LGBTQ column: Out of the closet, into a box

by Andrew Stanton / Beacon Correspondent • September 28, 2017

I have a confession—I think Buzzfeed quizzes are fun.

A few weeks ago, I found myself searching the site. One quiz titled, “You Won’t Get 100% on this Quiz If You’re Straight,” jumped out at me. Aware of how questionable this could be, I went ahead and took it. According to Buzzfeed, I am, without a doubt, 100 percent straight.

I guess I’ve been wrong this whole time. Apparently, because I don’t know Taylor Swift’s most recent hairstyle or the exact shade of millennial pink, I can’t be gay.

I’m always surprised by how the LGBTQ community is so entrenched in stereotypes. Gay men are expected to be young, fit, pop culture savvy, and sociable, and the list goes on for the stereotypes that exist for other LGBTQ people.

Stereotypes are not true. LGBTQ people exist in all walks of life. We’re a diverse community full of complex people, despite what some people might believe. The consequences of stereotypes inflict harm by dividing the community and isolating members.

It’s problematic that members of the queer community intentionally perpetuate these stereotypes, which have consequences. Many LGBTQ youth feel like they don’t fit into the community. I know, had I taken that quiz as a 10-year-old, I would have felt isolated. When queer people present these stereotypes as true, as the writer of this quiz did, it validates stereotypes and misconceptions about the queer community. It sets the stage for cisgender, straight people to continue these stereotypes.

I’ve been told to conform to the norms of the queer community, and that it’s not a problem if traditional LGBTQ institutions leave people out. It’s easy to get defensive over criticism of our community, but we need to be open-minded of this criticism to move towards inclusivity.

As a community, we must move towards inclusivity. Queer people who don’t fit stereotypes are still a part of our community, and we cannot let anyone feel like they don’t belong. Stereotypes are put on minority groups of all kinds by majority, so they really stem from heteronormativity, and we should not let cisgender, straight people tell us who we are.

Of course, I’m not begrudging anyone who fits these stereotypes. In fact, I fit many of them myself. We don’t need to change who we are to defy stereotypes, and we should never denounce parts of the community that bind us. Instead, we need to create more opportunities for all of us to be included in the LGBTQ community. We need a greater variety of LGBTQ spaces than just gay clubs. We could create more LGBTQ coffeeshops or libraries to engage people in the community who feel left out.

The most radical thing we can do as a community is to be ourselves. We don’t need to look at societal, heteronormative ideals on how we must behave. We don’t need to try to break the mold if we don’t want to.

These stereotypes are built into media representation of the community. Movies and TV depict LGBTQ characters in uncreative, stereotyped ways.

Emerson is a school full of media makers. All content creators, whether in journalism, theater, film, or writing, have a responsibility to understand different communities and represent them accurately and fully.

Adding more depth to characters and moving beyond traditional representations will alter the way the public perceives the queer community and be an important aid in debunking stereotypes. Content creators should move society forward by writing diverse, dynamic, interesting LGBTQ characters. We need to tell the LGBTQ stories that have never been told. Queer media needs to reflect the diversity of the queer community.

We didn’t come out of the closet to be put into a box. We came out of the closet to be free.