Stereotype: "Power Gay," Corporate, Ambitious, Machiavellian "I think I’m often perceived in the gay community as something of a mean girl. I think the main reason when I am so abrasive is not from some sense of superiority but a reluctance to connect with people who I feel are already judging me. In reality, I am a: successful, empowered, but still flamboyant gay man. Queer man. I don’t think that gay threatens people as much as Queer. I’m a writer, moderately religious, I would much rather read on a weekend – I’m very introverted, and I think that’s a misconception that I somehow relish the attention of the gay community both good and bad. I would say I identify as a gender performative male-bodied individual for the most part. I identify as queer by privilege and choice. I identify as gay by some cosmic accident. A gay identity is less of one you choose, but more of an inherent feeling. Queer identity comes from really examining your own sexuality; gay identity comes from being proud of something you were told to feel inferior about before. I feel that homophobia and judgment within the gay community is sometimes worse than outside of it. Its subtler, harder to confront – I so often see internalized homophobia within the LGBTQ community." Tyler Quick


Stereotype: Bottom, Nerd, Gay "I am not only gay; I'm also a nerd - I break one stereotype with another. I'm a guy who prefers wine over beer and I'd rather play video games than go out to the bars but I'm also a nerd who enjoys the gym and a spiritually revitalizing hike through the wild. I'm the only gay man I know who doesn't like RuPaul's drag race and I'm one of the few gamers who would sooner look at the men than the women on the big screen. People see me as the gay guy because it's different to them-it's something they're not used to. I don't see the gay guy because it's who I am-it's nothing for me-much like being straight is for most people. I see the part of me that makes me unique and what I think makes me special." - Stephen Young


Stereotype: Hipster "I'm a queer woman, an activist, a soon to be college graduate, a daughter and a sister. My appearance allows people to project onto me an image of myself that I do not believe reflects who I am as a person. Rather, I define myself through my interests, origins, and passions. I identify as a listener and an entertainer, a learner and a teacher, a friend and a community member. As an activist and a student of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, my female identity is important to how I see myself in the world. Identifying as queer is also central to my self identity. Queerness works for me to broaden the limited and often exclusionary labels of gay and straight and allows me a space in which my orientation, desires, and body feel welcome and safe." - M.G.B


Stereotype: Granola Lesbian; Boulder Chaco-Wearing, Hiking, Dirty Hippie "I am all of these things and more – I definitely identify as a feminist, as an activist, as a woman. I get my purpose from the movement from healthcare equity within the US. I am a queer woman although I have identified as many other things throughout the past 3 years. I feel a big connection to identifying as a woman. I really like that connection and community. I like queer because it is so open and so flexible and can accommodate anything. - K.S.


Stereotype: Straight; Heterosexual; Heteroflexible "I am also a news-junkie, 3 mile per day runner, dancer, aspiring fashionista, Michael Jackson's number one fan, gluten free pumpkin bread addict, basketball obsessed chick, a great friend, loving sister and daughter, a culturally closeted Jew, and my guilty pleasure is to watch teenage soap operas with pistachio flavored ice cream. I feel like I am often perceived as straight because I primarily have had relationships with men and because of the clothes I choose to wear. I choose not to label my sexual orientation or sexual preference. I think I could fall in love with any person or any gender, whether it be a woman or man or someone who identifies as trans. To me, it matters who the person is rather than their physical characteristics." Hillary Grossmann


Stereotype: "Fag Hag;" Accessory, Pet "I identify as an educator, as a collaborator, as a beginning activist. I identify with my class standing, especially in Boulder where I come from a lot less than most of my friends. I identify as an observer. I am an ally and I am a part of this community so I feel very involved in it. Being an ally is a really big part of my identity. I feel that very frequently I am perceived as an accessory or sort of pet to my gay friends. What I am in terms of sexuality, I’ve never had to declare an identity. I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for 5 years with a man. I felt that the choice that I had was to not say anything in regards to labeling my sexuality. It wasn’t ever important to me. I feel like a big part of what my identity has been is being in love and being in a relationship with my boyfriend and no ones ever really questioned it beyond that so people assume I’m straight and I’m happy in the relationship that I’m in. - Emma Hall


Stereotype: Butch, Masculine, Dominant, Stone "I feel like most people are confused how to perceive me. Because of pervasive heteronormativity,and I would even say homonormativity, there’s this desire for people to be ableto easily place me in the role of “man” (from the straight community) or “butch” (for thequeer community). Even in the queer community we like to think that we are so muchmore sophisticated in our understanding of gender identity and performance, but reallywe aren’t. People want to know that they can count on me to be butch and that I won’t deviate from that; so when I do, I feel this sort of disciplining from the queer community to get back in line.When I tell people I identify as a femmey trans butch, that can be really unsettling because the queer community doesn’t know how to handle the interplay of femme and butch. And the trans community doesn’t know how to handle my attachment to my butch identity. And my parents don’t know how to handle that I’m queer and not a lesbian.But when all those words are put together, it sort of makes sense. Butch is an honoring of the masculine-of-center women and transmen who came before me. And trans is the reality of my gender experience. And queer speaks not only to my sexuality, but all the odd ways I perform gender and intimacy and belonging." - E. Harsin Drager


Stereotype: Collector, Arm Candy, Shop-a-holic "I am artistically driven – in terms of art, I dabble in everything. I think its in my blood, my grandfather, dad and mom are artists and its the only thing I can see myself doing with my life in order to be happy. I identify as a more masculine of center gay man. I am very comfortable in my sexuality and I am proud of that. I was very comfortable with my sexuality from middle school and I feel as though I am mature in my self-awareness of this. For a while, I identified as bisexual…but being gay, its just who I am." - Cody Polland


Stereotype: Femme "I am not only Femme; I am also a huge dork, a sucker for anything grunge, music fanatic, and the biggest world traveler the world has yet to see. I identify as a woman with a fluid sexuality. In middle school I decided I was bisexual and until college I was completely comfortable with it. Growing up I was in straight relationships so I never had to defend or explain my sexuality to anyone. College made me realize that being bound by anything, especially sexuality, limits the experiences I could have with other people. I may “read straight” or might not “look queer,” but I think that has more to do with the way I was brought up than my sexuality. I’ll be the woman at the bar wearing heels that match my Blackhawks jersey. And hey, if I like you (for who you are and not what bathroom stall you go into) then I hope you like me too." - C.O.

Perceptions of Queer Identities

This collection of portraits was originally created for a Technology, Arts, and Media senior Capstone at the University of Colorado. It works to make visible queer culture and queer people in the Boulder LGBTQ community. This piece is intended to be the beginning of a long term project. In its early stages, it highlights the limitations of language when we speak about gender and sexuality and sheds light on the varied and creative language queer people use when defining themselves. I recognize the importance of speaking about intersectionality of identity; this collection does not begin to cover the wide range of identities that emerge, grow, and change within the complex interplay of sexuality, gender, race, and class.

I attempted to give subjects full agency on how they were portrayed and the portraits were a collaborative process. For the first portrait, subjects were asked to choose a piece of their identity that they felt was often stereotyped due to their gender performance or sexual orientation and engage in an activity which depicted how they felt the outside world narrowly viewed them. These photos are intended to exaggerate the subject’s stereotyped identity in a way that is slightly camp and pokes fun at the notion of the stereotype itself. The photos are not intended to perpetuate the stereotypes. These first portraits seek to challenge the premature conclusions we often draw about others based on physical appearance. They question the notion that anyone can fit into a boxed identity and suggest that maintaining a static identity is impossible. Rather, identities are constantly shifting, dynamic, contradictory, and flexible.

The second, black-and-white portraits depict each individual as they really are – dress, expectations, and stereotypes aside – simply human, nothing more and nothing less.

Role: Idea, Photography Project: "Best Creative Concept" Winner; Technology, Arts and Media Senior Capstone Thesis Location: Boulder, Colorado