Gayish on GLUE: Two homosexuals, unpacking queer stereotypes one at a time.
Have you ever checked Scruff or Grindr at an airport?
Maybe you’ll find a torso saying he’s looking for a lay during his layover. Or the hot dude ahead of you in line (lucky!). Or some blank profile saying he’s in *that* bathroom waiting to take your personal item in his bin.
Or, you might find a flight attendant.
There’s an age-old stereotype that male flight attendants are gay. As it turns out, the stereotype is largely true.
In 2015, researchers revealed flight attendant was the #1 job for gay men among female-dominant professions. Other top jobs in that category are, no surprise, hairdressers and nurses.
But where did the stereotype come from?
Some may have heard of AIDS Patient Zero, Gaétan Dugas, who was an attractive, gay – you guessed it – flight attendant.
He was also blamed for bringing the AIDS virus to the United States.
In actuality, he was unfairly named “Patient Zero” by a typo in a CDC report (somewhere along the paper trail, the “O” indented to stand for Out-of-California got confused with a zero), which a PR person intentionally and maliciously used to sell more copies of the book, “And the Band Played On” (which eventually became a movie by the same name on HBO).
Dugas was cleared of the charge by researchers in 2016, but some haven’t been able to let go of the connection between gay men, the AIDS epidemic, and flight attendants.
Another more likely source is that, as we’ve seen time and again with our podcast, anything society deems “feminine” eventually becomes a gay stereotype.
Although the very first flight attendant back in 1912 was male, women began to take over the profession in the 1930s starting with Ellen Church, a registered nurse and pilot who persuaded United Airlines to hire her to help reassure passengers that flying was safe.
Eventually, airlines shifted to hire women based on physical appearance to cater to the businessmen that were the most common clients. From there, men that joined the now female-dominated profession were either gay or presumed to be gay.
Some of the job characteristics have historically been better suited for gay men, such as the fact that the job requires constant travel and being away from home, making it easier for single people without a family to work the job.
However, as gay men gain more rights, including the ability to adopt and have families of their own, it’s no longer a given that gay men are childless.
It’ll be interesting to see if the stereotype of gay men as flight attendant starts to fall out of favor as well.
Until then, if you see a flight attendant on your hook-up app, give them an extra woof, “sup?”, tap, or whatever you deem appropriate to thank them for their tireless job flying the airs and holding up those stereotypes for the rest of us.
To take this conversation further and hear more about the fascinating history of gay flight attendants and AIDS Patient Zero, take a listen to the most recent episode of Gayish, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcatcher.
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