Last semester, a piece about casual sex in the 21st century, touching on gender roles, society’s perception of sex and how popular media portrays sex. Since the discussion was purely from a heterosexual point of view, the topic was then viewed through the lens of the LGBTQ community at The University of Rhode Island. The subjects’ names were changed to maintain anonymity in such a personal topic.
The LGBTQ community is often both under and misrepresented in popular media. University of Rhode Island students, Henry, who identifies as gay, Anna, who usually identifies as queer and Leah, who identifies as lesbian, discussed the LGBTQ community’s representation in popular media in addition to stigma that exists within our society. Henry, Anna and Leah all state that stereotypes are widely implemented.
“It’s really shocking how different media representation is,” said Anna. “There are either so many stereotypes or so many things omitted.”
She described a video clip she saw that showed all the stereotypes from black-and-white television through present-day television. Among these stereotypes were, “all lesbians are vampires” and “all the gay people die.” Anna has observed that many gay characters do die and are represented as being very dramatic, and that transgendered characters are depicted as “crazy.”
“They’re really harmful stereotypes not only because that’s not how everyone is, but also it really alienates the community by making it seem like an other,” she said. “Nothing is portrayed as normal.
“I think the stereotypes, for the most part, are the usual representations in the media,” said Leah. She said a common stereotype of lesbian women is being highly commitment-oriented while gay men are stereotyped to love shopping or to be very sexual “before they even know each other’s names.” Or there is the polar opposite stereotype of a lesbian, who has a lot of sex with anyone, single or taken.
Anna and Henry both think that stereotyping in the media is slowly starting to decrease. “I think slowly but surely, and that’s something we all need to continuously work on,” said Anna.
“We are, on a good day, about 10 to 15 percent of the human population,” Henry said. “That’s the LGBTQ, so if you want to take out specifically the G or the L … you’re looking at a very small window of people. Especially in college, a lot of us just came out so we’re more trying to find what we like rather than settle down and I think that’s healthy because I definitely find problems with people that just settle down with their first partner.”
He then talked about Grindr, which is a gay dating app.
“It’s kind of like Tinder but for homos,” he said. “On Grindr there’s definitely a hook-up culture… and I definitely feel like there’s a more casual experience and I feel like it’s farther down the road that people are thinking about settling down but right now we’re just trying to get ours and get to class.”
On the issue of stigma, Henry, Leah and Anna all agree that it still exists.
“Thankfully I feel like we are moving forward rather than backward,” said Henry. “Do I think that it’s a haven? Not exactly. Do I think that it’s perfect and that anybody can just walk down the street and proclaim their sexuality? No.”
“I’m really thankful that we have the LGBTQ Center,” said Henry. “Most schools have a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) but in terms of being able to talk to faculty and staff… [and having] safe zones, a lot of colleges don’t have that.”