He’s white, thin, upper-middle class, and every girl’s best friend. He loves shopping, and if he sees you wearing something tacky, he won’t hesitate to let you know. Diva to the extreme, this gay is the most prominent example in contemporary TV and fiction, and if you’ve got something more fantasy on your hands, then just swap out the fashion-loving for some extreme sass, and you’ve got yourself quite the character.
Why this can be bad: This is overwhelmingly the number one representation of queerness in media worldwide. Like every stereotype, there’s some truth in fiction; there are gay men who act like this and look like this. But oftentimes a character like the camp gay is created to fill a quota, and he’s boiled down to the traits commonly associated with gay people by straight audiences. These characters never go beyond these superficial traits, and they often exist either as an accessory to the straight, cisgender main character or have no goals of their own, instead choosing to drop everything to help the MC reach theirs. This character is one-dimensional, rooted in stereotype, and never fleshed out.
How you can fix it: Diversify your queer characters. Queer people are more likely than straight ones to live in poverty or be homeless. Queer people of color experience significantly more violence than queer white people. Queer people have poorer health and health insurance. And those topics don’t even touch on the diversity of queer personality and social patterns. Your queer characters should be as varied in appearance and personality as your straight ones, and there’s more to queerness than being a gay white male. Don’t get me wrong: you don’t have to make a statement about trans homelessness with your characters. Just keep in mind that these characters can — and should — vary widely on all planes and socioeconomic spectra. The gay, white, upper-middle class man is not the only type of queerness in the world, and even among them, not everyone is a Beyoncé-loving, showtune-singing fashion mogul.
Bottom Line: Stop giving in to stereotypes about gayness and queerness, and start writing your queer characters as people first.