“Well, here’s to your first OGT – Obviously Gay Trait. Mine are: love of The Carpenters, culinary interests, and intense fear of blood sports.” (Dennis, to Kevin, in Broken Hearts Club).
I recently watched Broken Hearts Club (at the recommendation of oaplascencia). Lots of good stuff in there, but I want to write about one thing in particular today. In one scene Kevin, a younger closeted guy, mentions to Dennis that he likes Karen Carpenter. Dennis replies that it’s Kevin’s first OGT – “Obviously Gay Trait.”
As a life-long closeted gay guy, I’ve spent lots of energy trying to hide or deny any OGTs. Didn’t want to “give myself away,” as it were. This shows where the power of stereotypes resides – the dominant group uses stereotypes to mock and shame minorities, and in a natural response, those minorities try to avoid the stereotypes. But there’s another way to take away their power. Maybe by embracing the stereotypes we can liberate ourselves of their power. I’ve gotten so used to distancing myself from gay stereotypes in order to avoid being labeled gay that it has become second nature. Don’t mention that you like Bette Midler, or they might think you’re gay! Well guess what? I. AM. GAY!
There are numerous examples of minority groups reappropriating derogatory terms to rob them of their power. LGBT groups took on the label queer to destigmatize it. Other examples include geek, nerd, nigger, dyke, fag, bitch, and guido. These are all linguistic examples, but perhaps we can do the same with stereotypes. By embracing them, we liberate ourselves of their power.
The truth is that even though I tried to avoid giving off a “gay vibe,” I suspect I wasn’t always “successful.” I have this nagging suspicion that it must be totally obvious to those around me that I’m gay. So then, what are my OGTs?
My OGTs (Obviously Gay Traits)
- loving Karen Carpenter, Bette Midler, and Judy Garland
- crying at sappy movies (think Beaches, Titanic, and Ghost)
- good at (and totally enjoy) learning languages
- not a fan of football or baseball
- I enjoy cooking and baking
- reading GQ and Men’s Journal (when no one is looking)
- wearing skinny jeans and tight graphic Ts
- earrings (two, both in the right ear)
My SSTs (Seemingly Straight Traits)
On the other hand, I’ve also got a few SSTs – Seemingly Straight Traits:
- I love playing competitive sports
- I like yard work and home repair
- relatively low pitched voice (baritone)
- my index finger is significantly shorter than my ring finger
- I’m married and have kids
- I’m a techie and good at math
Even as I write these, I’m aware of how offensive these can be (“But gay people can be good at math! Gay people can play competitive sports!”)… That’s exactly my point! I’m GAY, and I’m also these things. I guess what I’m trying to do is to play off of what I imagine my culture’s stereotypes to be (in particular, that all gay men are like “Jack” on Will and Grace). But we’re not! We are as varied in skill and temperament as any other group.
So then, how about you, readers? What are your OGTs and SSTs? (Straight people can answer too!)