AI: On the Sexual Nature of Gay People
It seems to be common knowledge that all gay people’s main goal in life is to turn straight people gay too. It’s like they make a point of spreading out their disease so that everyone is taken by the Queer Empire.
We’ve all heard it at least once. If not in such strong words, but it always seems as if, although straight people are selective towards the people they want to date in the opposite sex, we just don’t have that filter. You’re a gay man? Then you must want to have sex with all men in the world. You’re a lesbian? All women must be yours!
Wait, you’re bi? Jesus, leave some for the rest of us, will you?
It’s reductive, it’s offensive, it’s ridiculous. And yet, it’s all out there.
So how can we destroy these kinds of stereotypes? Does ignoring the perpetuators do more harm than good? How can we defeat such reductive portraits of the gay community, when they are treated as truth and persevere in so many people’s minds?
The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, at 3pm ET.
I certainly have no problem pointing out to people how they're wrong in thinking these types of things. I am constantly reminding people that sexual orientation is not just behavior, but also includes identity and attraction. A person can be a lesbian and not have had any sexual experiences if she identifies that way and she is attracted to women.
I think it's all about education–at least education for those who will listen. For those who won't, there's probably not much we can do to change their minds.
Yes, I agree that orientation and behaviour are not the same thing and it’s silly to conflate them.
That said, this cultural image does have a basis in real life. “Turning” straight guys is an incredibly common fetish among gay men, presumably because of a homophobic inclination to regard them as more manly, or stemming from adolescent angst along the lines of “I fell for my straight best friend and s/he can’t reciprocate” (which seems common among many people I know).
Silly as it is, I think the reason so many straight men are especially uncomfortable with the prospect of someone trying to “turn” them is that they are ironically unable to deal with being subjected to the male gaze (ha! puns) and have no tools to deal with the idea of being sexually objectified by someone who stands a chance of physically overpowering them in the way that women are every day.
Another issue with sexuality stereotypes of gay men and women is that stereotypes of gender are laid on top of that. Just today my friends and I were speculating on the relationship status of a couple we knew; a couple of us suggested they might be in an open relationship, and a third friend said, "Well, I don't think lesbians really do open relationships. They're more committed!" This same friend has also said in the past that gay men don't really "do relationships" because they're men, and men aren't as interested in commitment. I've tried to talk reason to her and change her mind about these gender stereotypes, but in some people these ideas are so ground into their psyche. I don't know if this is the case elsewhere, but at my college people joke about how the lesbians here mate for life, like penguins, while the gay guys here don't get in relationships; they just hook up. Obviously these are not always true, because everyone is different in their level of desire for commitment, regardless of gender, and it's frustrating to hear all the time!
I suppose my big sticking point with this AI is that it does presume that there is something we can or should do to combat this stereotype, at least actively. We don't owe anyone an explanation of our sexual behavior, any more than women have to earn the right to not be considered sluts for being on birth control and enjoying sex (FSM, preserve me in your saucy embrace, I can't believe I just had to type that in 2012). The best way to combat negative stereotypes of this nature is simply to live our lives how we choose to. In some cases, that does mean that queer people *do* go after everything that shows interest, and that's as valid a choice for us as anyone else.
I have no plans to fight the idea that I'm a greedy bisexual trying to fuck everything that passed my line of vision. I'm not, but I also feel no particular obligation to try and convince people otherwise. It's generally a waste of time.
Ignoring the perpetrators only abets ignorance. I suspect the optimum response eludes us at the moment, so we need to experiment. I'm not feeling particularly creative tonight, though.