The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog > Do You Look Gay Enough?

Posted on April 18th, 2013 by IMPACT in Featured, Youth Blog. No Comments

Image of young man in plaid shirt and jeans

Image courtesy of We Are the Youth.

Most people have heard many LGBT gender stereotypes:  gay guys are feminine, lesbians are masculine, etc.  But that is definitely not true!  Many people think all gays and lesbians are gender nonconforming – in other words, that they all look like the opposite gender or have interests that are common to the opposite gender. The reality is that gays and lesbians are just as diverse as heterosexuals.  For example, the We Are the Youth photography project tells the stories of LGBT youth in the United States and shows the great diversity in gender expression among LGBT youth.

IMPACT has discussed gender nonconformity in past posts, but what about those who are gender conforming?  Sometimes, LGBT youth that are out to family and friends may feel that they don’t fit in within the LGBT community if they do have expected traits of their gender.  This might make them feel pressure to change their appearance and/or the way they act in order to feel more connected with the community.  Also, sometimes when youth show typical gender norms, they feel invisible in the LGBT community, but really there is a wide spectrum of gender expression in the LGBT community.

Young woman in black dress

Image courtesy of We Are the Youth

Teen and young adult years are times when people learn more about themselves and who they are.  Many take this time to figure out not only what goals they have for their future, but also their preferred sense of style.  For LGBT folks, as well as for heterosexuals, how people visually express themselves changes as a person becomes an adult.  LGBT youth should feel free to experiment with how they express themselves and not feel that they are less a part of the LGBT community if they find out that they are most comfortable conforming to their gender.  Appearance and sexual preference do not always go hand in hand.  The girliest of the lesbians and the most masculine of the gays are still as much a part of the LGBT community as those who are gender nonconforming, and how someone looks or acts does not take away from how gay they are.  The We Are the Youth Project shows this in their many photos and bios of LGBT youth.

If you ever feel out of place and want to feel a greater sense of community, please check out the many available resources for LGBT youth and young adults. For more about the many different ways of expressing your gender, check out the IMPACT Program’s interactive Gender Identities & Expressions Map.

This article was written by Dawn Brown, IMPACT intern.

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