You know what’s boring? Talking about stereotypes. Especially four unsolicited conversations in one week.
I have never written about stereotyping. I have never taken the time to denounce it.
Yes, stereotyping is awfully, obviously bad. There, I said it. But “fighting” stereotypes is a dangerous game. Denouncing stereotypes is easy in theory, but once you’re dealing with the prickly reality, you discover it’s better to leave it alone.
In general, I have a problem with gays who have a problem with stereotypes — and the gays who gripe the loudest are the worst. They’re the most prescriptive, the most judgmental.
It comes up a lot during Pride. A typical complaint from the Don’t Stereotype Me Police:
Every year, thousands of people show up to the Pride Parade. Then on the six o’clock news, the video editors have cut the footage to make Pride look like a veritable orgy. Super-butch topless dykes beside a man wearing assless chaps beside a row of drag queens on roller skates. There are thousands of men and women in golf shirts and tank tops, but they show the community’s six drag queens. Canadians are led to believe that all gays are super flamboyant and hypersexual. It’s so embarrassing and — grand flourish — it reinforces stereotypes.
Where do they direct their ire? At the media, the drag queens and the guy with the sunburnt bum.
The media, for their part, are only showing the most colourful parts of the Parade, the same way they do with Caribana or Bluesfest. The media picks out what they think will keep people’s attention, and you really can’t blame them for doing so.
As for the other part — why on earth would you blame our most flamboyant comrades for a problem that exists at the other end of the TV set? The homophobes are homophobic — brilliant analysis! But somehow the media and Parade participants are “reinforcing” it. I don’t think so.
If we were to direct our anti-stereotyping accusations squarely where they belonged, we would confront fear and hatred where we saw it. At the same time, we would be rocking out with the full spectrum of the Parade-goers during Pride, homophobes be damned.
Unfortunately, when gays complain about stereotyping, they’re usually expressing their own discomfort with “being associated with” particular gays. It bubbles to the surface, often, as the same weary demand: why do they have to dress up that way (or act that way, or look like that)?
The problem is the cretins watching the news, right? Why would we ever kowtow to them?
You never hear the opposite. Picture, instead, someone saying, I really wish that Scott Brison wasn’t a public figure, because the media keeps reporting about him. It gives Canadians the impression that all gays are fiscal conservatives and social moderates. He should be allowed to be that way if he wants to, but I just wish he weren’t so public about it. You never hear that.
Or: Mark Tewksbury is so handsome and fit and masculine — and so clean cut! I wish no one saw him on TV; Canadians are going to think that all gay men are masculine and clean cut.
I guess the Don’t Stereotype Me Police see some comparisons as more flattering than others. It’s only worth saying “I don’t want to be associated with that” if the “that” is something somehow icky.
Which is why, in the end, I never talk about stereotypes. Gays and lesbians who rail against stereotypes are usually just as judgmental as the haters. I prefer to embrace our wild, outlaw sexuality and our playful gender expressions — even if some of those desires aren’t my desires. In fact, I like seeing expressions of desires that are new to me.
In other words, if someone accidentally thinks I’m a sissy boy or a BDSM bottom, who cares? If someone accidentally thinks that I wear women’s panties on the weekend, who cares? That’s their damage, not mine.