The summer that I graduated high school I went on a camping trip with my younger brother and a few friends to the Jordanelle State Park in Utah for a couple of days. It was a way to celebrate the fact that we were done with school, and have a last hurrah with people we may not ever see again.

Among my friends was a guy who talked slightly with what is often called a “gay lisp” (I hate to say it like that, but I don’t know a better way to say it). This friend didn’t stay for the whole trip, he had another engagement to attend and had to leave early. One morning after he left, as we were making breakfast over a campfire, a couple of my other friends (that didn’t know him very well) began to insinuate and joke that he was gay. All because of the way he talked. At hearing this I got mad and yelled at them. They were really going to assume this guy was gay just from the way he talked?

What occurred here is what I will call “sexuality profiling” (aka stereotyping).

I don’t think my friends really meant anything by what they said. They were just being ignorant high school boys (not that it justifies it).  For me though, this was an important moment in my life that has stuck with me seven years after the fact. It was the moment I internalized a vital lesson: you do not judge a book by its cover.

I don’t know if my aforementioned friend is gay (and I don’t care). His sexuality, however, should not have been judged from something like his tone of voice. Nor should someone have their sexuality assumed from the way they dress, or the haircut they have, etc. Nobody should feel self-conscious about their personality or their personal identity because they worry they don’t fit with the social expectations of what it means to be gay, straight, lesbian, or any other category of sexuality.

The idea for this article came the other night, as I was talking to a close friend of mine who admitted to having this same problem. People sometimes come to the conclusion that he is gay (and he isn’t) all from the fact that he might wear cut off shorts, wear Toms, or try to dress nice. Because you know, the superficial elements of ourselves apparently define the most personal aspects of who we are. If you believe that your external environment is a reflection of your internal self than there is a little truth to that, but that kind of thinking is severely flawed at best.

There are all kinds of other examples. You have the more “masculine acting” woman who is automatically believed to be a lesbian or the gay guy who “acts straight” and is presumed to be such. We see someone’s appearance and mannerisms and immediately try to label them.

Personally, I try to never jump to any conclusions about somebody’s sexuality (although, I have an amazing gaydar, so sometimes that’s hard).

There are no rules or requirements for being gay or straight (except obviously for an attraction towards a specific gender). This point needs to be pushed. You can dress, talk, and act however you want to, and that has NOTHING to do with your sexual preferences. We severely limit an individual’s growth when in order to fit within their desired sexuality, we expect they must act a certain way.

Stereotyping is a basic human instinct I think, but that doesn’t mean we should do it.

Let people be who they want to be. Who cares if it’s too “fem” or too “butch” to fit within the “norms” of their sexuality. It’s none of our business to judge that anyways. We should worry more about our own lives and less about others. That would solve a lot of the world’s problems, I really do believe.