Where did the “gays are feminine and lesbians are masculine” stereotype come from?


Where did the “gays are feminine and lesbians are masculine” stereotype come from?

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A combination of people just assuming that if you’re gay you must act like your cisgender counterpart and a bit of truth. There are more effeminate gay men than there are straight ones and more “masculine” lesbians than straight ones. Of course neither personality is an identifying factor but when there’s enough that fit the stereotype it becomes widespread.

Prior to the modern era, most cultures – including the English-speaking culture we’re presumably both part of since we’re having this conversation in English – didn’t make a strong distinction between being gender-non-conforming, being gay, being trans, and crossdressing. They all got kinda lumped together under “people not having the way their gender is ‘supposed’ to”. And this lumping was done to some extent – maybe a lesser one, but some extent – even within the queer communities that existed at the time; the gay/trans split only emerged reliably in the last 50 years or so.

You can kind of see where they were coming from, in the sense that “wanting to have sex with men” is a trait normally* associated with women, and “wanting to have sex with women” is a trait normally associated with men. So a gay man was, in some sense, “acting like a woman” within that model, and a lesbian woman was, in some sense, “acting like a man”. And so, if a gay man would “act like a woman” in one sense, it wasn’t a huge leap to think they might “act like a woman” in other senses.

Moreover, since men who were effeminate (and women who were butch) were quite a bit more likely to be pushed into queer-heavy circles (because they weren’t “straight-passing”, even if they were in fact straight!), queer circles became dominated by those groups. So gay culture – as opposed to simply the existence of gay people – grew up heavily influenced by such people, which means that the signals, cultural norms, art, music, etc. of queer circles draws from their experiences. Early gay icons, as a result, tended to be pretty gender-non-conforming, because when you’ve been ostracized from society for being gender-non-conforming, of course you’re going to idolize people who own it and are loved anyway.

(Of course, many queer people – including myself – don’t fit into that cultural background very well, but if it were a few decades ago, that culture would be the only place we could reasonably expect to be accepted! Today, the effect is a lot weaker because queer people are much more accepted.)


* I use the word “normal” here in a purely value-neutral “typical of a large percentage of the population” way, not in the sense of “normal” vs “disordered” or “bad”.

I’ve noticed that there seems to be an increased willingness, tolerance or embrace of taking on all expressions of fashion, expression, etc among those who are gay, it certainly isn’t every gay person of course, but there seems to be a increased average among them of “gender norm erosion”. So of course, other people see this, and it sticks out to them because it is not something they typically expose themselves to. They then commit the logical error of assuming that what they are seeing is representative of gay people. They just aren’t usually aware how many “normal dressed” people in their lives are actually gay. Doesn’t help that the same person who would commit this logical error is likely the same type of person who would think and say other things about “others” that might make a gay person hesitant to out themselves to…so then the belief becomes self reinforcing.

Observation i would guess…like maybe they would notice certain things about a man’s mannerisms if he acts like how certain women would in a cultured society…like pampered women behave like they are pampered and so common women would replicate it and its like a trickle down effect….same for women….and I’m saying this regardless of orientation because there are women who are less effeminate who aren’t gay and there are men who might have certain effeminate mannerisms who aren’t either….so its just people making observations based on the societal “norms” within their immediate environment