In a world which is overwhelmingly straight, it’s surprising to see gay people so well represented among the most successful and famous people both in history and in the present day. Might there be something about being gay, or growing up gay, which makes people especially likely to be successful in life?
Of course, for hundreds of years gay people have been over represented in the arts and theatre, and this is still true today – think of Ian McKellan, Neil Patrick Harris or Zachary Quinto. In design, there is of course Giorgio Armani, and Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana – of Dolce and Gabbana; all of these are household names.
But it’s not only in arts and design; the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, is gay; rugby player Gareth Thomas and diver Tom Daley are both among many, many gay sportspeople – surprising perhaps, because sports is such a non ‘stereotypical’ pursuit for gay people.
What might it be that drives gay people especially to success? Could it be something in the genes – possibly. But given how many different aspects of life gay people seem to excel at, it would seem difficult to pin down the cause on something so rooted in biology. So maybe there is a more psychological and social explanation?
We, gay people, grow up different from those around us; and when we realise that difference, maybe from a very young are or maybe as we get older – we have to learn different ways of dealing with the world, with people. We have to reassess our lives, and maybe the life that society had expected from us. We become people who stand a little bit outside the rest of the world, and that gives us a unique perspective – a perspective which is helpful be it in the creative industries, or in business.
And realising we are different, we become better able to understand the uniqueness in every person, and having gone through maybe a more difficult time in our past we can empathise more fully with others. So we are not only able to see life from a slightly different perspective, but also relate more humanly with others, making us better communicators, more tolerant of others. Maybe even kinder.
And of course, growing up gay can be a great struggle. Living through such difficult times can build up in us a strength of character which we might not have found if we grew up straight. That strength of character, and strength within, can drive us on to succeed – most obviously in sports, where we directly compete with others. But isn’t this also commonly true in business life, also?
So perhaps the advantage gay people have is all down to genes – but more likely it is because of the world we grow into, which challenges us from the very beginning to be more creative, more flexible, more empathic; to find strength within us which we might never have suspected was there, to see we can be so much more than the role society often casts for us. To be the best we can be.