Huff Post: Harmful Stereotypes About Gay Men

SPLC: Anti-Gay Myths Debunked

Info: Myths and Misconceptions

Live Science: Debunking Myths About Gay People

Wikipedia: LGBTQ Stereotypes


Beyond Gay Generalizations


Everyone has perceptions or preconceived ideas about what it means to be LGBTQ. Many people think they can tell if someone is gay or lesbian by the way they look, dress, or behave.

By resting on clichés, or resorting to stereotypes or conventional formulaic generalizations, many misconceptions and mistaken identities can easily occur. Stereotypical perceptions may be acquired through interactions with parents, teachers, peers and mass media, or, more generally, through a lack of firsthand familiarity, resulting in an increased reliance on generalizations.


Some people who might get embarrassed because their "gaydar" wasn't fine tuned, just might have to admit they may have been exercising their private prejudices or preconceived notions about gays and lesbians.



Gay Men

Not all gay men are effeminate and flamboyant (queens).

Just because someone is a gay man, doesn't mean he…

--Is obsessed with fashion and is super stylish
--Is limp-wristed, swishy and talks with a lisp
--Listens to Broadway show tunes

--Loves to shop
--Is involved in theatre and the performing arts

--Is promiscuous
--Is a hairdresser, fashion designer, or interior decorator
--Frequents seedy gay bars and dances shirtless to disco music

--Acts in an overly dramatic and campy way


Lesbian Women

Not all lesbians are butch and tomboyish (dykes).

Just because someone is a lesbian, doesn't mean she…

--Wears short hair, tattoos, body piercings, and army boots

--Acts moody, angry, and aggressive 
--Drives a pick-up truck and wears a tool belt
--Is really into sports
--Wears plaid lumberjack shirts and baggy cargo shorts
--Only listens to music by KD Lang, The Indigo Girls, and Melissa Etheridge
--Wears leather and rides a motorbike

--Doesn't wear makeup and doesn't shave her armpits and legs

--Moves in on the second date



Behavior and Appearance


LGBTQ people are found in every social, economic, racial, and religious group. They are our teachers, colleagues, friends, parents, and children. Most LGBTQ people look and act just like everyone else. They come from all walks of life, all races, all economic levels, and all political perspectives. We all know a number of LGBTQ people, whether we are aware of it or not.

Typically, you can't spot a gay man or lesbian women by the way they act and dress. Gender roles do not determine sexual orientation. Many LGBTQ people are impossible to distinguish from straight and more gender normative individuals. There are some lesbians who dress in a very masculine way, some gay men who act in traditionally feminine ways, and many LGBTQ people who feel the freedom to explore a range of gender expression. There are also many gender normative LGBTQ people who “pass” unnoticed every day.

Popular media tends to perpetuate the common stereotypes associated with gays and lesbians. Portrayals of gays and lesbians in movies and on television tend towards stereotypical behavior. Gay and lesbian characters all too often are caricatures, reflecting stereotypical looks, mannerisms, and lifestyles.


It is a misconception that you can always tell homosexuals by the way they look or act. Typically, we think that men who act in a feminine manner must be gay and that masculine women with short haircuts must be lesbians.

Too often people think they can generalize about the activities and lifestyle of gays and lesbians. Some people have long held assumptions about the kinds of music LGBTQ people listen to, the kinds of clothes LGBTQ people wear, and the kinds of entertainment LGBTQ people enjoy. Some might even generalize about the traits that they think characterize a typical gay or lesbian relationship.

Most gay and lesbian people look just like your typical neighbors instead of like the characters on Queer as Folk or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.


Some people have suggested that the media perpetuates gay and lesbian stereotypes. Television shows like "Will & Grace" and "Modern Family" sometimes present gay and lesbian characters in clichéd ways.

The reality is that these stereotypes only apply to about 15% of gays and 5% of lesbians. These stereotypes confuse the concept of sexual orientation with gender roles.

In an attempt to understand observed behaviors, appearances, and mannerisms of gay and lesbian people, it might be instructive to recognize the difference between one's sexual orientation and gender role. An individual's sexual orientation is about whether one prefers the same sex or the other sex as a sexual partner. An individual's gender role is about whether he or she is exhibiting masculine or feminine behavior.

There is a cultural tendency to view homosexuality as “behavior” rather than a personal identity.

While there are some gay and lesbian persons who fit these stereotypes, they are no more representative of all homosexual people than are the Marlboro Man and June Cleaver types representative of all straight people. LGBTQ people generally look and act like everyone else. Most people never suspect the sexual orientation of an LGBTQ individual.


Huff Post: Harmful Stereotypes About Gay Men

SPLC: Anti-Gay Myths Debunked

Info: Gender Expression

Gaydar: Is It Real?

Live Science: Debunking Myths About Gay People

Jezebel: Girl's Guide to Lesbian Clichés and Stereotypes

Queereka: Myths and Misconceptions About Gay Men



Appearance and Mannerisms

Typically, lesbians are thought to be "butch", dressing in a more masculine or tomboyish manner; with plaid flannel shirts, short haircuts, work boots, tattoos, and body piercings, for example. "Dykes" (a pejorative term that the LGBTQ community has reclaimed to an extent) are considered members of a community that is perceived as being composed of strong and outspoken, often angry and aggressive, women.

On the other hand, a "lipstick lesbian" is a "femme" women who tends to be "hyper-feminine,” conventionally attractive, and almost indistinguishable from a straight woman. They are portrayed as pretty and stylish. They wear make-up and heels.

The "flaming queen,” a characterization that melds flamboyance and effeminacy, remains a gay male stock character in Hollywood. Theatre, specifically Broadway musicals, are a component to another stereotype, the "show queen.” The stereotype generalizes that all gay men listen to show tunes and are involved with the performing arts, are theatrical, dramatic, and are campy.

They are portrayed as not especially competent with mechanical tasks, not liking sports, and preferring to be extremely clean, manicured, and well-groomed.

The “bear” subculture of the LGBTQ community is composed of generally stocky, burly, husky, hairy men. Stereotypically, they are usually seen with facial hair and wearing suspenders. They embrace their “hyper-masculine” image, and some will shun a more effeminate man, referred to as a “twink.”

In addition to being called effeminate, gay men are also identified with a gay lisp and/or a female like tone. Fashion, effeminacy, and homosexuality have long been associated. Stereotypes are often based on the visibility of a reciprocal relationship between gay men and fashion. Gay men who are visible in popular culture may purchase fashion as a means of expression, and gay men have high visibility within the fashion industry. The limp wrist is also a mannerism associated with gay men.


Info: Myths and Misconceptions

Huff Post: Why I Hate Being Called a Lipstick Lesbian

Macklemore, Musical Theatre, and More

Elite Daily: Stereotypes That Limit Our Perception of Gay Men

Info: Gender Expression

Gay Myths and Stereotypes

BuzzFeed: Lesbian Stereotypes



Sex and Relationships

A prevalent stereotype about gay men is that they are promiscuous and are either unwilling or unable to have enduring or long-term relationships. However, several surveys of gay men in the United States have shown that between 40% and 60% are involved in a steady relationship, and that many others are single, but have the intention of becoming involved only in monogamous relationships. Research also suggests that a slightly higher proportion of lesbians than gay men may be in steady relationships. A 2007 study reported that two large population surveys found "the majority of gay men had similar numbers of unprotected sexual partners annually as straight men and women."

Another persistent stereotype associated with the male homosexual community is partying. Before the Stonewall riots in 1969, most LGBTQ people were extremely private and closeted and house parties and later bars and taverns became one of the few places where like-minded men could meet, socialize, and feel safe. The riots represented the start of the modern LGBTQ social movement and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities has steadily increased. Social occasions which are generally festive and party-like remain at the core of organizing and fundraising even currently. In cities where there are large populations of LGBTQ people, benefits and bar fundraisers are still common and alcohol companies invest heavily marketing to LGBTQ subcultures. Ushered in by underground gay clubs and disc jockeys, the disco era starting in the 1970s kept the "partying" aspect vibrant and ushered in the more hardcore circuit party movement that was hedonistic and associated with party and play (PNP).

The relationship between gay men and a trusted female heterosexual companion, known as a "fag hag" has become highly stereotypical. The accepted behaviors in this type of relationship range from shopping and dining out to light petting, but whose sexualities prevent them from being together.



Media Stereotypes and Tropes

Lipstick Lesbian - She dresses and acts in a manner that is considered conventionally feminine, and likes "feminine" things, like wearing lipstick. Main-character lesbians on TV tend to fall into this category more often, as it's often seen as "safer", unless the show is going for "edgy". They also often have things like long fingernails, unlike their more masculine counterpart. A related term is "femme". However, the implication is that, while a "femme" would be attracted to a "butch" type, lipstick lesbians are attracted to others of the same type. Also note that in LGBTQ communities, lipstick lesbians tend to be described as "more feminine" than average straight women or whose expression of femininity is "over-the-top". Ellen DeGeneres jokingly coined the term "chapstick lesbian" to describe those who fall somewhere in between the two extremes of "lipstick" and "butch". The real life proportion of lesbians that are lipstick lesbians is somewhat lower than what one might expect from watching television.

Butch Lesbian - The contrasting counterpart to the lipstick lesbian, the butch lesbian is typically clad in heavy boots, jeans, plain t-shirts and other conventionally un-feminine attire. She'll have a short haircut and a job as a mechanic, and often be taller and bulkier than her femme counterpart, though a lanky or even petite build is not unheard of. Breast-binding is optional. She will also probably be the one who gets vocal about gay rights, persecution, women's rights, and the male gaze. She may also be quite sporty. On many occasions, she can be mistaken for a man. Traditionally, butch lesbians are paired up with high femmes or lipstick lesbians. The overuse of this trope sometimes comes under fire for allegedly enforcing the male/female dynamic in homosexual relationships. A saying within the gay community is that a butch lesbian is "steel covering velvet" while a lipstick lesbian is "velvet covering steel". That's not too much of an exaggeration.

Camp Gay - The epitome of a stereotypical gay man. He's flamboyant in his dress, speech, mannerisms, and interests. He wears tight (often leather) pants and a loose, blousy shirt that appears to be made for a much larger man, often with a bandana, scarf, or kerchief tied around his neck. These will all be in bright or pastel colors. He will often speak with a lisp and is given to flouncing, prancing, and standing with one hand on his hip as the other is flapped around or held out in a limp-wristed gesture. There is nothing ambiguous about this guy.  Extreme cases will include near-opaque slang and drag. Insofar as he has a personality, it will often be vain and catty, or even cowardly. Even though (compared to heterosexual men) he will rarely be shown having sex, he talks about it every second of the day, and if he isn't, he will be talking about clothes, or complaining about his terrible friends.

Manly Gay - Sitting on the opposite end of the spectrum from Camp Gay, Manly Gay is when a homosexual man is shown not only in lacking camp or feminine traits, but kept going in the opposite direction and into the realm of pure unbridled masculinity.  A character who is Manly Gay is the complete opposite of the camp stereotype. Typically such characters are large and strong, and shown doing masculine things like sports. He may have a carpet of virility (hairy chest), he may be a badass, or he may have stout strength. But regardless of how he got here, the result is the same: He's manlier than your average man, straight or otherwise. This is an archetype associated with modern gay porn, but it's also a distilled ideal of gay male culture, one that often appeals to other gay men — one of the reasons it has become so associated with gay porn.

[Source: TV Tropes]









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