Picture in your head if you will, a lesbian woman. Now picture a gay man. What do you see? Now, as much as I'd like to think that I've eliminated any subconscious bias or conditioned stereotypes from my mind, much like many others, my initial image tends to be very stereotypical: the effeminate gay man, and the butch lesbian.
(I would like to begin with the disclaimer that my personal commentary only speaks for me and my experiences. Every individual lives life differently, and I would never intend to make blanket statements about any groups of people. Most of this is article is either observational or source based. Any conclusions drawn are a subjective opinion).
Now, this is not without merit. Groups are most often perceived as those who speak the loudest, or by those who are the most wildly different from the norm. It also happens that a lot of gay men are more feminine, and a lot of lesbian women are more masculine. I have no sourcing on this other than the queer community I have personally interacted with.
In a 2012 article discussing transgender and gay individuals, Psychotherapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Ami Kaplan argues that "much of the stigma and discrimination suffered by gays and lesbians over the years has more to do with their visible gender non-conformity than with their invisible sexual preference." She also discusses how queer individuals tend to have more gender fluidity than straight individuals. Essentially, non-queers tend to act alongside the typical gender norms, or as I like to call, the Sandy/Danny rules.
However, women have come very far in their own gender fluidity. Women have gone from wearing only dresses and skirts, to wearing pants as well. Men have yet to make that leap. Men have gone from only wearing pants, to still only wearing pants. (And don't worry, I'll get to drag later).
Queer individuals tend to abide by these rules a lot less, dressing across the spectrum. This expression is what will typically leads to discrimination. An individual going around minding one's business, being low-key homosexual won't raise any eyebrows. It's the gender expression, rather than one's sexuality, that leads to public displays of bigotry from others. Take for example, this following video.
A lesbian woman kicked out of a bathroom, for dressing in a way that was too masculine. On the opposite side of the spectrum, gay men persecuted for being to feminine need I say more than "Middle School?"
As well as being persecuted by straight individuals, gender nonconformity is often shamed by members of the queer community too. Drag Artist, Kim Chi, discussed this in brief on this season of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Femininity displayed by gay men is seen as sexually or romantically undesirable to many, likely due internalized misogyny. I have never been a member of the lesbian community, but I would not be surprised if "butch shaming" was also a thing.
This is terrible because a lot of the time, gender expression is involuntary. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says "today, I'm going to be 9 parts Sandy and 2 parts Danny." Gender theorists like Judith Butler would argue that gender doesn't even exist. Each person expresses oneself differently, and gender expression is really just personality expression. Everyone's gender is unique because every personality is unique.
However, whether it deep rooted psychological nature that science has yet to find, or the blatant binary indoctrination of children that some suggest, most everyone identifies as either a Sandy or a Danny. I can't find any good statistics for this, because the US Census deals only with sex, and not gender; though, it looks like some censuses might begin recognizing non-binary individuals in the future. Because most people identify this way, non-conforming actions, tend to face discriminatory actions.
If you're the documentary type, or need something for your Netflix queue, the documentary 'Do I Sound Gay'? gives insight to this culture of hyper-masculinity and femshaming, focusing on the voices, and patterns of speech in gay men.
When it comes to groups of people that speak the loudest, any article about sexuality and gender cannot be complete with mentioning the art of drag. Drag queen and queer activist RuPaul Charles is quoted saying that, "drag is really making fun of identity. We're shape-shifters." Drag queens and drag kings mock gender stereotypes by often performing as extreme examples of the opposite sex.
These loud, queer, nonconforming people were some of the front-runners of the queer rights movement, dating all the way back to Stonewall.
What I feel is often misunderstood is that there is a direct connection between being gay and being feminine, or being lesbian and being masculine. Just because someone is gay, does not mean they are going to immediately act along these stereotypes. Like the documentary mentioned above, there are many queer individuals that are textbook Sandy and Danny, and without sleeping with them, you would never know that they were queer.
One of my favorite sub genres of music highlights this. Cazwell, rap artist and songwriter, is stylistically typical for a male rap artist. While the aesthetic of his music videos and the style of his music verge on trap, there are still elements of hip hop and rap mirroring other white rappers like Eminem. The only difference is that instead of being YouTube Community Guidelines restricted for half naked women, the video is full of half naked men.
I find it deeply amusing to see a genre that is associated with the most rigid form of masculinity, practiced so nonchalantly by a homosexual man. Cazwell's expression is a polar form of masculine, yet he still retains his sexual identity.
If I haven't confused you enough yet with my babbling about gender theory, get ready. This is another one of my favorite songs. Alaska Thunderfuck, another well known drag queen, and musician, came out with an album titled 'Anus'. One of the tracks included, like Cazwell's 'Downtown' features a very masculine musical style.
What's crazy here, is that we have an effeminate gay man, dressed in a drag as a woman, acting in a masculine manner. As confusing as this is, I think the video is subject to Poe's Law, as certain elements like the plastic squirtguns, and the mild break in character at the end of the video suggest that the video is parodic.
In the end, it's fairly difficult to say anything conclusive about the queer community. The word 'queer' is often used because it refers to literally everything that isn't straight and cis, which is a vast number of orientations and identities. Plus, the alphabet soup (LGBT*QAI+) started getting a little too long.The diversity in this 'community' is so high that it's hard to really say anything that applies to everyone. If there's one thing I hope you take from this article, is that queer people are all different. Gays can be masculine or feminine. Lesbians can be masculine or feminine. Bisexuals, Pansexuals, Asexuals, Greysexuals, everyone acts in different ways, whether that be coded to their 'gender' or not. Sexuality and gender expression are very fickle things, and they may be connected in more ways than I've learned or may be willing to admit, but everyone is a little bit different, and can act, speak, dress, in any way, no matter what floats your boat.
(This essay originally appeared on Odyssey back when I wrote for that tragedy)