In the past, I’ve been called ‘one of those annoying gays’ and ‘defeating the point of being gay by acting like a woman’, but contradictingly, also ‘ashamed of who [I am]’ and ‘deliberately evading gay culture’. When you’re trying to sculpt a personality for yourself, being gay can add stress or it can be a total non-issue. Negative comments like those above, be they about being too gay or too ‘straight acting’ just make the whole thing more confusing. The worst part is, every single comment above was made to me by other gay men.
I’ll use myself as an example here. I love musicals, I worship Beyoncé, I’m a cheerleader and I slut-drop/twerk near enough every time I’ve been drinking. I am, by the standards of a lot of people, as gay as it gets. On the other side of that, I’m not overtly camp, I’m not bad at sports, I don’t hold hands or kiss guys in public or attend gay rights protests/gay pride events, so I’m a pretty covert gay. If reading those lists of appalling stereotypes offended you, good. That means we’re on the same page.
Being gay is not a lifestyle, it is not a choice, it is not a personality, and it is not a certain behaviour. I’ve been out in drag before, I’ve sung showtunes whilst swinging from lampposts, and I’ve watched every single episode of Sex and the City (twice), but the gayest thing I’ve ever done is had sex with other men. Because that is what being gay is – sexual attraction to the same sex.
It’s bad enough that the expectations of me made me career through all kinds of phases in my teen years, from an affected lisp and mincing, to trying to be one of the boys and calling everyone ‘bro.’ I hoped that once I started making gay friends, I’d be accepted completely as I am. But in my experience, other gay men have been some of the biggest bullies and most discriminative people I’ve ever met. A trawl through Grindr reveals scores of men who ‘Aren’t looking for fairies’ or ‘Don’t want to chat with fems’. It is time we stopped.
If you are genuinely a real man’s man who happens to be gay, great. If you’d give Julian Clary a run for his money in the World Campionships, wonderful. But if you think that either of these personalities is a problem for the ‘gay image’, then you are the problem with gay image. In Mean Girls, Tina Fey says “You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores, you just make it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores” and that lesson can be transferred to gay culture. If we keep calling each other fags and fems and pigeonholing other gay guys, we just make it seem acceptable for the rest of the world to do the same.
If you are more attracted to guys who share your interest in rugby than ones who’d rather take you to a show, that’s fine. But don’t shame gays that don’t fit your image, because it makes you just as bad as every homophobe out there. Similarly, if you’re at the camper end of the spectrum, don’t assume that a guy who doesn’t enjoy gay bars isn’t being true to themselves. If we all just live and let live, we’d build a genuine community without the gay cliques that many LGBT people find just as oppressive and offensive as homophobia. I am more than the ways I behave when I’m drunk, or when I’m tired, or when I’m with friends. And if you don’t want to get to know all of me because one incarnation might cramp your style, that’s your loss.