Thursday, 12 June 2014

Gay types of stereo

OK, stupid title, but it got your attention. If I just put "gay stereotypes" you would probably have just clicked on past.

This is kind of an awkward topic, mostly because I don't mean to, or want to, offend anyone in the LGBT community. I'm talking about stereotypes, so it helps to also remember I'm generalising. I am of course, targeting this blog at everyone, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, including categories such as intersex and other cultural groups like Fa'afafine), "straight" and anyone in between.

You may hear someone say "I have a gay friend!". Your brain probably immediately displays a picture of a rather effeminate looking guy, tight pants etc, or maybe a large drag queen, or a slightly awkward looking transsexual woman. Yeah, the stereotypes.

We all have mind images that pop up unbidden for stereotypes in every aspect of life. Its how our mind works. Part of the way we process and store information is by internal association and labeling. Its unconscious and is a very important factor in mental health.

The problem is when our internal labels are created by incorrect or biased data - data that has been slowly determined by our paradigms since the day we are born. This includes family, peers, culture, religion, societal ethics and morals, and a million other influences.

The problem with the whole LGBT issue is complex, far more so than religion and culture realise.

Firstly, there is actually no clear cut "gay or straight" categories. The term LGBT hardly does it justice! In reality, there are sliding scales for gender identity, gender expression, sexual attraction and physical gender. Although there are a few minor variations in how this is presented - it looks like this.

Secondly, everybody has different personality traits - quiet, loud, introspective, extravert, blunt, rude, gentle, cautious, sensitive, you name it! Strangely enough, this applies to LGBT people as well. So you get those who are at different points on the scale (as mentioned above) combined with the usual mix of personalities and you get a small percentage of really "out there", bold, happy, up front and loud gays and lesbians, drag queens, and everything we use to stereotype them with. Why? Because they are the ones who, no matter what their sex/gender orientation is, will always be seen. They are the ones at the Pride parades and Mardi Gras, just being who they are - just the same as anyone else who is passionate and outgoing (especially with "causes" that affect them personally) will be the visible, vocal ones.

Thirdly, let's consider the statistics of the number of people who are LGBT. As I said above, we are all somewhere on the spectrum so it makes getting real stats extremely difficult. Heaps of research has been done on this over the years, and all of it differing depending on demographics, especially the type of questions asked and environment (physical/emotional/spiritual etc) where the research was taken. From all the research done, it seems we could generalise somewhere around 15% of the population are far enough towards the LGBT end of things to fit that category. Bear in mind that some surveys asked much broader questions about same sex experiences in ways that allowed the participants to express feelings and encounters that bypassed their own stereotypes, so they felt free to report experiences they would otherwise have never spoken of. Some of these surveys revealed up to 25% of the population.

We may never know the true figure simply because of the paradigms and biases associated with the whole subject.

With all that taken into consideration, we see that it's a minority of LGBT people who have helped us create the stereotypes. In reality, most LGBT people are quietly going about their business just like everyone else. They aren't effeminate, or drag queens etc. They are often "in the closet" and you would have no idea! They aren't drug addicts, abuse victims, sex addicts or satanists. They don't have an "agenda" to recruit your children or take over government or anything else. Many have  wonderful loving families and the best upbringing you could hope for. Many are pillars of society and church. You just don't know.

You may be in a room with 10 guys - the chances are good that 2 of them are LGBT.

Think about that.

You are in a church meeting of say 200 people - maybe 20 to 40 of them have experienced same sex attraction and enjoyed finding expression for something that is deeply part of them, but have suffered enough guilt, fear and shame to never mention it.

The stereotypes we create end up destroying our efforts to understand and look past the things that disturb our paradigms. We have to realise that stereotypes, no matter what they are associated with, are just that, and they do not, nor cannot represent the truth.

This is something I had to work through myself, despite being gay! I was so influenced by the christian paradigm that I had internalised homophobia, reinforced by working in reperative therapy for years. I still sometimes battle with the stereotypes imprinted in my mind. But that's another story!

There is no such thing as just "gay or straight" - there are only people, with a myriad of subtle to extreme sexual and gender characteristics, who simply want the freedom to live with integrity. Until then, we have to talk about it, loudly, and persistently!

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