The Difference Between Gay-dar and Stereotyping

Many straight people seem to think that they have good gay-dar. These assumptions, however, are often rooted in stereotypes. A man who acts effeminately is labeled as gay. A woman who does not fit into the parameters of society’s definition of femininity elicits assumptions that she is a lesbian. Some straight people assume a man’s sexuality because of the way he talks. They classify women as lesbians due to how they dress or cut their hair. These assumptions are rarely based on words or actions from the allegedly queer person but rather on a straight person’s speculative stereotyping. Regrettably, even in Greenwich Village, the queer capital of the country, NYU students still reinforce gender and sexuality stereotypes.

In my experience, these comments have rarely been malicious, but rather the result of ignorance. Many straight people do not understand why assuming someone’s sexuality is problematic. To have in one’s mind, even subconsciously, a set of traits or a checklist oppresses queer people who have those traits and invalidates queer people who do not. Even if benignly mentioned, straight people who impose their own ideas of what the standard gay person is like are engaging in morally reprehensible behavior. People who do this, but who see themselves as LGBTQ allies, are dropping the ball. The truth is that people do not seem gay, look gay, dress gay or sound gay. We are gay, and our identities are not determined by your speculation.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 2 print edition. Email Riley Lopez at [email protected]

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