LGBT Tropes and Stereotypes

Although there has been great strides within the United States in progressing the rights of LGBTQ persons, various tropes within the media still exist today. This isn’t to generalize the idea that “tropes” as a concept are always bad, but however they can become harmful when generalizing a group of people. I’ve compiled three different tropes, through three different forms of media: live-action film, animation, and a comic.

“The Gay Best Friend”

This is a long-standing trope in American media that portrays gay men as an “item” to often heterosexual women. A famous example is that of Damian from the 2004 film Mean Girls. Although he isn’t visually effeminate, his overall actions portray him in such a way that he is understood as a stereotypically gay man. For example, he makes often comments about the fashion choices of other students – as well as various pop culture references that often are stereotyped to early 2000s gay culture. In relation to the film still included, there is a specific scene in the film where the main character asks to borrow a pink shirt – to which Damion is the only character who owns one. She can be seen here wearing his pink polo shirt on the far right, which makes a statement due to the color of the object. This trope is quite harmful as it defines gay men in an outwardly stereotypical way. It invalidates those that don’t fall into the fashion-oriented flamboyant archetype.

“Butch Lesbian”

Pictured above is a canonically lesbian character from the recently released animated Disney Pixar film Onward, released in 2020. 

Another common trope is the idea of the “butch lesbian”. This is the idea that most women who identify as lesbians are often more masculine presenting and or, “butch”. This is due to the heteronormative and patriarchal nature of society as it exists today. Lesbianism is a rare occurrence where men are not involved or centered spotlight, which allows for this idea of labeling lesbians as masculine. Although butch lesbian culture is a positive and thriving area alone, when it is used in mass media – it is often a trope and an offensive reference towards lesbians. This character exemplifies the idealized butch trope – as she is hardly recognizable as female and presents a very buff masculine frame – while identifying as a lesbian. Although she appears little in the film, there is much to be said by this appearance. Especially understanding that there is little LGBT representation in Disney films. This only furthers the harmful trope that lesbians should appear masculine in some way, only to recreate general heteronormativity. Further, it invalidates those that do not fall into this trope.

“Heteronormativity and Coming Out”

Pictured above is a set of different utensils looking at each other. The knife asks the pair of chopsticks, “which one of you is the fork?”

This image is an illustration of the trope of, “heteronormativity” – which is the idea that everyone is straight and should be expected as such. Less of a media based trope, this is a general societal trope that is quite harmful for the queer community. This is presented by the two “couples” that are represented by general cutlery. The fork and knife stand together, both as different utensils, however as a couple – unlike the same chopsticks on the right side of the comic. The question being asked, “Which one of you is the fork?” is a representation for the question, “Which one of you is the man/woman?” which is a commonly asked question to queer couples. This comic represents the idea that heterosexuality is seen as a standard, that being queer is considered abnormal to the general ebb and flow. This is harmful as it sets the standard of, “coming out” as queerness is understood as inherently different.



Waters, Mark S, Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Lacey Chabert, and Rosalind Wiseman. Mean Girls. Hollywood, Calif: Paramount, 2004.

Scanlon, Dan, et al. Onward. Directed by Dan Scanlon, Disney Pixar, 2020.

Original Artist for, “Which one of you is the fork?” could not be found. First publishing online is found here.