With the rising popularity of social media like TikTok and Twitter, people in the LGBTQ+ community have a platform to tell their stories as well as a way to find and form relationships with each other and allies.
However, with these positive effects also come an influx of new stereotypes based on the specific personalities of popular queer influencers that may not apply to others of their identity.
Coffee Bee, a junior majoring in biological sciences who uses she/they pronouns, identifies as nonbinary and bisexual. They said the ideas portrayed in media about what a nonbinary person should be have had a direct and often negative impact on their perception of themself.
“I've experienced people being really confused. They're like, 'How can you be nonbinary? That doesn't make any sense,' because I clearly have body parts that are thought to be attached to a binary,” Bee said. “I personally don't necessarily have a problem with my body all of the time, but I would really appreciate it if people would just trust me and believe me when I say I'm nonbinary, instead of questioning me because they have this preconceived notion of what it means.”
Acceptance in their nonbinary identity took years of thinking and researching, Bee said. They said they remember being in high school and not being able to sleep after spending the day researching queer identities and trying to make sense of it all in relation to their own life.
Others' reactions and assumptions, they said, have made the process of coming to terms with their identity and coming out more difficult when people's ideas were harmful or unaccepting. It was not until college when Bee felt confident enough to say, “I am nonbinary. These are my pronouns. Please respect me and them.”
Bee, like other nonbinary people, finds comfort in times when they find things that assert their validity. Making friends with other queer people and engrossing themself in art have helped Bee find themself.
"Having (the art) up in my room all the time, it's great, because the person who's drawn on the cover of it is also a plus size person, and this person also looks more feminine, which is what I look like," they said. "So it really helps to see yourself represented in order to reassure yourself and your validity."
Bee said the infantilization of nonbinary and transgender people by cisgender people who claim to be allies of the community undermines their identities.
“They infantilize any sort of trans person. They're not afraid to do that to trans men, for example —‘Oh, you're such a cute trans boy, you're so adorable,'" Bee said. "But that could be really invalidating and also a fuel for dysphoria. If you're telling them they look adorable or cute, like a 'cutesy little trans boy,' that might take away from their abilities to feel masculine or handsome."
Of course, stereotypes exist for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, many of which make it difficult for queer kids who don’t fit into stereotypes to feel confident in their own identities.
Jose Ruiz, a junior studying sociology, identifies as a gay man. He said he sees a lot of jokes on social media that refer to the “gay experience,” and he usually is able to laugh at them, but he also realizes many of the stereotypes are not always applicable.
Ruiz’s favorite pastime is playing video games, a hobby which he described as “stereotypically a straight guy thing.” Growing up, he said, many of the people he interacted with on a day-to-day basis were strangers he would co-op with online, many of whom made homophobic jokes, which made him uncomfortable. Ruiz said since his childhood, he has been able to discover other gay people within the gaming community whom he feels safer playing games with.
Ruiz said he could see where some stereotypes for gay men originate from. He and many of his gay friends share a desire to play as female characters in video games, such as Princess Peach, rather than the macho male characters that many straight men prefer, saying he is able to “feel empowered through playing as (female characters).”
Ruiz said part of the reason he and other gay men resort to playing as female characters may partly be the lack of playable queer characters.
It was not easy coming to terms with my own sexuality.
Despite being lucky enough to have been born into an incredibly supportive family, I was 20 when I came out as bisexual. One reason was I simply did not know bisexuality was even an identity that existed until I was in high school. I thought I could either be straight or lesbian, but didn't really feel like I was either.
When I was younger, I told myself, “Just because you might like a few girls, doesn’t mean you’re gay. You definitely like boys, so you are still straight and will have a husband someday.”
After becoming active on social media sites as a teenager, I started hearing more people use the term bisexual, but it was usually paired with confusing statements like “the bisexual experience is having a crush on one or two male celebrities, and every woman you have ever met.” This bothered me because I knew this so-called “bisexual experience” was definitely not the experience I had.
High school and my early years of college were a complicated time.
I was told I “dress like a bisexual," whatever that means. I was confused by the difference between pansexual and bisexual. I am ashamed to admit I spent time taking those ridiculous Buzzfeed-esque, “How Gay Are You?” online quizzes.
I decided to identify as “mostly straight," before I switched to “prefer not to answer.” I had my first serious relationship with a man and decided it no longer mattered what my sexuality was because I liked him and no one else. Then we broke up, and I was back to pondering.
The things that pushed me to finally accept myself as a bisexual woman were my amazing and supportive queer and queer-ally friends. I talked to other bisexuals and realized all of our experiences were wildly different, and that was OK.
It doesn’t matter what a Buzzfeed quiz or a viral tweet tells me. Identities are to be chosen by each individual, and all are valid, despite how similar or different yours are to others.
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