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The funny thing about stereotypes is that often times, those in a minority group who do not embody certain characteristics -- such as “flamboyant” for gay males, and “butch” for lesbians -- often become pitted against those in a minority group who do happen to possess certain qualities, characteristics, and mannerisms that, to an extent, make some stereotypes “true.”

Over the years, I have noticed a stark contrast among those in the LGBT community, particularly when it comes to outward appearance, personality, and even the way people carry themselves.  Sure, I often joke that I prefer Soundgarden over Britney Spears, and other tidbits that help diffuse common misconceptions about gay males, but a few weeks ago, a gay acquaintance made a comment that helped put things further into perspective for me.

“Oh my God. Did you see that gay guy up there? He’s acting like such a girl. Why do people need to act like that?”

Well, I thought out loud, why shouldn’t he act like that?

When I informed people I was gay during my freshman year at Canisius College, it was a liberating and positive process, but in a way, I often felt at odds with how to act and behave, and navigate new friendships with LGBT and heterosexual individuals alike. I learned that although I personally like dating and building relationships with guys that are masculine and share the same interests as me, what does it matter if gay guys want to act feminine? What does it matter if someone wants to listen to Madonna as he cruises around the city in a pink convertible? It doesn’t matter, and quite honestly, the divide among “straight-acting” gay men and “feminine-acting” gay men is actually a detriment to not only friendships and possible relationships, but the success of the current LGBT movement.

This divide is not only significant to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, but all minority groups within the United States and beyond. Although I’ve said it a few times during college, I don’t think it’s a good idea to say things such as, “Yeah, I’m gay, but I don’t really relate to the LGBT community.” As a 17-year-old who enjoyed sports and flannel, over pop concerts and dance clubs, it seemed like an acceptable thing to say. But now, as a gay young adult on the cusp of my 23rd birthday, it would sound simply ignorant and uneducated to say such a thing.

Yes, sexuality does link us gay folks together in a different way than heterosexual people, but at the core of it, how many of the billions of straight men and women “relate” to their community?  And with all the subgroups, does anyone really relate on all aspects when one sits down and considers the overwhelmingly diversity of the modern world?

Stereotypes, no matter how true or false, are often rooted in misconceptions and ignorance. If an individual hears someone who is part of a minority group ridiculing others in that said group, it helps deteriorate the harmony and togetherness the LGBT movement has been fighting for over the past few decades. So, next time you see that “flamboyant” gay guy or that “masculine” gay dude, don’t say something like, “oh, of course you’re gay,” or “oh, I couldn’t tell you were gay,” because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if they like Stone Temple Pilots, or P!nk, or dyed hair, or baseball caps; it matters who they are. Simple as that.