Illustrations by Clarione Gutierrez
These days gay culture is almost as played out as a Taylor Swift song from 2012. Whether we are discussing stereotypes or scoffing at clichés, we have all been witness to typecasts that limit us to one-dimensional characters. Naturally, we make every effort to rebuke any rigid categorization of what it looks like to be a gay man because we know there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all "homosexual lifestyle."
We exist in Technicolor diversity, and for every stereotype, there is an opposite countertype. But just like with any other marginalized population, the majority likes to simplify minority cultures that it doesn’t understand with quipping stereotypes and sound-bite clichés. These can feel insulting and degrading, as no one likes to be labeled or put into a box. But just between us gays, some of these clichés are dead on the nose, whether we like it or not.
If you ask me, the best way to combat the stupidity of thinking that all gay men are one certain way is to own our commonalities, make light of our likenesses and let the outside world know that these gay clichés are totally true … just maybe not in they way they think.
These are six gay clichés that I think we should consider as totally true.
No matter how elevated the dinner guests or how sophisticated the cocktail party, we have all taken part in a discussion about the new Beyoncé video, the latest Gaga album, or what Madonna is up to now. As much as the alterna-gays try to escape it, we are all slaves to our divas. Some of us can admit it.
It doesn’t matter whether your personal iTunes library is filled with classical, country or indie rock, if you have been to a gay bar within the last decade, you know at least one Britney Spears song by heart. You can despise it, try to hide it, but baby, you were born this way.
We identify with their strength, their swagger and their affinity for the blazing lights. Sure, not all gay men crave the spotlight. But most gay men do love at least one woman who does. Maybe you are more Tina than Cher, or more Janet than Madonna, but most likely even the most indie rock of gays has one female power ballad on their playlist.
And if you happen to be the one gay man in the free world who doesn’t know at least one line to Madonna’s “Vogue,” you do not get a medal.
“Ugh … but we are like sisters!”
The bonds between our fellow homos are strong, more often resembling a sense of family born out of the shared experience of familial or societal rejection. But cut the crap, boys, I would bet my Britney Spears collection (see cliché number 1) on the fact that you have slept with at least one of your best friends — and more likely two or three.
Often times, outside groups have used this cliché as an attack against our moral standing. But there is nothing wrong with having a funny story to tell when someone asks how you met your best friend or friends. It only makes sense that you may have fumbled with the idea of romance with someone who ultimately became your best buddy, because in many ways, the bond that you have with your friends is sometimes even stronger than the one you have with a boyfriend. So relax and just admit it, we all know just how hung our friends are, and for good reason.
This commonly uttered sentiment from the drunken girl at the bar will often make a gay man cringe. But as much as we hate to be likened to a girl’s favorite new purse or puppy, we all know it is true. We do make the best friends that anyone could have, and do you know why? Because, unfortunately, we have had to collectively undergo the judgment and rejection of our own friends and family. Whether through personal experiences or the experiences of our friends, we know what it feels like to have someone dismiss you in their life just because of who you are.
So where does that leave us? Well, it creates a culture of unconditional support, brutal honesty, and a “look at all the fucks I give” mentality. Roll that all up and give it a saucy homo disposition and you have some of the most fabulously, fiercely loyal and unquestionably honest people you can find. And if you are a straight person who is lucky enough to call one of them your friend, then it is most likely one of the best ones you have.
The homosexual movement has spent decades dispelling the belief that all gays care about is sex. Over the years, we have proved that we are a multi-faceted, complex and caring people who are as diverse as the rainbow that represents us. But let's be honest, we are still men. Combine the fact that our sexual conquests consist of other men, and yes … it is safe to say we think about sex. We think about sex a lot.
Now, just because we think about sex about every 10 seconds of every day doesn’t mean that controls our actions. There is no need to defend our depth among our selves since we all know that there is more to life than what is between the sheets.
But let’s be honest, you are probably thinking about having sex with this cartoon right now.
Again, with the stereotypes … we are not all party boys, disco divas, and drag queens. In fact, some gay men have two left feet and don’t know their Beyoncé from Barbra Streisand. But we are a culture born in the afterglow of secret cocktails, a society bred from the light of a disco ball to escape the pain of the mundane. So, even though our world no longer exists in the confines of the gay club, we can never erase our roots.
Gay men can pair the right music with the perfect martini, set the lighting so that everyone looks just a little younger, and coordinate the perfect menu with a theme of the night. Love it or hate it, we are all just a little better at making a good party into a great one. It is no coincidence that most expensive wedding planners walk with a twist and there is no shame in owning that we are indeed fabulous.
Don’t believe me? Accept the next invitation from one of your straight friends and you be the judge.
What, did you think this list was going to be all glitter, sex and Gaga? Oh, no, the gay life is way more complex than that, and so are our clichés.
Although it may not have always been the case, gay men are the living legacy of the heartache, anguish and ultimate triumph of the AIDS epidemic. HIV may affect everyone, but it certainly hasn’t affected everyone equally. Although so many have suffered from AIDS worldwide, the gay community in the U.S. and many other developed countries has become somewhat intertwined with the virus.
To deny that HIV isn’t a central theme that ties all gay men together is both an insult to those who have died from AIDS and an invitation for HIV to lampoon your world in one way of another. If we forget our history, it will inevitably repeat itself, and too many lives have already been lost to risk one more. We all have a stake in fighting the stigma associated with HIV, because it was what keeps the people from getting tested and those living with disease from disclosing their status.
Gay men make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population but account for more than half of all HIV infections. If doesn’t matter what your status may be, because we have each had that one moment that could have made all the difference. And we all must be part of the change that allows the gay community to come out from under the stigma of HIV for good.
TYLER CURRY is the senior editor of HIV Equal, a comprehensive online publication dedicated to promoting HIV awareness and combating HIV stigma. To learn more about HIV Equal, visit HIVequal.org or follow Tyler Curry on Facebook or Twitter @iamtylercurry.