My father and I went to an Indigo Girls concert a couple of days ago, (It was amazing, thanks for asking), and in a discussion of the goings on, my father told me: "You know what I was thinking? Why do gay people have to look so gay? Amy and Emily (the two women who make up the Indigo Girls) didn't look gay, but if you looked around the audience...."
This lead to a discussion on why you look at some people and they "look heterosexual" (whatever the heck that means) and others seem to go out of their way to stick out as uber-gays. (Or 100 footers, as they say in The L Word, referring to someone who you can tell is gay from 100 feet away.) But then, when you put gay people together, there seems to be a lot of, well, stereotypicalness going on. Here are my attempts to rationalize this:
1) There are lots of straight men and women that dress and act in such a way that, if they came out, people probably wouldn't be surprised, and would announce that these straight folks always looked gay. Our culture likes to label these type of men "metrosexual" and these women "tom boys". (Because, of course, we must label anything that steps outside cultural norms for male and femaleness....whatever the heck that means). So really, this idea that gay people all dress or act a certain way is because we overlook the straight people who appear that way, as well as the gay people who don't.
2) It gives gay people a sense of community. When gay people come out and enter the culture, they see all of these new ways of living and want to try them out. "Gaying it up" when you're around other gay people, makes you feel more like you belong.
3) Sometimes, clothes are a way of escape. When you go to a rock concert, chances are you wear something different than your everyday dress. You try to look more badass. More rock n roll. If you go to a Star Wars convention, again, you want to put on a certain image. You don't want to be the person with stresses or five projects for work due next Tuesday or whatever. You just want to be the x part of you to the fullest and to have a good time. Well, gay people, depending on where you live, get a lot of shit for "gaying it up." But when they can go somewhere safe, they can be themselves, they can be their version of sexy, they can do whatever makes them feel good and gay and proud, because they don't have to worry about judgement. And all they want to do, after all, is to have a good time.
4) My favorite: Don't knock it until you try it. Our culture tells us what's beautiful, but for every subculture, there's different standards of dress. This doesn't mean that every person abides by it, just that it's something new to try. The gay culture, I've always thought, is very varied as far as what it considers beautiful. Is it what's butch? What's femme? What's glittery and rainbow? Regardless, you're introduced to these things and you can figure out whether you like them. I learned from rock culture that I love band t-shirts. From punk culture that I love bondage pants (you know, the ones with all the zippers). From my folk/hippi roots that I like dresses and flowy things. Then, one day, when I was still in high school, I wanted to do something drastic and confident, and so I chopped off nearly all my hair (much to my mother's dismay) and started wearing a faux hawk. All my life, I had been sweet, pretty, cute, beautiful. Safe things for a woman to be. (Things I still was and always will be on the inside.) But by trying this new me, I felt hot, sexy, badass. It was different, and I liked it. But in the same way that one of my very girly friends would have never realized how good her ass looked in a pair of bondage pants without me giving her an old pair of mine, I would never have known that I made a pretty good "butch" (not that I consider myself that) if I wasn't part of a culture that told me it was okay. So if the ratio of "butch" females and "feminine" males seems higher in gay culture, maybe it's just because we're accepting enough to let more people decide that that's what they like.
Though I still think there's a whole lot of ignorance as for the vast amount of gay people who don't fit the stereotypes: the gay jocks and lesbian cheerleaders, to go with the old high school stereotypes. Of course, it was my mother who said once, when attending a Gay-Straight Alliance forum with me 6 years ago, "I don't understand. But all of the girls... they were so pretty?"
<3 Gina Blechman