A few weeks ago, a friend of mine—who has an undying love for superstar singer Beyoncé—informed me that he camped out in Central Park for 36 hours, set on getting a front-row spot at her free concert. For him, viewing her performance on television like the millions of people who caught the same performance on ABC’s Good Morning America was simply not enough. He had to be right there. He apparently was so caught up in the moment that he burst into tears as soon as she walked on stage, and continued to weep until he got home after the show was over.
Why all the drama, I asked him. He looked at me shocked, and told me that Beyoncé “gets us.” The “us” that she apparently gets is gay men, he went on to explain in what would become a rousing speech on why I was remiss for going to work the morning of her performance instead of joining him—and an unfathomable amount of gay New York-area men—at her free concert in the park.
Unlike Lady Gaga, Beyoncé doesn’t overtly seek to speak on behalf of the LGBT community. However, in a recent interview with PrideSource.com, the pop star essentializes all gay men in a way that is troubling. In addition to making gay men synonymous with girls—a point that she advances when admitting that her latest song “Run the World (Girls)” was really meant as an anthem for gay men as well—she seemingly creates a gay monolith when she speaks about her admiration for “gay slang” and drag queens.
Admittedly, I can see that her heart is in the right place. Understanding her expansive reach, it would be myopic of her to not acknowledge her legions of fans, many of whom happen to be gay men. However, in her acknowledgement there seems to be an assumption of sameness—one that sees all gay men as the carbon copies of one another in a very stereotypical way.
To be clear, Beyoncé is not the only person guilty of making assumptions of sameness, which is why I have opted to speak on it here. Often, everyday people make similar assumptions about what it means to be a gay or lesbian, whether it based on popular representation or limited first-hand experience. But the danger of this lies in the way that gays and lesbians that do not identify with certain common stereotypes experience difficulty finding their place in a greater LGBT community, and society at large.
Company leaders and rank-and-file employees should become more aware of how their approach, words and attitudes illuminate their own subscription to reductive stereotypes of gays and lesbians. In what should be an ongoing effort to maintain a welcoming work environment for LGBTs, everyone should work together to acknowledge the complexity and depth of each other. Don’t just take for granted that you “get us.”
About the Author
Michael Collins is the Research and Publications Analyst of Diversity Best Practices.
Read more Diversity Blogs.