My “Positive” Sterotypes of Gay People

Stereotypes can be quite destructive.  I believe, without firm evidence, that our brains are disposed to making stereotypes vs. not in large part because of the survival value of making stereotypes.  Suppose, for example,  we had to learn anew with each exposure about the dangers of rattlesnakes – not a good thing, adaptation-wise.  And the “costs” of overgernalizing to being afraid of all snakes is less burdensome than failing to make the necessary discrimination about rattlesnakes.

I hold a positive stereotype that most Asians are hard working and conscientious.  I don’t demand a high standard of “proof” for this stereotype – I think this is true more often than not (a > 50% probability).  I have not formally tested this hypothesis, but I think it may be true.  In this book, Malcolm Gladwell goes to great lengths in accounting for this assumption by reviewing the cultural history most Asians share in regard to the cultivation and harvesting of rice – not an easy job.

Sorry for the labored introduction, and I recognize that so-called “positive” stereotypes can be less than useful, too.  Any way, I tend to have some stereotypes about gay people that I  think are “positive perceptions”.  I am pretty sure that I did not know any gay people until I was in college.  All of the gay people I have known were professional people – nurses, physicians, psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, teachers etc.  I expect that I have a restricted sample in obvious ways.  But given the acknowledged limitations of my sample, it seems to me that these things are, more likely than not, true in terms of gay people I have known:  1) most are good at their jobs – I am convinced of this to the point that if I had to make a hiring decision between to absolutely equal applicants I would tend to hire the gay over the straight person, if that datum was known to me; 2) gay people are dedicated to their work; 3) gay people tend to be intelligent; 4) gay people enjoy their leisure time more than most straight people do; 5) gay people are more tolerant than straight people of differences between themselves and others.

I am unable to offer empirical evidence of these assumptions, but they have been true in regard to my experience.  Appreciate any comments on this subject.


Filed under Psychology Ramblings...

14 responses to “My “Positive” Sterotypes of Gay People

  1. itolduso

    I would have to hire in exactly the opposite, for exactly opposite reasons. Those whom I have PERSONALLY known to be gay were by a large majority, uneducated, poor workers, and hypercritical of anybody that did not wholeheartedly support their position. Of course, I have a small small number of acquaintances to have a data base to form. However, I have known the opposite, and have either informally met, or been made aware of those who were gay/lesbian, and in all other aspects, are the same as anyone else. WHich is my point. No group has the corner on being great, or being crappy. Every group has it’s winners, and losers. By about, at least in my opinion, the same percentage.

  2. I prefer my experience to yours and no apologies on that. It also doesn’t sound like your hiring position is consistent with “all groups are the same in percentages” hypothesis. Makes me wonder if you are really in touch with how you feel – not making judgements, just a question that seems reasonable given the tenor of your post.

    Not looking to argue with you. I have given up on doing things like that. A benefit for me in posting on the WEBlog.

  3. itolduso

    I would prefer your experience also. I am not sure how what I said became unclear. My point was that if I had to go by my personal experience, then my hiring practices would be the opposite of yours. However, we can all overcome our own personal experiences. I really do not care about the gender, sexual preferences, or color of skin in hiring practices. . Nor do I care about their political beliefs. That is not very business friendly in a real, practical sort of way. What I care about is “are they they best fit for the position” in abilities, past performance, and/or attitude. Who cares about the rest.
    And I understand that you are not trying to argue.
    My belief still stands. Every group (and I mean every that I have had any exposure to at all ) has it’s share of idiots, bullies, losers, achievers, and what I call get alongs. Mostly, from what I can discern, they are about in the same proportion, regardless of the group. That is all I meant.

    • I agree. Generalizations are usually wrong, but I too have found if you look at any ‘group’ you will find all types represented.

      Usually each of us could fit into several boxes if we started sorting us into these groups, but still, I think you’d end up with a fairly equal number of ___ (fill in the blank) in each group.

  4. lilacluvr

    I guess I am just naive but I still don’t get how people know who is gay or not gay. It’s not like either group is branded with some symbol.

    Personally, I don’t care who is gay or not but I do care about their behavior on the job site. If I have a hetereosexual who gets all macho on me and tries to seduce me or makes sexual jokes or innuendos to me then I find that just as offensive as some gay woman who would be exhibiting the same behavior towards me. Their sexual oritentation has nothing to do with the fact they are being a jerk.

    And the same goes for hiring – IMHO. It is the person’s behavior and attitude that I would be looking for – and also that they were qualified to do the job I was hiring them for.

    I’ve worked in large and small companies. Both have their pros and cons but one thing was true in both sizes of companies – the attitude of the management clearly defined the boundaries.

    One large company I worked for had a new regional boss come in and the entire behavior of the company changed.

    The new boss was gay and he had absolutely no problem with the fellow gay co-workers in their display of rude behavior. Some of these people would purposely go up to known hetererosexuals and start making sexual comments, jokes, etc. Then some of the hetereosexual women started leaving their husbands to join the gay group.

    Do I fault homosexuality for this behavior – NO.

    But I do fault the boss for allowing such rude behavior by his employees. I would feel the same way if the boss was heterosexual and allowed his employees to make sexual comments, jokes and encouraging break ups of marriages.

    A company is only as good as it is people – and that means all people.

    • lilacluvr

      I should clarify my first sentence – I would not know who is gay or not gay by just looking at them.

      • I have a colleague in my immediate work group who is lesbian. She is the hardest worker we have. She gets recognized for that – which is good. She told me she was lesbian and was convinced that I already knew this – I did not have any clue about that.

        She particiapted in collegiate sports until an injury stopped that – maybe she thought that was a clue for me. I will have to ask her, how she was sure I knew.

  5. I think I did say, too, that my samples were professional people. Usually people in that category are motivated, smart, etc. any way, regardless of sexual orientation.

    But I have known hetero people who were smart, professional, and pretty lazy. That has not been my experience with gay folk. I think there is a minority effect of “we have to do better to be treated equally” mindset by the folks I’ve known. My sample size is pretty small, too – estimating a total n of 20. The smaller the sample size the more tenuous it is to try to generalize beyond it.

  6. Lilac’s post reminded me of another thought. My immediate boss is convinced that being gay/lesbian is a choice. She bases this on her observation of many women who will be in a lesbian relationship for like years, even, and then at some point adopt a heterosexual lifestyle and even marry. My boss and I mutually know of cases where this has happened. So, it is not like people can’t change their minds.

    I knew guy, whom I liked a lot, who was married, had children, and then discovered what was more right for him. His estranged wife, worked very hard to end his career as a clergyman. “Hell hath no fury”, and all that… He was able to find a pretty tolerant church where there were a number of gay and lesbian parishners.

    I don’t think I have ever known of a gay male who makes the return to straight life after the gay period. I don’t think men who have sex with men in prison are gay in terms of identity in many cases. So, they would not apply in this case.

    I hope that was not getting too far adrift from the topic.

    • lilacluvr

      I just thought of Richard Cohen on Rachel Maddow’s show last week. If you remember, Mr. Cohen is the guy who has a therapist practice of helping homosexuals to come out of their homosexuality.

      Mr. Cohen says he has helped thousands to leave the homosexual lifestyle and that he, himself, got out of it and is now married for 27 (?) years and has children.

      And if that is true – then I’m happy for him because that is obviously what he wants for himself.

      But to assume that all homosexuals are not happy with themselves is a big mistake.

      And to think it is a choice is a big mistake, also.

      Why can’t people just live and let live in our society? It isn’t like homosexuality is something new.

      • lilacluvr

        One thing I find troubling about Richard Cohen is that he charges for his therapy sessions. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a strong advocate for therapy to help people.

        But how objective can Mr. Cohen be if a person questioning their sexuality gets into his grasp? Is Mr. Cohen being led by his real desire to help that person find their true sexuality identity or is Mr. Cohen led by his desire to make money?

  7. itolduso

    I used to think that being gay was a choice, though I couldn’t explain why anyone would make such a choice that subjected them to much of what they suffer from others. However, after watching a couple of men grow up from a very early age, and recognized that they are gay, and recognizing that their family situations do not fit any of the stereotypes commonly held up as a factor, I was forced to rethink my premise. Now, I really don’t know, and really, I don’t care. They are fine young men, whom I count as friend.

  8. Trip to the Outhouse

    Whenever people talk about gay people making some choice about their sexuality, I’d somehow like for them to get inside my head. I grew up back in the 50s & 60s on the farm, went to Ft. Hays, then to the AF, and back to Kansas, and I can tell you I never met or knew another gay person. I guess I was just too naive (even after all these years I’ve got no “gaydar” in comparison to my straight female co-workers). But I knew I was gay early on, even though I didn’t have a name for it. So what I’m saying is I didn’t know anyone gay at all to say, “I choose to be like them.” After all isn’t that what people who say it’s a choice think? If it’s true (as these people think) that gay people have made a choice, then is it true that straight people chose to be straight? (I’d like to hear about that decision if that’s the case.) Oh, no. I forgot. Being gay is immoral and gay people choose to be immoral.

  9. I don’t think I know when I “chose” to be a heterosexual. I think the choice question is important because if it is strictly a choice, people can choose to do something else.

    But, I think I like Prairie’s take on it the best – “this is who I am AND it is my choice.” I have never thought I had a choice in being straight – and I don’t feel that I was denied anything in not having a choice.

    From the genetics mindset, if a person has no choice in a phenotype (whether that be eye color, or sexual orientation) it seems more difficult to castigate said person for that phenotype if there was no choice. So, I guess as I talk this through, it does seem the choice question could be important to some people any way.