As I scroll through Instagram, I’m presented with people embracing a stereotypical but fun vision of what it looks like to be a gay man: obsessed with Lady Gaga, drinking copious amounts of wine, dishing out the sass, and pushing the fashion boundaries. They’re pampered, fabulous, and witty.
'I’m not like them', I think, as I sip on my G&T and apply another layer of moisturiser, all the while singing along to Taylor Swift.
If I’m saying my identity is in Jesus and not my sexuality, shouldn’t I be a bit more distinctive? To what extent can I embrace gay stereotypes?
Here are a couple of key areas where I think this is particularly relevant.
What I wear
A lot of these stereotypes seem to be based on playing around with and rebelling against expectations based on gender. Fashion is one area where this is particularly obvious. Red carpets in recent years have been awash with men wearing skirts, dresses and pearls, and that seems to have filtered down to the ‘real world’.
I see it in some of my own fashion choices – rolled-up trousers (‘Aren’t your ankles cold, Dan?’ are the words that seem to follow wherever I go) and shorts on the shorter side, for example. Is that wrong?
I think it’s hard to be prescriptive. The Bible is pretty clear we shouldn’t blur the distinction between the sexes with our clothes (Deuteronomy 22:5), but different cultures at different times consider different things appropriate for men and women to wear. I remember reading a Christian article from a few years ago scoffing at men who wear skinny jeans and floral shirts and thinking how outdated it sounded. Short shorts have come back into fashion partly thanks to TikTok, and I’d say it’s common enough to see men in rolled-up or cropped trousers, which might have been considered feminine before.
There’s also a personal element to it. There’s something good in feeling comfortable and ‘yourself’ in your clothes – God has given us all different personalities and the freedom to choose what we wear. Really, it’s a luxury for many of us in the individualistic west to have money to choose clothes which do this for us.
For me it comes down to my motivation for wearing these clothes. Am I wearing them because they’re comfortable and I’m enjoying them as a good gift from God? Or am I wearing them because I’m viewing myself primarily as a gay man and want to push the boundaries? I think aside from wearing anything that creates ambiguity about whether I’m a man, there’s a lot of freedom there to be enjoyed.
What I do
If I wanted to, I could fully embrace gay stereotypes in everything I did and posted about online. I could fill my days with brunches, watching Drag Race, and going shopping with my gay friends, then post about it all referring to myself as one of the ‘girls’ and using #instagay.
There wouldn’t necessarily be anything wrong with most of those things individually, and I don’t mean to disparage them at all. I quite enjoy brunch and shopping, in much the same way I prefer baking to football.
My forays into gay relationships have always left me unsatisfied because eventually I realised I wasn’t being true to who I really am in Jesus.
These preferences are part of my God-given but fallen personality, and I’m free to embrace them. One of the joys of being part of a church family is that my preferences are complemented by those of other men, who can help fix my bike in return for something I bake, for example.
But building my life around being a stereotypical gay man isn’t what I’m called to. My forays into gay relationships have always left me unsatisfied because eventually I realised I wasn’t being true to who I really am in Jesus. I don’t want to be one of the ‘girls’ as much as I want to be a child of God who’s being made more like Jesus every day. I’m freed from needing to find my worth in conforming to a set of stereotypes, to live a life secure in my identity in Jesus.
So, when it comes to gay stereotypes, there’s a balance to be struck, as with many things in the Christian life. I don’t think we need to be afraid of gay stereotypes or repress all our natural preferences and traits. That could do as much harm as some of the more dangerous gay stereotypes have done. But I do believe we’re called to submit everything to Jesus, and putting him first will mean some potentially uncomfortable decisions about what we wear, say or do. Ultimately, as I form my life and identity around him, I’ll embrace the character of Jesus above and beyond any gay or other stereotypes – however fun they are.