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Where Are The Gay Stereotypes When I Need Them?

Updated on May 10, 2010


 Being a gay man in his forties was once considered impossibility for the most part. Being gay was for the young and there were no older gay people in existence. Okay, that is completely an untrue statement but a stereotype that existed when I was growing up at least. Sure you could say that it was my perspective on things as a young man but think about it, how many older gays did you hear about when you first started hearing the term “gay” meaning something other than it did as a Cole Porter lyric? Probably not many so while most gay men were perceived as some sort of handsome Dorian Gray/Dracula type it was easy to think of them possessing talents (and lifetimes) that other mere mortals did not possess or understand. Where are the gay stereotypes when I need them?  – Don’t Get Me Started!

While there are plenty of gay stereotypes I think have really moved into the cliché category to the point where they’re even laughable to us gays, such as limp wrists and lisps, there are still other stereotypes that I wish we could hold onto but as time moves on and people discover that gays are just like everyone else (cringe, well sort of) I think we’re losing our edge just a bit. You see there was a time when women might remark, “Oh he’s too good looking to be straight, he must be gay.” That’s a stereotype (while it’s never been said about me) that we’d like to hold onto. We’d also like to hold onto the stereotype of gays knowing more about fashion, design and being the most witty and clever in the room.

But unfortunately, just like everything else, you have to take the good with the bad and also understand that time marches on and you must go with it. Along with us raising families now and fighting for our rights to be married, we’re having to lose some of our super human powers, be them perceived or not and I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. I want it all. I want to have my cake, eat it and be gay thin all at the same time, please. I want to continue to look at the world through pink cosmopolitan colored glasses, sipping away at life’s comical display before me and commenting with a raised eyebrow.

When I was young the world of being gay included exciting nightclubs like Studio 54, the likes of tortured artists such as Andy Warhol and designers like Bob Mackie. It was a bejeweled world that glittered not only from sequins but from the pure energy of it. If there was a gay at a party he was the life of it. He was the perfect best friend to women and men respected the place the gay best friend held in their wives’ lives. Sure this wasn’t the life that everyone led but to my eyes this was what I was getting myself into and I couldn’t wait to have a dinner party every night of the week and plenty of people to hang on my every word. But as I was growing up getting ready to “come of age” into my true gayness, something changed, something happened and I’m not sure that it wasn’t AIDS that started to strip away at our erudite veneer.

You see when HIV and AIDS first came on the scene it was known as “the gay cancer” and I think to a great many people, the disease created the face of what it was to be gay in the eighties into the nineties. No longer were we Liberace (in his prime) laughing all the way to the bank in his sequins. No longer were we the most handsome man in the room. In fact, the disease was taking one of the most handsome men in the world, Rock Hudson and making him frail before the public’s eyes. Here was this god among men and women who looked gaunt and ill. (I’m still not totally convinced that this isn’t where the whole idea of gay thin came from in a complete misunderstanding by a generation of what it meant to be gay – they saw this as gay – gaunt and well, gay thin.) Yes, Rock Hudson who once towered over the world in his good looks and stardom was now a frail creature who looked older than his years. Someone had destroyed his painting in the back room of his house that had been aging for him all those years and this was what we got in return. It was shocking, horrifying and not so different from the climactic scene of Dorian Gray.

Once the gay image had been converted to be one of men dying of AIDS related illnesses we were at the bottom of the pile. We were seen as the diseased you didn’t want to be around and we became a stronger community unto ourselves by helping one another. Slowly we turned the tide of the illness that was synonymous with gay and as we remade ourselves and our image we somehow decided that we needed to build in a different direction. Sure it could have been the leaders in the community were getting older too so they wanted different things personally and it showed globally but here we were getting off of the parade floats and moving into the suburbs with our 2.5 children, picket fences and golden retrievers. No longer were we gays the handsome mythical gods, no longer the Paul Lynde in the center square but Donna Reed living next door who was active in the PTA and made better cookies than any other mom on the block.

I don’t want to be perceived as some sort of limp wristed queen but I also don’t want to seem as though I’m trying to assimilate into the straight world of carpools just to get the human rights I deserve. So is there or can there be a balance between both worlds? Will the public at large or we the gay world allow ourselves to celebrate both our likenesses and differences with the straight community? I hope so because I don’t want to be a gay who knows what you should or shouldn’t be wearing and have to know how to change a tire too. Where are the gay stereotypes when I need them?  – Don’t Get Me Started!

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      Yvonne Masters 7 years ago

      Scott, What a powerful post. I hate to say that I never thought I or my friends would be at this age where we would look at all the history that created us and brought us to where we are now with such wisdom and insight. Also interesting as I was just teaching a group of my nursing students about why HIV is the reportable, but unmentionable disease and the history that attends that.

      Always a good read and I'm glad I found your FB site.

      Love ya,

      Yvonne :)

      PS voted for you, too.

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      oscillationatend 7 years ago from a recovering narcissist.

      Very insightful. I know a lot of queer folk, hard not to in California--even, if not especially in South Cali. Haven't met one I didn't like, and I even know an older one who is pushing his 30s and many wouldn't even recognize him for being gay.

      Err..if it wasn't for the Prius with liberal and Democrat stuff on it. Not to mention the HRC sticker.

      But, hey, he's a great guy. Love him to death.