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Is Stereotyping As Bad As They Tell Us?

Updated on November 30, 2009


It’s strange writing this because I’ve lived most of my life as a stereotype. I’m a gay Jewish man who has a close relationship with his mother, loves show tunes and can throw the right throw pillow on any couch and make magic, turning it into a sofa. And although I’ll admit that many of the stereotypes are true about one group or another (otherwise they wouldn’t be stereotypes, right) I never like being reduced to JUST the stereotype. So on a recent weekend when I saw a gathering of at least fifty motorcyclists lined up in a parking lot I wondered, is stereotyping as bad as they tell us? – Don’t Get Me Started!

You see on first glance it was a parking lot filled with large men (and women) in everything you’d expect from leather jackets with the same insignia to jeans and leather chaps. They were a bit foreboding and I’ll admit that my first impression was to go around them, way around them. All that kept playing in my head was that scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure when he knocks over the motorcycles parked outside of a bar and after they threaten his life he ends up endearing himself to the bikers by dancing to “Tequila” on the bar as his final request. And while there was a bar attached to the parking lot where these bikers I was watching had congregated, I was in no mood to do my best Pee Wee impersonation. But an amazing thing happened as I stared at them, I saw the men in the crowd bidding one another farewell with major hugs. There was nothing sexual about it and there was no arm going to the handshake first and then having the forearms firmly in place as they hug as a buffer so as to not really touch one another too much. Here they were unabashedly hugging one another before getting on their motorcycles and leaving the parking lot. And in that moment I was more than a little ashamed of myself. Surely these guys were in touch with their emotions and were much more than the stereotype that I had placed on them.

Now when it comes to bikers I should know better to begin with, you see one of my brother’s first houses he rented was in a very popular gay neighborhood in San Diego. I’ll admit that I was a little jealous of not only where my straight brother was living but that he also seemed to be the toast of the gayborhood. Everyone knew him and so I was only a little surprised to find out that my brother (who owned a motorcycle at the time) was also riding every Sunday with the “Rainbow Riders” (the gay motorcycle club). I met a few of them at one point and they were all very nice and also more than a little disgusted that my brother was straight (which he took as a compliment). They were all really well read men who also weren’t afraid to wear a little pink under their black leather jackets. They were all so much more than the gay or the biker stereotype.

So after I encountered the bikers in that parking lot I started thinking that maybe a stereotype is only the first impression. And while first impressions are lasting, once you get past that first impression and find out more about a person you realize that while your initial impression may have been correct, there’s more to this person. While I agree that no one should be seen only as a stereotype I have to wonder is stereotyping as bad as they tell us? – Don’t Get Me Started!

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