Queer Corner: Too Pretty To Be Gay?

Katherine Pochini

Stereotypes: the sometimes true, usually false, and generally good-for-a-laugh set of attributes we assign to pretty much every group of people to which we’ve given a label. Some carry positive connotations, while others are negative and offensive. And with every stereotype, there comes an overwhelming pressure to conform to it as well as a rebellious desire to reject it. We all know the feeling. For many of you, it’s the reason why you’re wearing pink pants and boat shoes right now; for others, it’s why you’ve vowed to never pair black leggings with tan UGGs (a decision I wholeheartedly commend, by the way).

Now you would think that as intelligent, well-educated individuals, we would know better than to believe these preconceived generalizations, but you would be surprised at how many people buy into the stereotype hype. Just think back on all the “Jersey Shore” parties you probably attended at the beginning of the semester, yet how many of us Italian-American New Jerseyans actually look like Snooki? As someone who falls into a group that has been assigned a set of fantastically ridiculous, offensive and just plain inaccurate generalizations (and no, I’m not talking about New Jerseyans), I have faced my fair share of stereotype combating over the years.

When I tell people that I am a lesbian, I usually receive a puzzled look, followed by the confusing statement, “but you don’t look gay.” Sometimes, this is followed by, “are you sure you’re gay?,” “maybe you’re just bisexual” and my personal favorite “are you sure you’re not just ‘gay-until-graduation?'” I know a few women who have even been told they are “too pretty to be gay.” Too pretty to be gay? As someone who happens to be a big fan of pretty gay girls (and knows firsthand that they do exist), I find it offensive that I, as well as other gay women, cannot be taken seriously because we don’t exactly fit the description of a stereotypical lesbian.

So what exactly do the stereotypes dictate for members of the LGBTQ community? You’re probably already very familiar with them. Gay men are flamboyant, feminine, fashionable, promiscuous, have an undying love of musical theatre (who doesn’t?) and worship at the thrones of Cher, Madonna and Lady Gaga. Lesbians, on the other hand, are masculine, angry (particularly toward men), unattractive, have wardrobes consisting entirely of flannel and have short hair in varying stages between mullet and faux hawk.

But what about bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals, or people who simply don’t feel that they fit into any of these categories? Well, since stereotypes are broad generalizations, they tend to make things very black and white. Gay or straight.

There is not much room for the rainbow that makes up queer sexuality and gender identity. Likewise, there is no room for the immense variety in personality, likes, dislikes, fashion and physical appearance that is present in the queer community.

As a young gay-in-training, I was painfully aware of all of the stereotypes surrounding gays and lesbians. The media, pop culture, my family and my friends all drilled into my head the idea of how a lesbian should look and act. And I didn’t exactly fit the description, which made me feel as though I needed to change myself in order to be a “real lesbian.” It was hard enough trying to deal with being a very gay, very closeted seventeen year old, and adding this feeling of inadequacy to the situation did not help at all. Fortunately, I did not cave in and get a faux hawk, nor did I replace my entire wardrobe with flannel. In the end, it would have done nothing but make me look like someone I was not (and produce a very embarrassing senior yearbook photo in the process).

Many queer people feel that they need to conform to the stereotypes in order to fit in, in order to find a partner, in order to really be queer. But the truth is that we come in all shapes and sizes, with different interests, personalities, music tastes and clothing styles.

So trust me, you have much more pressing matters to worry about (like studying, getting a job, declaring your major, applying to grad school, finding out if that cute girl you have a crush on likes you too). The last thing on your mind should be whether that outfit makes you look gay enough. So guys, it doesn’t matter whether you remember every song from “A Chorus Line” or every play from the last World Series. And girls, it’s not a big deal if you have a closet full of flannel, or a collection of LBDs (that’s a “little black dress,” for all you non-fashionistas). What is important is that you stay true to yourself and never let anyone, or any stereotype, define who you are.