certification. Apparently our brothers have all the style. Thanks for correcting at least one person who needed it. :-)

Cristobal said...

Man, I'm turning into a bit of a psycho here... I'm reading your entire blog!
Well, that's what it's there for.
And about this post, well said :p


Anonymous said...

Oh, my gosh, you are my hero! LOL Very well written. Similar to your opinion, I grew up at a time when being gay was not cool. It was not something folks wanted to associated with. And, like you, I never had an inclination toward the bar scene, or fashion, or anything "gay." Basically, I was just a gay guy living in a straight world and aside from my desire to have sex with my own sex, I was absolutely no different from anyone else. It's so frustrating to be typecast when you didn't even try out for the play. If someone comes to me and sincerely asks me my sexual preference, I'll answer them honestly, but at the same time, I don't feel the need to broadcast anything to anybody. I love your comments that folks should like/dislike you for YOU and not for any stereotype. You seem like a cool fellow and I was amazed at how many things we have in common. This was well-said and very well put. Kudos to you!

Sazji said...

Catherine Tate has got it down. :)