Monday, June 25, 2012

"Please Don't Act So Gay, You're Embarrassing Me."

When I was much younger there was this guy I was dating who said "I don't know how you do it, being out and still have a successful career? I mean, you're so GAY!"   It was one of those baffling comments in my life.  I mean how else can I be? I don't know how to be "less gay."  Why would being "out" preclude failure?  How would I be less "gay"? Would mean sleeping with men less? Or sleeping with women more. Maybe just saying "no" to penis or just closing my eyes should one come within my field of vision. 

Recently I was volunteering at very gay event, and a fellow volunteer, a young acquaintance, said to me "Please don't act so gay, you're embarrassing me." Lately, I seem to be encountering this attitude among many of the gays under 30 that I know.  There seems to be a fetishism among them for "straight acting men" or "masculine men". In my opinion, masculine is anyone who has a penis (or wishes that they do). But whatever, if you think a guy who grabs his crotch and spits tobacco is "masculine" you're free to ask him out on a date. However, I refuse to fit into some adolescents view of what masculinity is about. 

What I do have a problem with is the active, vocal disdain they show for those of us who are "too gay".  The active discussions online about "how those fairies at gay pride embarrass all of us." and "how straights will never accept us if some of us act like women and wear drag."  You know, there will always be people who for whatever reason cannot or choose not to conform to societal standards.  Trust me they are fully aware that they do not "fit in" to our societal norms of masculinity, gender or heterosexuality.  This idea, that if we're all "good little boys" wearing Banana Republic khaki's with polo shirts, with freshly scrubbed faces and a pair of oxfords, that all of sudden gay people will stop getting bullied and we'll be welcomed into society as "normal" people.   

I have lived my life out in the open since it was safe to do so after high school.  I am not the most masculine guy in the world, nor am I particularly effeminate, (not that there's a problem with that.) What I am, and what most people understand after they meet me is that I'm a big GAY.  Not in an in-your-face kind of way, but in an accept-me-as-I-am kind of way.  I work hard, I am a professional, but I do not hide who I am in order to achieve status in my career or in my community.  So to have some 20 somethings think they can take us all back to some defeatist, loser high school mentality is absolutely ridiculous.  

"If we look like them and imitate them they'll accept us." Well, trying to look and act like "straight" men is a self-defeating tactic. At the end of the day, whether your dress in drag or not, straight people will see you as gay and will act according to their own judgments and biases. This idea of trying suppress those of us who fall outside normal gender norms to make heterosexuals more comfortable is really just another type of closet, and just as unhealthy and suffocating. 

Come on people!  Gay is about the "fabulous".  It's about being in the know about things that make our lives better: art, food, friends, culture, travel. It's about living outside societal norms and shopping at funky stores instead of buying furniture at Rooms-To-Go. It's not about a pair of Bass Weejuns but a John Varvatos Chukkah.  Why would I want to be like straight guys with their wrinkled button downs and surfer shorts? Why would I want to be like my oppressors?  Gay is about the freedom to "be" without having to carry the stifling baggage the straight guys have to.  As gay men we can choose whatever gender role we want and never have to prove our  masculinity.  We are masculine because we define our own masculinity whether it's wearing khakis, leather or glitter wings.

On a final note: what difference does it to you make if I act too "gay"? I have earned my rightful place in my community.  I watched a generation of men die because of government indifference. I have been arrested for being just being "gay." I have been told by a majority of fellow Floridians that "you cannot marry the one you love."  So don't tell me I need to be less "gay."  I am going to the biggest, homo around, and I'm going to love all my gay brothers in all of their rainbow varieties!  If you don't like it, I'm sure Rooms-To-Go can make a very boring closet for you.