Hipster or Homo?

Gawker recently posted an article on “how to tell the difference between a hipster and a gay.” The article was written apparently in response to one reader’s inquiry regarding the latter question, claiming “”hipsterdom has permanently destroyed my gaydar” [revealing very clearly that the reader’s gaydar was not very strong in the first place]. Gawker initially posed the question to a large audience, and then created the article by compiling the ‘best’ answers. Here is what they said:

1. “Usually I go by the old standard: if he makes out with boys, he’s gay. Sadly, the hipsters have ruined THAT theorum as well.” –Colonel Mustard

            2. “Gays generally stick to the clears when drinking such as vodka and gin. Straights prefer bourbon and whiskey. Single malt scotch though is the for both groups.”        –Regimentkhaki 

          3. “I’d go with the muscle tone thing. The pretty young gay-boys may want to look like waifs on the outside, but there’s 30 hours a week at David Barton underneath those skinny jeans.” –Lionel Mandrake

          4. “Facial hair: mountain-man beard=straight, Olivier Theyskens face-pubes=gay. –beefer

          5. “Hairstyle Asymmetricality: over 25%=gay.” –beefer

         6. “Eyebrows: Jello Biafra dramatic=straight, Liza Minnelli arches=gay.” –beefer

        7. “If they ride fixed gear than it is more than 90% likely that they are straight.” –Frannyincognito 

Notice that most of what was said involved arbitrary distinctions of aesthetics and fashion, although I do give credit to answers 1 and 2 for discussing cultural/habitual distinctions, rather than style. Clearly people’s fashions choices indicate their moral lifestyles; their aesthetic choices are used as “social hieroglyphics” for others.  Two other aspects of this article stick out to me: firstly, and most saliently, is the complete dominance of men. Why, when speaking about either hipsters or gays, weren’t women included in either group? It boggles the mind. The exclusion of women from both groups demonstrates the sexism that pervades LGBTQ  discussions so often. Even the word ‘gay’ is synonymous with both homosexual men and homosexual men and women together, but ‘lesbian’ is never, ever used to refer to men or groups other than women.

The second aspect of this article that mismatched along similar lines to the first, is why ostensible ‘hipsters’ and gays are mutually exclusive categories. The entire article bases its premise off trying to find divisions between two groups that are very often one and the same. (Note to the reader: There is no real definition of a ‘hipster,’ but since the article is based on the term I’m going to use it. Here I am using ‘hipster’ to refer to the crowd that otherwise has no positively identifying name – the ‘Modern Hippie,’ if you will. For the purpose of this discussion I am not using ‘hipster’ in its derogatory sense, since no one likes to actually call themselves a hipster. I’m confident you all know the group I’m talking about, even though it’s very hard to articulate in words that go beyond fashion choice.) Why can’t a hipster be gay? Or vice versa? That no one called attention to this logical fallacy, or at least none that Gawker posted about, highlights the very real fact that the LGBTQ community are still wholly considered “The Other,” and therefore not at all integrated into social groups. Gays’ most salient identity is, obviously, their sexuality, and many people seem to think that the idea of someone LGBTQ-identified would ever include themselves in any other group, or look like “Us” (the non-Other), is preposterous. Furthermore, since the lines are supposedly now being blurred, Gawker felt it necessary to provide a place for people to redefine those lines, and put those gays back in their Other group. This article says a lot about where our culture is in the fight against sexism, fashion policing, and identity acceptance.


17 thoughts on “Hipster or Homo?

  1. I agree that society is always trying to label people in concrete groups in order for people to identify each other by ‘labels’. From a social psychology standpoint, people strive to belong in a group of any sorts, but I feel that that is for the person to decide where and with who they belong, not by others based on what they think their sexuality is based on clothing choices.

  2. I really enjoyed this post as it really is relevant to what many of my friends believe when it comes to hipsters and gays. I have gotten into countless arguments either defending my gay friends dress or defending a person I don’t know saying that you cannot judge a man based on clothes. Specifically only gay males are spoken about when compared to hipsters with my friends. This discussion now reminds me of a time I judged people on their clothes.

    When I was in about 7th grade “emo” music and bands like Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boy etc as well as seeing images of Marilyn Manson dressed as a female due to the court battle about Columbine. Back then I would say I would have thought people were gay for their dress. In reality I had no idea what being gay meant and knew much about clothing. I made false judgements without really knowing anything.

    While still learning about fashion, I feel like I make less judgements than before as I have so much more to learn and attempt to be understanding. With this article I feel like all the people who said those remarks are a bit ignorant to the reality of being gay and at times are not surrounded by gay people. I think having many gay friends has opened my eyes to many things: politics, LGBT rights, etc

    I think it’s quite silly that the “lines are blurred” when it comes to hipsters vs LGBT. Both are separate and I feel like you can easily mistake gays for hipsters way too often. One of my gay friends is a successful investment banker and one would not be able to say he was gay from the way he dresses. Same with his boyfriend. Both of them dress put together for their line of work but no more than anyone else. It’s unfortunate people think that hipsters are the same as being gay. Style of dress does not define who a person is to someone else. Dress only matters to that person and defines what they want. They are different and people are just assuming too much based off certain fashion items like skinny jeans and framed glasses.

  3. I think one essential element to the “hipster or gay” thing is that they seem to be connected at a basic level because they are both “outsiders”. They seem to be connected because homosexuality is inherently outside of the social norm and “hipster” style is (at least supposed to be) an aesthetic expression that is anti-mainstream. I think this connection is interesting because it reveals how social ideas are so closely connected to how we interpret appearances, especially through fashion.

  4. I find the point about the word gay to refer to both men and women but lesiban only refers to men very interesting. It’s almost as if it does not matter what your sexuality may be, you still live in a sexist world. It is so funny to me how stigmatized groups stigmatize others. Being African-American, it amazes me how we are so quick to judge, stereotype, and stigamitze after being oppressed for so many years. Maybe everyone needs to go listen to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, like seriously.

  5. This post makes a lot of really important points. There seems to be this constant struggle to define people and fit them into strictly defined categories of sexuality and gender. One of the first things people notice about another person is if they are male or female. Other gender options are not even usually thought of as possibility and anyone who might be androgynous in some way then is studied carefully to figure out what the person’s gender is. Straightness is usually assumed, but if there is doubt for some reason, a person’s sexuality becomes something that must be “figured out.”

    This article focuses so much on making sexuality easier to ascertain simply by clothing and activity choices, so that, as this post states, we can more easily find out who should be fixed into the “Other” category. This effort to fix people into binary categories of gay/straight and male/female becomes so based on clothing that the fashion category of “hipster” comes into play, it complicates things. This article suggests that there is a way in which people can make their sexuality much more difficult to assume through their fashion choices. I think it is important to observe also, however, that being able to ascertain a queer sexuality through clothing practices is something that, to some members of the queer community, is an important signifying practice. While on the one hand this Gawker article can be read as a way to put gay people into an “Other” group, it can also be read as a way for gay people to be able to distinguish those who are simply straight and hipster, from those who are gay and hipster. Queer invisibility is as problematic, in many ways, as forced queer visibility.

  6. I too find myself having to defend for others I may not know that my friends may make a comment about their dress. Most often this is my guy friends talking about other guys that dress differently from them with tighter pants and/or tighter shirt. Their comments refer to them being gay, which obviously can’t be . It’s interesting that our society is always constantly putting people into various categories based on invalid criteria.

  7. I think this relates in an interesting way – it is an article on how to “cure” a “feminist” (but there also seems to be a not-so-subtle hint at queer women) – it is clearly very connected to clothing choices.

  8. I find the various points in the “Hipster or Homo” blog to be rather interesting, especially because they attempt to redefine a supposedly blurred line in the fashion culture. After reading some of Gawker’s “best answers,” I found that is reminded me a little of Susan Kaiser’s article “Entangling the Fashion Subject Through the African Diaspora.” While this blog does not necessarily address the subjectivity of the African American community, there is a subjectivity being placed on heterosexual and homosexual individuals through their fashion choices. The Gawker quotes seem to be suggesting that straight men present themselves in one way; therefore, gay men are NOT going to present themselves in that same fashion rather another type to distinguish themselves. For example, the blog states that straight men have a “mountain man beard” for facial hair; therefore, no gay man can have that instead they have “face-pubes” for facial hair. Another example is straight men have eyebrows that are “Jello Biafra dramatic; while gay men are allowed to have eyebrows that are “Liza Minnelli arches.” All of the best answers that Gawker provides are very rigid definitions that attempt to clearly distinguish the lines between a straight man and a gay man; yet, they are oddly only based on aesthetic tendencies and stereotypes.

  9. I think an interesting point brought up by this blog is how hipsters and gays are both considered the “other” yet people still feel the need to divide and categorize them even further. The identifying markers that people responded to Gawker’s question were really unbelievable and made apparent the way people imagine these groups of people to be. But another interesting point that comes to mind is the perceived idea that gays are always trying to purposely wear ostentatious styles of dress, hence the resulting confusion between them and hipsters. But who ever said that all gays dress in an “indie” or “out-of-the-box” way so to speak the way hipsters do? This assumption further demonstrates not only the importance people place on outer appearance, but also the reinforcement of stereotypes about gays.

  10. This post was very interesting as I was recently discussing this topic with a group of friends the other day. I do feel the attempt at differentiation between the two is vapid,but as a society we always want to pinpoint what is black and what is white. To add to the other comments, I feel as though they was an higher emphasis on the aesthetical difference between the two because the prevalent mindset on homosexauls are that ones gaydar is aided by the clothing choices of individuals in this sexual orientation. I believe the only reason for an article like this to be published is , as the quoted individual stated, it is now becoming hard to spot such a person because being fashionable has become mainstream and the “hipster” clan has fully become associated with being fashionable. Its a intresting subject to digest but at the end of it, i believe the underlining motif is that human beings need/make ways to categorize people, and often,clothing choice is a predominant form of doing such. When that becomes muddled, then people have to ask questions like this hipster v. gay ?

  11. Honestly I had never thought of connecting the “hipster” lifestyle to the “gay” one before we talked about it in class. Now it makes so much sense. I have noticed in the african american community dressing more “hipster” -like can be seen as gay. Many people even equate them as the same thing. I think this is because the modern hipster is considered to be fashionable and thus the a fashionable male must be gay. This article reiterates the power fashion and clothing has over identity. Their is such an immediacy in creating categories for people to fit into, that it has to be done at first glance. These assumptions about the hipster are no different than the less fashionable being poor, veiled being oppressed, and knock-off bag wearer being a liar. All stereotypes society has created.

  12. Gawker isn’t a very bright source of information, so I don’t take much of their stuff seriously in the first place.
    I got a good chuckle from the article and have had this discussion with other gay men – kind of like how we differentiate between gay men and Europeans (What if they’re gay and European? my conclusion? You can’t tell).
    I do think the article raises the question of “gayness” as a sort of performance – and, to my knowledge, it sort of is. I’m from the LGBT community and there is something to our culture that’s unlike mainstream media. Why do a good number of LGBT leaders admire the likes of Madonna or Lady Gaga. Where did the word “friend of Dorothy” come from? I’m not any sort of LGBT scholar, but these are the things that I’ve seen when I was introduced to the LGBT community on campus.
    I don’t know, maybe I’m just ignorant, but there is something comical about asymmetrical hair as something a gay man would have. Maybe the fact that it bends gender norms about male hairstyles, or something.
    Still an interesting read.

  13. Subconsciously we all make assumptions about the sexual orientation of people by the way they dress. I think many people are guilty of assuming that a person is part of the LGBT community just off of thier clothing choice. However, it’s not often that I hear someone assume that a person is a hipster. I actually don’t have an idea of the way that Hipsters are assumed to dress. This article made me realize that I never really compare the two. I always assumed that people who appear to be “hippies” are only dressed to make a fashion statement. It makes me wonder why this style would even be compared to the one of the LBGT community. This shows the way that stereotypes are formed and how quickly people in society can conform to these stereotypes. The comments that were made before the article did upset me a little. I think that being gay or lesbian should not be assumed by the way that someone is dressed.I think that anyone could be dressed any type of way and no one would know if they are or if they are not of a particular sexual orientation. I did also find it interesting that women were not brought up in the comments in the beginning og the post. Most people only refer to the men that are a part of the gay community because men are known to be “manyly men” and have muscles and aren’t suppose to be seen as wearing hippie clothes. I also feel that it is easier to set these men apart from each other because most men who are gay, choose to stayed groomed for the most part as far as keeping their “facial hair, eyebrows and hairstyles” more groomed than the “average” heterosexual male. I think this does show a lot about how our society can make assumptions based on fashion. I don’t think that it is right, but we still manage to do it.

  14. This was an especially interesting post because I find myself constantly debating with heterosexual males about the sexual preference of other men they find “questionable”. I think the “hipster” trend is challenging the perceptions of how straight men look and how straight men are supposed to dress themselves. I find it really disappointing that men seem to be very restricted in their clothing choices if they don’t want to come off as gay, or “suspect”. Women have many more choices and aren’t as pressured to look a certain way or another, or fit a certain mold. I think we definitely have more freedom when it comes to how we wear our bodies. And I don’t think society is as interested in placing women into categories of gay or straight as they are with men.

  15. I really enjoyed this post because I think it is really relevant on college campus’. I think that as human beings, and especially as young people at a vulnerable time in our lives, we subconsciously or consciously try to make life easier and more understandable for ourselves by lumping people into very specific categories. It is comforting for people to see other individuals and assume that they are a certain type of person, with a certain lifestyle, and certain beliefs because they dress and look a certain way. However, obviously this is a really problematic way to look at others. It creates stereotypes and lets us easily glide into the perspective of “otherness”. I have often times thought about the stereotypes that gay men face with their clothing choices, but have never really thought about that connection with the “hipster’ style. I like styles that contradict or challenge fashion norms or social values. For example, I like that now days you can see a teenage boy wearing skinny jeans and not be able to assume that he is necessarily gay. Maybe he is punk or maybe he is a “hipster”. It is important to have styles that blur the lines of sexuality even more, so that we force ourselves to stop generalizing all different groups of people. Just because someone is gay doesn’t mean that he wears tighter fitting clothes than a straight man, and just because a man is wearing pink does not mean he is gay. I would like to take a look at different styles or social groups that overlap like this and see what they say about our society.

  16. This issue says a lot about how masculinity is constructed in our culture. An American man is not supposed to give too much thought to his appearance. A certain amount of thought, in certain situations, is alright, but not too much and not all the time. It is as ambiguous as it is exhausting. Vanity is considered a feminine trait, and any male who displays feminine traits MUST be gay. And there is NOTHING worse, and nothing that runs more counter to masculinity, than being gay. Homosexuality is still considered by many to threaten the fabric of society. To both amuse and horrify: a vintage warning video about homosexuality – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3S24ofEQj4&feature=related

    Given that this is a GWS class, most of us are probably well aware that masculinity is much more rigidly constructed in American culture than femininity. Whoever proposed/wrote the Gawker article seems to be either unaware of this fact, or entirely ignorant to the effects of generalizing about a group of people. Too many people have never been exposed to anyone gay or lesbian, and this combined with a lack of education can lead to dangerous prejudices (please observe the comments underneath the video). My gay and lesbian friends are an incredibly diverse group, with different life experiences, personalities, and manners of dressing. They have as much in common because they are homosexual as my blonde friends do because they are blonde: an arbitrary facet of their personality that has little bearing on their personhood. To pretend that all there is to being gay is dressing flamboyantly is close minded and socially irresponsible.

  17. This blog post was very informative for me because, in my ignorance, I was not at all aware of any associations that were being made between hipsters and homosexuals. From the little that I know about what is termed hipster culture, I thought it only carried connotations of the arts and urban style clothing. I agree with the rhetoric of this post in criticizing the distinctions that the Gawker article makes between straight and homosexual people in relation to hipster style as being based off of arbitrary aesthetic observations rather than cultural differences, and that these distinctions are patriarchal in their scope.
    The biases of the Gawker article under criticism in this post do point towards a variety of cultural implications regarding our consideration of homosexuality. It is clear that homosexuality is still being marginalized as an unacceptable subculture given not only its association with what is deemed a relegated style, but also that there exists a desire to determine homosexuality within this relegated style; an unnecessary micromanagement that points towards an anxiety of difference and implicit appeal to label homosexuality as being different from the norm.

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