Stereotype: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
I hate stereotypes, I get stereotyped regularly, my disabilities get stereotyped regularly. Why does society expect a person to be or act a certain way because of who they are. Why does the media represent only one aspect or side of something.
Here are some things in relation to my life that are stereotyped.
Often people who don’t know me that well and who aren’t very knowledgeable on trans stuff, will say to me when I tell them I am trans ‘oh so you want to be a woman?’ I end up explaining, that no, I am a trans man, meaning when born medical staff told my parents I was female, however they got it wrong. People have this shocked look and are confused that trans men exist. To be honest though I didn’t realise trans men existed until I was 16, so about 2006, because of the complete lack of representation of trans men. People hear I am trans and see me as male and think I must therefore want to be a woman.
People must also have this idea of what a trans person looks like, because I often get people saying to me ‘but you don’t look trans’ I don’t know what they think I am supposed to look like, do they have some stereotypical image in their mind.
The thing is I am trans and I look the way I do, there is no one way to look trans.
Gender stereotyping is really shit, so many people bring up kids and don’t let them play with the toys they want to, they think if a boy wears a dress he will be gay, or if a girl plays with trucks she will be gay. Firstly, no that isn’t going to make them gay. Secondly, why an earth does it matter, is having a LGBT+ child really that bad, would you rather make them unhappy by forcing them to play with toys they don’t want to.
People seem to think that because I am gay (they seem to especially think this if they know I am gay, but don’t know I am trans) that I want to just spend all my time clubbing on Canal Street, getting drunk. I honestly couldn’t think of anything worse, it would be hell. But people are genuinely gobsmacked that I have never done that.
Stereotypes don’t just apply to people, they also often apply to disabilities too.
Mental illnesses are often stereotyped and stigmatised. If people who have no experience or understanding of mental illness hear you have depression, they expect you to be a crying wreck 24/7, that isn’t how it works. They think people with OCD are just clean freaks, trust me we aren’t, I am really messy.
People hear diagnoses such as schizophrenia, psychosis or borderline personality disorder (BPD) and they often have this view of dangerous people, people who manipulate others, who abuse others. People don’t realise that having PTSD does not mean you have been in the forces, yes many veterans have PTSD, but many people who have never been in the forces have PTSD.
People think having Tourette’s (TS) means that all you do is swear. I didn’t start with copralalia (technical term for obscene vocal tics, one of a few terms to describe various different tics) until a few years ago, but have had tics since childhood, but no idea what they were because I wasn’t compulsively swearing. Everytime there was something about TS on the TV it was portrayed as people swearing, that everyone with TS swears, when in reality only about 10-15% do. It is this stereotype, that all we do is swear and we are lucky to have TS because we get away with swearing. I’ve had people (mainly strangers) tell me they wish they had TS to get away with swearing.
So many of these stereotypes come from the media and are reinforced by the media. People watch films and TV, listen to the radio and read the news from various sources. Various famous people make statements which back up a stereotype and people think then it must be true.
When I was growing up I didn’t know trans men existed until 2006, when I was 16, because up until then the media just represented trans women (mostly in a negative and/or comical way)
I didn’t know that actually a low amount of people with TS have copralalia until I was doing research when getting my diagnosis at the end of 2014, so 24.
I didn’t know that OCD wasn’t just about cleanliness until a few years ago. I didn’t know that PTSD wasn’t just a diagnosis for people in the forces, until professionals were discussing PTSD with me and eventually diagnosed me with complex PTSD.
I get a lot of stereotyping from professionals because I have EUPD/BPD, they have told me to my face I manipulate people and I do things just for attention, when those who know me say I do neither of those things. However, professionals see EUPD as one of your diagnosis and they immediately make excuses not to work with you, or help you.
Stereotypes hurt people in many ways, they are awful, unnecessary and ridiculous. Let people be who they are without trying to push stereotypes onto them because of how they identify. Don’t stereotype a disability and therefore trivialise it, again it is awful and shitty. Listen to people who live with the disability.
The media needs to do so much more to stop with the stereotyping. However, society can also do more. Remember if you have met a person with a disability or a LGBT+ person you have met them and the next person who comes along with that same disability, or who is LGBT+ is a completely different person. We are all individuals, lets stop putting people into boxes or pushing stereotypes onto them.