Within and Without / Take back the stereotypes

In Western society, stereotypes permeate almost every mode of popular culture. It’s almost impossible to turn on any form of modern entertainment and not see caricatures of fiery Latina bombshells, thuggish young black men, and cartoonishly flamboyant gays coming in through the airwaves.

These stereotypes, some argue, must certainly derive from some sort of truth because they’re so prevalent, and while it makes sense to think that some people in minority groups fit the characteristics of a stereotype, it cannot possibly be the case for every member.

I passionately championed this belief in my adolescent years. I was a stereotype destroyer. It was my personal mission to eradicate what I saw to be harmful stereotypes of any group or minority, mostly because I belonged to one.

As a gay man, I desperately tried to distance myself as far as possible from the overtly ostentatious flamboyant gay man stereotype.

As a result, people were shocked to find out I was gay. I was often told by those getting to know me that they ‘never would have guessed!’ or that they ‘couldn’t believe it!’

And not fitting into a stereotype can be just as annoying as being the posterchild of it, if not more.

Why could people not believe that I was gay? Anyone can be gay. It’s not like there’s a poster in junior high health classes letting people know that guys must be this effeminate to ride the gay train or that girls must act at least this butch to be queer.

It’s like if any member of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t fit into our culturally constructed definitions of gay and straight, then they must be some sort of anomaly, which is just wrong.

In actuality, queer people come in a vast spectrum of shapes, sizes, colors and temperaments, and they’re all completely normal.

Just because you don’t fit into a stereotype, doesn’t mean you should feel any less validated about your sexuality.

In the same way, never feel bad about exemplifying any sort of cultural stereotype. If that’s who you really are embrace it, and don’t let anyone lower your self-worth because of it.

When I was younger, I forgot that there were those who fit into stereotypes because they were proud of who they were or were just being themselves, and when one of the most tragic terrorist attacks in US history happened back in June — during which a gunman shot down and killed almost 50 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando — I realized something.

Sometimes, fitting into a stereotype just means refusing to hide who you really are. Stereotypes are only harmful when used to perpetuate hate, violence or to justify biases against minorities.

I understand the desire to show off your culture: to be loudly, boldly, and unabashedly yourself.

So whatever your sexuality and whatever culture you be- long to, be proud of it. Take back the stereotypes, bravely show yourself to the world, and never let anything or anyone con- vince you to do otherwise.