Reliance on Stereotype Cues

Face it, we all do it. When we see someone we have not met before, we make observations and compare them with our past experiences. Examples:

…a man in a business suit carrying a briefcase and looking determined — he’s probably busy with something related to his work (and probably takes himself too seriously.)

…a woman pushing a child in a stroller on a sidewalk on a nice day — a happy Mom, Aunt, or child care provider.

…a man playing softball — someone who enjoys sports. Or at least, enjoys softball.

…a young man with spiked hair, metal chains, metal-band t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, poking at a smartphone — kids these days.

…a woman wearing a motorcycle club vest (club colors) astride a Harley, leading a group of riders wearing similar club colors behind her — a road captain for an organized motorcycle riding club.

Question: are any of these people gay?

Answer: they could be gay or they could be straight. How people dress and the activities they do may not give the stereotype signals that people have come to expect of gay people.

I have learned that many people react with a bit of shock when they find out that I am gay. I don’t hide it, but I do not display a sign, either. I do not wear a rainbow anything, or wear makeup for that matter (lots of “metrosexuals” wear makeup. Bleccchhh… not me.)

I digress…

The thing is, I do not and never have displayed outwardly visible signs, dictated by stereotypes, that I am a gay man.

I wear a ring, indicating I am married. Most people have NOT gotten accustomed to the fact that men can marry men in my home state so they assume my ring means that I am married to a woman.

I dress in business casual attire at work (collared shirt, dress pants/khakis) and wear nice boots. Most people do not expect gay men to wear boots. They expect a dress-shoe obsession (so I have been told by several people.)

I wear denim jeans, t-shirts, and boots in my off-time. (I also wear leather jeans, too, when the weather is cool.) Most people have different expectations for clothing that gay guys wear. I won’t go there — I have no sense of fashion, anyway. Jeans & boots are just fine for me.

I keep my hair cut “cop short.” Easy to take care of with soap and water. No muss, no fuss. Stereotypes usually don’t include buzz-cuts for gay men; instead, they suggest an over-abundance of attention on “products” and style. For me? Who cares?

I hate to dance, and make no bones about my dislike of dancing as well as my general klutzy nature. Again, my disdain of dancing and not being graceful flies in the face of gay stereotypes.

I don’t listen to or watch Lady GaGa, Madonna, or similar ilk. There is no stereotype that fits my choices for music — anything from Garth Brooks’ “Rodeo” to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” to Anne Murray’s “May I Have This Dance?” to Journey’s “Lights”. But pop music? I’m clueless.

I have a voice with a deep tone and do not end my sentences with a higher pitch. So much for the audio portion of the gay stereotypes. I just don’t have a “gay voice.”

I walk like any other man: long strides with purpose. I don’t “swish” or sway… I wouldn’t know how since I have no gift of gracefulness in my gait.

I have no apology for not giving cues for other people to use to try to figure out if I am gay. I am who I am — stereotypes notwithstanding.

Life is short: be careful about making judgments based on stereotypes. Most often, they’re wrong.