The “Gay” Appearance – Does it Matter?

After watching YouTube videos: “Asking Guys If I’m Gay” and “Asking Girls If I’m Gay”, it led me to question whether Mark Miller’s YouTube videos provided any truth about the current realities faced by gay men and their appearances. Prioritising appearance in the gay community is almost the standard when it comes to striving to fit in. I can’t deny there are times when all I care about is that I look attractive and that I could potentially attract someone. Being “attractive” takes many forms, in mind, physical appearances and the way you carry yourself, but many idolise a particular stereotypical physical quality. What is stereotypically attractive for a gay guy? How do you look gay?

Stereotypes that usually go hand in hand with gay men and their appearance normally stem from the way we dress, the lengths we go to to craft our hair, our perfect teeth, as well as grooming, accessorizing and manscaping. It is a regime in the pursuit of perfection, a body ideal. This is further fed by the way we move, the way we communicate, and the way many of us shape ourselves through gym routines. Faced with this body ideal, many gay men tend to go in the opposite direction, creating a diversity within the gay community of those who fit the stereotype, those who form themselves in opposition to it, and those who just float about regardless. Despite this diversity, we should take note of Mark Miller’s YouTube videos as the overwhelming response that Mark got, and I received when I asked a few people around campus the other day, was “you don’t look gay.” The stereotype outside many LGBT communities differs from how we see and construct ourselves.

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The answer above shows how wider society, even in a university environment is starting to change, in that old stereotypes persist, but the way one dresses is no longer an indicator of whether a man is gay or not. Men at large are starting to become a lot more metrosexual, concerned about their appearance, in a way that previously would have been seen as a “gay trait”. It is now almost normal to see a guy fixing his hair in public. Appearance in this day and age is something that is important to all people, even if it is superficial; justifiably or not, it allows people to make judgments about how much self-respect a person has and their overall personality. This shift in the way we think can be seen in the realm of the business world, education and most intimately in our relationships. As metrosexual identities converge the whole idea of how men should carry themselves has shifted, away from sexuality, and yet the stereotypes persist.

Appearances in the gay world were and still are perpetuated by the fact that our community is so small, where a simple appearance can mark you out as different or one of the crowd. The way you carry yourself can affect your success in finding a potential man and looking good undeniably opens doors. The cruel fact is that a fraction of the population is attracted to men, a percentage that we exasperate through our body ideals and stereotypes. As we now see the same mind-set slowly being ingrained into straight men, as they feel the need to look preened and metrosexual to attract a potential girlfriend, the so called cultivated “gay” appearance may be shifting away from what hetero-normative culture has previously belittled, and yet camp stereotypes persist. It is a shift that has brought about a change in how we carry ourselves and relate to each other in many respects, yet one that leaves certain quarters uncatered for – whether straight or gay.

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The “gay” appearance is no longer seen by most people as the way a gay person should look like, but rather, as seen in the YouTube videos by Mark Miller, in many metropolitan quarters, sexuality is no longer stressed as something you can judge on first appearances. Although, the “gay” appearance is still very much an important aspect in the gay world, and one that we continue to perpetuate, the stereotype is not as widespread and potentially discriminatory as before. We as gay men get so angry when external people stereotype us as a group, that we forget that not all men are prim and proper, nor see the need to conform to this appearance. It is just not their style, and speaks to the diversity that reduces this stereotype.

The connotations that stem from gay men and their “gay appearance” is no longer seen as entirely important. Many men at large have embraced the standards of looking good, cultivated and sculpted. As time shifts, and as our standards of appearance diversifies in gay culture – appearance will perhaps no longer be such an important factor in how we relate to each other and determine our sexuality. Rather we should embrace the other aspects that make us gay. Even if you feel you need to maintain your appearance to a certain set standard, it should not be your be all and end all. The fact that we are attracted to men on both a physical and emotional level is what marks us out as gay, and as society’s approach to appearance switches, perhaps this will be the only point to differentiate us on.

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