Most of us have a love-hate relationship with queer TV characters. I mean, we love that there are more of them than ever before – but it sucks that the representation is so flawed. Of course, they’ll never be able to represent everyone, and the events on television need to be sensationalized, or else they’ll never have any viewers, but generally speaking – queer representation on TV is probably doing more harm than good.
But the way we’re represented on TV isn’t really the problem. The problem is that people often can’t differentiate between the fictionalized portrayals and the actual, real people who are living under the LGBT+ umbrella. For example, in Japan, yaoi manga (or graphic novels centered around gay men) are hugely popular, and yet their actual queer acceptance is pretty low. “Equal rights” still has a long way to go, and these fictional characters aren’t helping as much as they could.
I, for one, would like to take a stand and say that no, the way you see queer people on TV is not the real story. Here are some of the most common lies perpetuated by television.
1. Gay people really just want to seduce straight people.
This stereotype definitely rose up (pun intended) with Ruby Rose, who successfully (and unintentionally) got caught in the sights of every woman questioning her sexuality, ever. All these straight women suddenly turned into those predatory lesbians that TV warned about. Funny how that works.
But the truth is, most queer people have no desire to be with someone who identifies as straight. The reality is that there is a chance of serious complications in this situation, so most of us avoid it whenever possible. And if, by chance, a homosexual finds a straight person attractive, in most cases they try to talk themselves out of it, rather than trying to act on it.
2. All gay men love drag queens.
And, in fact, most of them are drag queens – according to television. Drag queens are an important part of the queer community, and they almost always identify as queer themselves.
But the truth is, The L Word actually got this more correct than most of television did. Drag queens are not inherently homosexual – it’s just a costume, and it’s one that some queer people actually have a really hard time accepting, due to the implication that a straight man who dresses like a woman is the same thing as a transgender woman. It’s not the same thing, at all, and knowing the difference is a big deal. I’ve said it time and time again: The clothes you choose to wear say absolutely nothing about your sexuality.
3. All queer people are disgusted by the reproductive organs of the opposite sex.
All lesbians will squeal and squirm when they see a penis (gross!) and all gay men will fear vaginas because they have teeth and maybe even a little troll down there. And, of course, they’ll see the same-sex reproductive organs in everything around them – after all, irises look a little like a vagina, right? And don’t even get me started on the eggplant emoji.
While this one might be true sometimes, for the most part, the queer community is more mature than that. A gay man who sees (or hears about) a vagina isn’t going to run scared, and a lesbian who sees (or hears about) a penis isn’t going to vomit. Just because we’re not turned on by these things doesn’t mean we’re repulsed, and many of us have been with the opposite sex before coming out. Just because we’re not into it doesn’t mean we’re afraid of it.
4. All lesbians wear power suits.
Power suits are great, and any celebrity you see rocking a power suit elicits the question “Is she gay?” – because TV has taught us that powerful lesbians wear power suits.
Really, though, they can be pretty expensive, and most of the time, we’re too broke to afford them. If we do have a power suit, we’ll probably rock it like a boss – but that doesn’t mean that all of us have one (or ten) or that owning a power suit means you’re a lesbian.
5. All lesbians hate men, and all gay men love being BFFs with straight women.
Lesbians on TV are often man-haters. Gay men on TV are the iconic best friends and life coaches that will tell a woman exactly how to get the man, up to and including giving them tips on how to perform oral (or anal) sex better for their partners.
The reality is that people don’t typically choose their friends based on gender or sexuality – we choose friends based on who we have things in common with. This means that most of my friends are guys, because I’m not exactly girly – but many of them are gay men who hate the idea of “fag hags”. If you’re choosing your friends based on what’s in their pants or who’s in their bed, you’re doing it wrong.
6. Gay men are the most stylish out of anyone – always.
On television, you can always pick out the male character who’s going to be queerbait later on – he’ll be the sharpest dresser, with the perfect hair. He’ll probably also give advice to his straight female BFF because her style choices are atrocious, and if he has a lesbian friend, she’ll get a makeover (because lesbians are notoriously the least stylish).
Here’s the thing, though: Fashion and style are personal interests that have nothing to do with your sexual or gender identity. Gay men are only the most stylish if they aspire to be – and lesbians have just as much of a chance of being stylish as the gay men do, and guess what – neither has a higher chance of being fashionable than their non-gay counterparts.
7. Lesbians spend all their time getting it on.
Unlike the gay men in TV shows, you’ll know that a female character is about to be queerbait because… Well, they’ll be hooking up with other chicks. Probably in every single episode. They’ll skip work or school just to stay home and make out, because they’re lesbians and that’s what lesbians do.
Truthfully, lesbians don’t usually hook up all that much. Most women don’t get turned on without some stimulation, which usually doesn’t include “that look”. (Okay, sometimes it includes “that look”, but only with a certain person.) Oh, and most of us aren’t cheaters, either.
8. Gay men are sassy and salty.
On television, the gay men will often be making catty remarks, to one another and to their SBFFs about other straight women, gay men, and definitely about transgender people. This, of course, only applies to gay men who are already out – the closeted gay men get none of the gay perks that are promised by Hollywood.
The truth is that the cattiness in the gay community isn’t really any more prevalent than it is in any other subsection of society. Sure, some gay men are sassy. Some of them hate on each other. But most of them act like the closeted men in TV – trying to keep the attention off of them by laying low. In a world that’s fueled by so much hate, it’s safer to keep out of the spotlight. (And also, some of the cattiest men I’ve ever known have been straight – so let that one sink in for a minute.)
9. You can easily spot a lesbian based on how they dress or act.
TV lesbians are usually super butch, or they have no fashion sense whatsoever. There are no “conventionally attractive” lesbians on television – only ones that look super gay.
Let me repeat my new mantra. You can’t tell anything about a person by the way they dress, except what kind of clothes they like. Just because a woman dresses “like a stud” doesn’t mean she’s gay, any more than sundresses mean she’s straight. Clothes are literally the shallowest expression of ourselves, and to believe that there’s any weight to the definitions we assign to them is pretty ignorant.
10. Gay men hate sports, but love unorganized physical fitness.
In the television world, gay men always hate sports. They have no idea how baseball is played, they’re entirely unfamiliar with American football teams, and generally they hate group activities that don’t involve hordes of straight women. This seems to be a rule. Yet, remarkably, even though they hate the idea of sports, they’re all really, really buff.
The reality is a little different, though. I do know some very physically fit gay men – but generally these men enjoy playing sports, in addition to their less-group-oriented workouts. The ones who don’t like sports also usually aren’t into working out in a more boring way. I also know a great deal of gay men who are a little pudgy, and that’s okay – you don’t have to be fit to be gay. I promise, the two aren’t related.
11. All gay men have “the voice”.
You know exactly what I’m talking about – that campy, feminine voice that’s associated with gay men. All gay men apparently have it the second they come out, and it doesn’t take any practice to get it like that – it’s just television magic.
Realistically, though, most gay men don’t talk like that. It’d be like saying lesbians all have burly voices, or that all straight women have a feminine voice, or that no straight men have higher pitched voices… Yep, you guessed it, your voice doesn’t say anything about your sexuality, either, and I don’t think anyone naturally talks campy like that. You’ve got to train your voice to be that way, and not everyone chooses to do this.
12. Gay men love musicals.
If you see gay men on TV, they’re often fans of showtunes, Broadway hits, and especially Rent. They also all love the theater in general, even if it’s not the same when no one’s singing.
Truthfully, most people who like musicals like them because… Well, they like them. Not because they’re gay and gays are supposed to like musicals. The reason Rent hits closest to home with so many isn’t just because it has queer characters, but because it doesn’t sugar-coat the issues facing the gay community, and just because it happens to have some good songs in it doesn’t mean that it’s loved because of the music. (Although, the songs are pretty good, I must admit.)
13. Lesbians are just doing it for the attention.
In television, a great deal of lesbian characters are doing it for the attention – whether to be provocative, or to garner a male partner. In movies, these women often end up with the man in the end, because – after all – they had to experiment with women to prove that they were actually just taking their boyfriend for granted.
This creates an unfair stereotype among the actual queer community, because anyone who doesn’t fit into the predetermined “type” for lesbians is thought to be doing it for attention. Some women are even told that “they’ll never get a boyfriend if they don’t stop the lesbian thing” which is extra contradictory because a) we don’t want a boyfriend, and b) it actually does nothing to chase guys away. If anything, they’re more attracted because we’re “a challenge”.
14. Rich straight women have gay best friends as a fashion accessory.
Bored housewives often have gay men in their entourage – but only one of course, because gay men can’t be friends with other gay men. They can only be friends with straight women, otherwise the straight woman might have to acknowledge that the gay man’s sex life is none of her business.
In the real world, though, gay men are not fashion accessories. It’s not something they aspire to be, and most will completely reject you if you try to befriend them just because you “need” a gay friend. You don’t. Especially if you think you need a GBFF because of the perks that are associated. Don’t force someone to fit into a role you’ve essentially created for them. It’s rude.
15. Gay couples can have a baby pretty easily – either by adoption or surrogacy.
On television, most long-term gay couples will have one or more children. It’s like they just go to the adoption agency and say “I’m gay so you can’t discriminate against me, give me baby plz”. This is what gays should strive for: Starting a family with the person they’ve been with for a couple years.
Truthfully, even if you’re in a committed heterosexual relationship, adopting a child is a very lengthy process, and most people are denied. Surrogacy is even more complicated, because under the eyes of the law, that child isn’t yours until the adoption papers have been signed – which means that the mother (or donor) can back out and then you’ve just got a basketful of disappointment instead of a bundle of joy. Then there’s the fact that discrimination from adoption centers is actually very real and it happens more than we’d care to admit. There are a great deal of couples who are never able to have a child, regardless of any laws put in place to “make it easier”. And some of them are OK with that – not everyone wants kids.
16. Trans characters are bad people.
The inclusion of trans characters is still pretty new, and frankly, they should be feared (according to television). When a trans person is included in a television show, they’re often criminals or psychotic individuals. Sometimes, they transition as a way to escape their criminal pasts.
In the real world, a trans person is no more likely to be a “bad person” than the next guy. Whether MTF or FTM (or anywhere in the nonbinary spectrum), although there may be a prevalence of mental illness, this illness is not a direct result of the gender identity issues, but rather a symptom of an oppressive system that seeks to fit trans people into the “label” they were born with. Just as homophobia is often the cause of mental illness among the homosexual community. Really, it’s no different.
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