or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Stereotypes
One of the things I hated about doing queer studies at UofT (besides the esoteric discussions centred on some inane straw man of a theory, which nobody believed anyway) was the inability of students to get past ‘deconstructing’ things. The focus on every identity being ‘socially constructed’ (thank you, Judith Butler) has convinced a whole subset of young academics that ‘deconstructing’ identities is a worthwhile endeavor. My professor, on hearing someone wanted to ‘deconstruct’ the traditional male, or the feminine wife, or whatever, would say “Okay, but what are you doing in a class room?”
Then there was that much-discussed but rather silly cover story in The Grid which, because some white, hipster queers don’t like rainbow flags, declared a new way of being gay. The author didn’t seem to realize that resenting stereotypes is as grand a tradition in the gay community as musical theatre and bath houses. Gays in the 1950’s didn’t like their stereotypes; same in the 1970’s. The only result is that new stereotypes are formed (which the cover photo suggested, what with its bearded, bow-tied, plaid-wearing homo’s).
Stereotypes are not always bad. They can help people find a place in the community and get comfortable with their identity. We fight for human rights so that we have the freedom to be whatever we want to be, not necessarily be reactionary and original.
I think it’s hilarious that as a refugee from academia, first fleeing to Ireland and then to WORN Fashion Journal, my first major article was not only about stereotypes, but celebrated them. And based on it and Sara Guindon‘s gorgeous illustrations, we created these wonderful paper dolls.
Through my article, I have ended up putting gay men into little packages based on socially-constructed identities. I wonder how Michel Foucault would feel.
Introducing Wilfred the Fairy: With his snappy suit, pink carnation and sidekick poodle, he wouldn’t be out of place tickling the ivories in a Noël Coward comedy. While his jokes may be dry and a bit cruel, he’s a sweetheart deep down who tears up when Judy Garland sings ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.
Don’t let Gunther’s tutu fool you. He’s a tough-as-nails Radical Drag Queen who doesn’t let gender binaries or police officers prevent him from marching in pride parades and high-kicking his magenta heels. By mixing femininity with masculinity (note the beard and hairy legs) Radical Drag Queens of the early 1970s forced people to question what, if anything, gender meant.
None of that gender-play for Lance the Clone. He likes his t-shirt tight, his green jeans tighter, and his moustache well trimmed. While Fairies of the 1950s had dressed like dandy aristocrats to escape the bourgeoisie, Clones of the 1970s embraced the icons of working-class manhood (cowboys, soldiers, construction workers) to show the world that just because you slept with men didn’t mean you couldn’t look like one.
Tobias the Leather Man has only one inspiration: the leather-clad biker. Gay men were into black leather for almost as long as the Hell’s Angels. He demonstrates his sexual interests with signifying keys on his belt or with a coloured hanky. But beneath his studded and studly ensemble, he’s harboring a secret: he’s got tickets to go see Bette Midler with Wilfrid next week.