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Author Topic: Stereotypes and gaydars
Burdened with glorious booty
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This is a bit of an odd question, but hear me out: is it stereotyping to rely on your "gaydar" and assume that a person's gay or not? Or is it better to never assume a thing?

I say this because I hate stereotyping people. Honestly, I do, because I get that some men can be feminine and heterosexual, and that the opposite can apply to women. I get that. So most of the time, when I meet someone who everyone's assuming is gay, I do my best to not assume until they actually tell me one way or the other.

On the other hand, that approach hasn't gone so well for me, because what happens is that I end up finding out that these people are gay, and the reaction is "What, you mean you couldn't TELL? How oblivious are you?!". Usually, these people are acting in a stereotypically gay way, and I end up looking silly for not assuming (or "knowing") that they're gay without asking them first.

Two big examples in my life that stand out:

1. There was this guy in my college history class that most people immediately assumed was gay - he wore skinny jeans, had dyed hair, acted in a way that most people would call "camp" and had a feminine-sounding voice. I didn't want to assume anything, of course, because he could have been straight and flamboyant. However, after knowing him for about two months, when he wasn't in the room, I discreetly asked his friends if he was gay, and the reaction was "You're actually asking us if he's gay? Are you blind?! Of course he's gay!". And indeed, he is (a crossdresser too, from what I can tell from his facebook page). I ended up becoming friends with him, and there was a lot of scandalous talk about his dating life that I maybe didn't want to know.

2. So I liked this girl, but I didn't know if she was a lesbian or not. I had a gut feeling that she was, but I didn't want to assume anything. She has short hair that she dyes all the time into different colours, she often wears ripped vests and jeans and leather jackets, she has piercings and tattoos and generally acts very blokish (and I love all of it :3 ), and I know a lot of people would look at her and immediately think "lesbian". Again, I didn't want to assume...but I found out for definite when I noticed that she always wears this necklace with the word "Dyke" emblazoned on it.

So it's fairly obvious that most of the time, when I get a gut feeling that someone might be gay, they usually are...but is such a gut feeling based on stereotyping, and is better to do what I've been doing and ignore it in case I'm wrong? Or am I just setting myself up for a fall?

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Ta-da!

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Sarah Is A Bear
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It is better to do what you're doing now. A lot of that gut feeling is based on stereotyping - and stereotype-based assumptions will work to a degree. But it won't work a 100% of the time, so it is better to rely on your words than your gut.

Personally, I don't think the strategy matters all that much too. If you are genuinely interested in someone, you ask them out. If they're not into your gender, oops. If you're not asking them out, their sexuality isn't your business most of the time; they can tell you or let it come up in conversation when they want.

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September
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I think it is very commendable that you make an effort not to make assumptions about people, and to let them tell you how they identify. Being queer usually means that a lot of people are going to make assumptions about our sexualities, so it is always nice to have our identities b respected.

On the other hand, I think that often within the queer community, we make use of those cultural stereotypes to make ourselves outwardly identifiable to other queer people. We know the stereotypes, and sometimes we may use them consciously so that others may be able to "read" us. So, picking up on that doesn't have to mean that yo are a horrible, disrespectful person. It may just mean that you are fluent in the same cultural language and pick up on these signs.

The bottom line is that it is okay for you to have gut feelings about people and to form opinions about them. There is nothing wrong with that, and nothing hurtful about that, so long as you realize that they are just that - YOUR impressions of a person. The important thing is just that you don't slap a label on a person and decide that's who they are and that's ALL they are - but it sounds like you're in no danger of doing that [Smile]

[ 03-23-2013, 12:30 PM: Message edited by: September ]

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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I think it just depends on what you mean by gaydar... for some people it is really consciously based on stereotyping... but I'm not so sure it can be as simple as that that.

"Stereotypes" are about reducing who somebody is to a set of attributes. Saying like "Blondes/Gays/construction-workers are all..." for me would be stereotyping, you're making people into copies who originally are not.

On the other hand people express themselves and who they are through their clothes, jewellery, language and actions... and people use cultural markers and community imagery to actively show other people who they are to other people.

In your examples it does't sound like you were sussing out people's covert sexual orientations, but maybe they were just picking up signals that they seem to be deliberately sending out... a necklace with "Dyke" on it sounds like some pretty overt flagging to me! If those markers and expressions come to be used by homophobes to characature and bully people I think they're then a big part of stereotyping. But when they're just a code that people use, they can be really useful... but I think it's great that you don't make assumptions.

If it was me, I would really appreciate that you take your time not to make assumptions about people because people very often read me as gay because somehow I must not express my gender the way they expect me to. I can find it pretty upsetting because it sort of reduces the things about me that I feel are unique and part of me are just discarded as "just part of being gay".

I guess what they are reading is that my personality and expression and my sexuality don't quite fit their normative ideas of heterosexuality, so in that sense they're right, I don't fit those things, I'm a bit queer, but the binary assumption that if I don't seem straight I must be gay, for me is based on that stereotyping approach to non-straightness.

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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For me, by the way, I tend to use gaydar to describe a hunch rather than an assumption.

If I'm in a super straight space and I feel some affinity with some stranger there, I do get a hunch that maybe they're a bit like me. It's not anything to do with physical characteristics or behaviours, just the social situation.

Also, fun fact, apparrently "stereotype" and "cliché" both come from the printing trade... a stereotype would be a copy of the original printing plate and cliché is the name of the sound that printing supposedly made when another copy was produced.

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Burdened with glorious booty
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That's what I was thinking with the word "gaydar" as well - that undefinable feeling of "Wait a sec, are they gay? I get the feeling that they are," even if there's no "proof" behind it. Most of the time, when I get that hunch (in fact, pretty much every time), I've been right, and they actually are LGBT in some way, but I don't like to turn that hunch into an assumption, so I refrain from asking. But that's what makes me look silly, because it means that I'm the last to know that they're actually LGBT, and people assume that I didn't get any kind of hunch at all.

I get it a lot, since I hang out in a lot of nerdy circles (anime society, b-movie society, SFX...the usual) and I do pole - it's ridiculous how high the crossover rate is between LGBT people and nerds/pole dancers. [Big Grin] It's kind of awesome, though, but again, it means that there are people going to these clubs who I have the feeling is gay, but I don't want to say anything in case my gut feeling is wrong, and later on everyone's like "What, you couldn't tell that they were gay?"

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Ta-da!

Posts: 130 | From: UK | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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