A psychology definition – a thought that can be adopted about specific types of individuals or their certain ways of doing things. Prejudice is the affective component and discrimination is a prejudice reaction.
Within LGBT – conventional formulaic generalizations, opinions, or images based on sexual orientation…homophobia stereotype — gays are not religious.
One of the top challenges as a daughter of a gay dad are the stereotypes. It was in the late 70’s that I unfolded the secret that my dad was gay. It was a world of rampant homophobia labels, name calling, and stereotypes at its worst. By the 90s I was entering adulthood living on Chicago’s North side Wrigleyville neighborhood. My apartment was literally up against the gay Boystown neighborhood, more proud and outspoken but stereotypes remained. They were strong in my daily life and common thread in my peer group.
I hid Dads identity for decades because to reveal his truth was to minimize him. In a second he could be shrunken to a fraction of the Dad I wanted people to see. Dad was someone who looked you in the eye, told amazing stories, often over and over but got away with punctuating a punch line as if he’d never told it. Many of these episodes kicked off infectious laugher that rippled onto others around him. He was high energy, lit desserts on fire, danced whenever he got the chance and often reminded me that diversity matters.
I simply could not reveal to people that my dad was gay, to do so risked he would be labeled: queer, fairy, fag, homo, ….probably worse. Those single words would reduce him in size, equate to less than he was — that would spear me to the core.
My dad was also a religious man, believed in God and the Catholic Church. He served mass as a young boy and never considered walking from his faith. He wanted the same religious relationship for me, never thought I should veer away because he was gay. He said he always wanted a family, a picture of the one he had seen in church as a boy…later said, it didn’t work out the way he thought it would.
Stereotypical labels can hurt and leave scars. It can discriminate and create prejudice if we don’t allow ourselves to be open and receive people for who they are. My dad was multi faceted, multilayered. It crushed me to think people would reduce him to a small pile of negative words.
I hope in this changing time (30 some plus years after Dad’s sexuality was revealed) that people are truly open to see LGBT people for who they are and not what they are. I hope that we all consider our words carefully, restrain from labels. A label can equal a lifetime of hurt if we’re not careful.
Wouldn’t it be something if we could turn stereotype on its head, instead use labels: changemaker, uniquely different, honorer-of-the-true-self, do-gooder-Dan (I actually know him), giving tree, advocate, friend, loved one.
What a campaign that would be, a rippling rainbow of positive types we could blast in stereo!