Why do all gay men look the same?
Actually, gay men come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and shades.
But the ones I see all look identical, or at least similar. Either they’re young, thin and hairless or young, muscled and hairless.
Those are the “uniforms” of two “tribes” that SOME gay men fall into – twinks and jocks.
Those are the gays you see everywhere – including gay and general media.
Yes, just like most things the media likes stereotypes and, for us, that’s what they typically choose as shorthand.
It’s boring. And exclusionary.
You’re not alone in thinking that. Read the comments under any “half-naked guy” gallery posted on Advocate, for example, and you’ll see complaints that they’re perpetuating stereotypes, which for the most part is true. Even when they show older men they tend to be basically older twinks and jocks – lean, relatively hairless guys, who also are mostly white.
But you think this is just a stereotype?
And it’s not just limited to gays. We are all swamped by images of what “society” thinks is an ideal – for gay men that means young, fit and white. It’s driven not only by stereotypes but also by fashion. And it’s definitely not just the gays. For example, how many young women all go out at night looking like they’re about to appear in a rap video? Short skirts, barely there tops and high heels – it’s literally a uniform.
Okay, so all gay men don’t look the same but there are a variety of “sames”. How do these come about?
Like I said, fashion…stereotypes…homogenization. How does any fad get started? Someone adopts a look, it becomes popular, it’s adopted by a legion of followers, it becomes the uniform and perpetuates itself. That isn’t to say that types don’t develop or shift – they change with fashion. The gay clone look rose in the 1970s and 80s then transitioned, helping usher in the modern “bear” uniform. Even the most non-conformist anti-style can become a uniform. Punk, for example, it was all about anarchy but ultimately its music and fashion was adopted by the masses.
Aren’t some gay styles less regimented than others? Like those bears, for example.
Actually that’s a good example of how an anti-style becomes a style. The bear movement started as a way to embrace the legion of men who did not have gym built bodies and at first bears came in a variety of flavors, sizes, and hairiness. Now the prevailing type of bear we are presented with is one with a full beard and a body powered by steroids. Moreover, rather than embracing everybody these “mean bears” will often exclude anyone who doesn’t fit their stereotype. That’s another thing about uniforms – we tend to reject anyone who isn’t wearing it.
I thought gays were meant to break boundaries. So why do so many gay men want to look like everyone else?
First, there’s a need to belong. We gays grow up relatively isolated, outnumbered by the straights all around us. When you feel alone and want to “fit in” then the best way to do that is to make yourself look like everyone you see around you. Second would be the need to identify potential partners/comrades. Gaydar is useful but it also helps if you can spot another gay by his plumage. But in stating all this we also need to remember it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That when people all adopt a similar look they become more identifiable so you notice them more?
Precisely. There are a lot of gay men you don’t see because they’re not conforming to any particular type. And everything I’ve said here is a generalisation – it only applies to some gay men.
We should seek to follow that famous quote by Coco Chanel: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
Coco Chanel? The Nazi?
She was a Nazi? That might explain why they all looked fabulous.
And they all looked the same.
In ASK HIMSICAL Kyle Kairouz tackles your questions, providing lighthearted, but accurate, answers. Got a question? Let Kyle know!