What survives when stereotypes collide?

September 8, 2014 § 6 Comments

Or: what do you say to a genderqueer bisexual? What do you say to their bisexual partner?


I knew you’d go back to men

Because I’m assumed to be a woman, and must be heterosexual.


Bi now, gay later!

If I am assumed to be a man, along with my partner.


You were just experimenting

When he’s ‘informed’ that I’m ‘actually’ a woman


Watch the incredible tropetastic magic trick – they each negate the other, simply by both existing!

I’m not as queer as I should be, because I could ‘make the choice’ to be with women – and that I’ve somehow negated my trans status by being with a guy but not explicitly being a gay guy myself. But it’s okay, because I’m ‘the best of both worlds’, which must be a comfort to my equally bisexual partner.

You only get one deviant card, right? Otherwise you’ll use all the diversity up.


The thing you – you already know all of this. I can substitute any two – or three, or four – categories that take a person away from the “universal” white, straight, cis, currently able bodied, preferably male, certain type of job, certain type of religion, certain type of background archetype – and, suddenly, they undermine each other, and undermine the person described – you can’t have more than more category. How can you sit in more than one box?

I could talk about being trans and having mental health issues, to take another example from my life. I bet people reading this could add plenty more – being lesbian and being Muslim, being disabled and being a sex worker, being this and the supposedly diametrically opposed that.

This desire, to think of people as objects, to police the boundaries of nouns – turn the words someone uses to describe themselves into solid, immovable, immutable objects, and you can stereotype them as one thing or the other, but not have to admit of their whole selves.


And when I see people do this is supposedly progressive communities? People who are supposedly working to make things better? I don’t know why they’re trying to replicate what was done to them. I don’t know why they’re trying to continue the work that a frequently fucked-up mainstream does so very well. It only works if we’re different from something – something ‘normal’, something ‘standard’ – something that doesn’t need categorization, because it’s the baseline we’ve deviated from.

And this could be dismissed as a linguistic issue, or something frivolous that gets in the way of the serious work – who cares about ‘harmless’ stereotyping and jokes when there’s real work to be getting on with? But how do we get on with that real work, when we limit our vision of the people included in that work, because we start to believe the little digs, and asides, and tropes – when we get a fixed mental image we bring to mind with the words ‘trans’ or ‘queer’ or ‘feminist’?

What happens when we believe that there’s a limited number of adjectives a person could describe themselves with?


It’s amazing how many people you can make invisible, when you insist that the richness of who they are collapses in on itself into nothing.

And who does that serve, in the end?


§ 6 Responses to What survives when stereotypes collide?

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