Wednesday, 13 July 2016

OWN YOUR STEREOTYPE


Hey guys! After all the exciting shoots I shared with you the last couple of weeks, I thought it was time for another post with some more depth, on a personal level. The written part of this post will most definitely be more important than the visual part, and chances are high this will be quite a long post, and one that is a little random and chatty at times, because Lord knows I have trouble structuring my thoughts when I get passionate about a subject. But hey, I'll try my best to sort things out properly, and let's hope you at least kind of get my point in the end!

Today's subject, as you might have guessed from the title of this blogpost, is stereotypes. We all know them, we all have to deal with them, and as far as I am concerned, we should've all left them behind yesterday, and let them rot together with the patriarchy and, like, Crocs. But they are still around, stubborn and persistent, and they continue to have an influence on people's minds. You see, the thing with stereotypes is that no one wants to be one. No one wants to be predictable, or categorized. Because that's what stereotypes do. The following definion is from Urban Dictionary, and it actually says everything you need to know: A stereotype is used to categorize a group of people. People don't understand that type of person, so they put them into classifications, thinking that everyone who is that classification needs to be like that, or anyone who acts like their classifications is one. Thus, furthermore, stereotypes render a whole group of individuals to one fixed set of characteristics and ideas. Stereotypes destroy all sense of individuality, and that's why no one ever wants to be the one to live up to them: it makes one feel common, unspecial, a dime a dozen. Well, today I am here to make a confession, and in a way, to come out, to myself, once more. I am Joppe, eightteen years old, and I fit a stereotype. There, I said it.

This confession might not seem much to you, dear reader, but believe me: I have been struggling with this matter since the day I came out as gay, about six years ago.Which stereotype do I struggle with, you ask? Easy. As a fashion, make-up and musical theatre loving kid who has been exploring his feminine side for the past years, I perfectly fit into the stereotype that exists around gay people. Add my extravagant, outgoing side to the mix, and you get nothing but walking stereotype, everything about me screaming - or rather, musical-singing - G A Y. Now, consider how hard this has been for me to accept: on my blog, in everyday life, I have done everything I could to break barriers, to break gender roles, and to challenge what is considered to be the norm. With all that in mind, imagine how challenging it was is to notice that you are not, in fact, breaking all norms, that you are not completely unpredictable and unique. At least, that's what my brain told me, when I realised I fit this 'gay boy' stereotype.
The thing is, all my life, I was made to believe that fitting a stereotype in some way makes you less human, and is not something to be proud of. From the friends that told me something I did 'made me look very straight for a moment', as if it was an accomplishment, as if it was something to be proud of when you are gay but can get away with acting/looking straight, to the others that said another thing I did 'was véry gay, hahaha, so typical', with just enough laughter and ridicule in their voices to make me feel ashamed of 'acting gay', it all contributed to a feeling of aversion towards fitting a stereotype, and in extent, towards myself, because I fit a stereotype.
Even worse, in my opinion, is the fact that this stereotype-shaming isn't reserved to people who are outside the gay community. Even within the LGBTQ+ ranges, it is frowned upon to act feminine, to 'act gay', to live up to the stereotype of 'being gay'. Some say it 'makes every one of the community look bad', it endorses the negative way in which outsiders view gay people, and it is unnecessary and campy to act in such a way. Think about gay dating apps, and how 'no fems' is a widely used term to block out anyone that acts too feminine, and in extent, 'too gay'. Let's get things straight (pun not intended) for once and for all, ladies and gentlemen: it is the stereotype that is wrong, that should not be there, that should be frowned upon. Not the people who accidently fit a stereotype, just because they are the way they are. Get that? Good.

Now we got that out of the way, it is time to take back that stereotype, and make it our own. Yes, in an ideal world, stereotypes wouldn't exist, and we wouldn't have to worry about them, but this isn't a perfect world, and stereotypes are very much alive. I will keep on hustling to spread the message that stereotypes are unnecessary and outdated, but until that time: wear your stereotype with pride. Make it your own. Be you, unapologetically. And remember: fitting a stereotype does not make you any less of a human than anyone who breaks that stereotype. The wrong is not you, but the stereotype itself. You deserve to exist, to laugh, to be happy, to live ánd love fully. Recently, I was reading Binge, a book of short stories by famous Youtuber and passionate LGBTQ+ advocate Tyler Oakley. In one of the chapters, he touches on stereotypes, and how he tried to break them, only to realize he (partly) lived up to them. In that chapter, he concluded by saying "So what? Some people do fit some stereotypes. Is that the end of the world? In every community, some people will fit every stereotype, and some people will fit no stereotypes, and both are valid representations for that community." It took me an awful long time to realize, but I realize it now, and that is what's most important: I am just as valuable, as worthy and as human as anyone who does not fit a stereotype. That stereotype does not define me, and it never again will. I can and will unapologetically and stereotypically love fashion and make-up, while unapologetically and not-stereotypically enjoying my sci-fi movies and my adoration of books. Truth is, human beings are complicated, and far more than any stereotype will ever be able to grasp. I am Joppe, eighteen years old, and I proudly and unashamedly fit a stereotype. But guess what? It does not define me, and it doesn't have to define you. You do you, boo, and do it boldly.

Let's start a discussion! Have you ever had to deal with a stereotype being laid upon you? How did you own it? Tell me all about it! If you wanna share anything on your socials, use the hashtag #OWNYOURSTEREOTYPE and let me know! 
Special thanks to Annebeth Bels for being my second opinion, you inspire me and encourage me to push further every time! 

Thank YOU for reading!

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