JJ Vincent is tired of seeing more instruction sheets on how to tell if someone is gay, because a lot of times, they’re fully wrong.
The characters change. Sometimes it’s a pair of women, sometimes two women and a man, sometimes a teenager, sometimes a couple of college guys, sometimes a solo gu. I’ll leave out the videos by the earnestly religious and the spouses that feel wronged.
Some of the videos are funny, meant to be light and entertaining, passed around, maybe with someone’s name attached. Some are intended to be informative, to help someone tell if the person they suspect is gay really is gay.
But most of them have a few things in common, and these are what make me cringe:
1. They deal largely in stereotypes. If he listens to this or that music (Beyonce, Britney, and showtunes are widely cited), if he dances or liked theatre, if he knows too much about stereotypically gay interests, he’s suspect. Forget the millions of heterosexual men who like or do these things. It’s the 1/1,000 equation, basing an assumption based on what’s true for one and ignoring that it’s false for 1,000.
2. They “queer” normal behavior (touch, eye contact) between men. There’s enough hesitation for guys to touch/share/be physical, and much of it comes from this reinforcement of that=gay. Do it too much/too often/in the wrong context? Gay. This even extends to sports; how often fo you hear gay jokes when football players pat each other on the butts. Ok, I don’t understand that, I don’t play, but it’s not indicative of homosexuality. The last thing we need are more media outlets labeling and reinforcing innocuous behaviors as gay.
3. They make fun of men who vary from male stereotypes. Too well-dressed? Too many grooming products? No interest in sports or male-bonding? Not interested in strip clubs or commenting on women? Spend a lot of time getting ready or looking for mirrors? Know everyone at the gym? If your’e too clean, friendly, and polite, you could be gay. Um, no.
4. They encourage the looking at people by a checklist, rather than as a person. Do you want to be reduced to a list of traits and labels, each with a judgment attached by the person using the checklist? Me, neither.
5. They encourage the type of speculation that gets people labeled without a hearing. How many times have you heard, “Oh, I know he’s gay. Why doesn’t just come out? No one will care? We all know.” Most of these”experts” advise putting two and two together to get gay. Unfortunately, there’s only one surefire way to know if someone if gay. They have to tell you. Someone’s “gaydar” can ping all it wants. They can gossip and label all they want. Problem is, these tend to stick a lot more than the truth.
Now, a tougher metric that’s much more of a grey area is using traditional interest indicators (eye contact, lingering glances, flirtation, public positioning, asking about a person) and claiming that if a guy is doing these to another guy(s), he very well might be gay. And I’ll grant this has more validity than stereotypes. It still does not negate #5, and it brings up the problem of nagging someone to come out.
Two dilemmas. First, they may not be gay. Second, they may not be sure what they are, or unready to come out. Assuming you know them, what they want, and where they are is a great way to damage a friendship or push an unsure person deeper into the closet. And using this assumption as gossip or social capital has the potential to ruin more than just relationship.
So what to do about these videos?
There are going to be plenty of you who say they’re funny, get over it, quit being so sensitive. Your choice.
But if you’re interested in helping to stop the judgement of people based on outdated stereotypes, not sharing these or making them is a great place to start.
We’re slowing moving towards big pockets of places where being gay is ok.
But how about getting to a place where we’re not checklisting people based on their appearance, interests, and demeanor to see if we think they need a rainbow flag sticker on their car?
—Photo bobbi vie/Flickr