First Person

How A Mindless Quiz About Gay Stereotypes Turned Into A Teachable Moment

VPThree months ago, I made a quiz called “Which gay stereotype are you?” for my blog, LGBTeen. The blog was just a few months old and I thought creating a quiz would be a great way to help it gain some popularity.

I was right — last week, the quiz went viral, gaining more than 60,000 shares in just a couple of days.

Initially, I was excited to see the blog gain some momentum. Then I saw Chad Darnell’s article titled
“Confessions of a ‘Closet Case” on Queerty.

The article completely ripped apart the quiz, calling it “offensive,” even “horrifying” — and several commenters agreed. That was distressing on several levels. It’s not that I can’t take criticism — I anticipated that people would have conflicting views, and actually hoped they would share their perspectives on LGBTeen (that’s one of the reasons I started the blog). What bugged me was that Darnell seemed to be missing the point.

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Credit: Flickr

First of all, he seemed to miss the main point of the quiz — the humor. When I showed an early version of the quiz to my queer friends, they laughed at the overuse of drag lingo, the fact that “I’m a lesbian,” was the only option for girls who like girls and that the answers for “social justice warrior” were overzealously radical. The humor didn’t come from thinking these categories represented the gay experience, but rather from knowing they didn’t.

Still, the humor was just one part of the quiz. I wanted the quiz to be a gateway to a larger conversation and used the results to help introduce several topics I think the LGBT community should be thinking about — internalized homophobia, activism and how we can inspire a new generation to get involved.

According to Darnell, this quiz proved that “We are missing a teaching moment,” which is ironic, because that’s exactly what I was trying to create. Admittedly, there are things I could have done better, but my main goal wasn’t to be totally PC. I just wanted to introduce a new generation of LGBT youth to these issues in a fun, lighthearted way, while providing an outlet (the LGBTeen blog) for them to continue the conversation in-depth.

I also wanted to encourage teens to get involved in the movement, and let them know they don’t have to thrown on a feather boa to do so.

gaypiratesAdding to the irony, Darnell seems to agree with me.

“All the “Bromos” I know in Atlanta are some of the most socially and politically active individuals in the city,” he wrote in response to one of the quiz results.

Meanwhile, he actually quoted the result, which encouraged “bromos” to get involved with the movement and said, “You don’t have to become a stereotype … but you should still support your community.”

Never did I suggest, as Darnell claims, that “we should all aspire to be a Fab Gay.”

I did, however, try to encourage community involvement and the full expression of each facet of an individual’s personality. I wanted to push LGBT youth to challenge stereotypes, by suggesting they step outside their comfort zone, whether that’s asking a “bromo” to try attending a pride parade or letting a “social justice warrior” know it’s ok to take off their activist hat and do something like take a silly and — I’ll admit — problematic quiz online.

But I don’t want it to stop at the quiz. My vision for LGBTeen has always been to create a space for LGBT youth to explore a variety of perspectives — which is why I republished Darnell’s article on the blog and why, despite the fact that I stand by the intent and theory that motivated the quiz, I decided to delete it. I want to focus on the conversation the quiz has started — I want to create a teaching moment.

Because as much as it bugs me that people don’t seem to understand where I was coming from, that they disagree with my perspective, or worst of all, that they were hurt or offended by something I wrote, I love the fact that the quiz has received such a passionate response. Reading some of the comments has actually prompted me to reevaluate my own perspective. If my quiz or the response it’s garnered has inspired anyone else to do the same, LGBTeen has achieved it’s goal.

 

Steven Sanchez is the editor of LGBTeen.