Health

When Gay Men Turn to 'Straight Acting' (and Why I Hate that Term)

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Earlier today I was having a lighthearted conversation with an acquaintance. We were discussing a potpourri of life topics without getting too heavy. He then mentions that he’s off to watch the Saints game, adding “you know my masc stuff.”

I was irritated and asked him to elaborate the “masc stuff” and he continued saying “come on Sly, we all have our straight acting ways” I started to grind my teeth so hard it could have chipped a diamond. I couldn’t even respond because all that I kept hearing in my mind was, “Can this stop now? Can we stop degrading each other?”

Okay degrading may have been a stretch but honestly those are the first questions that pop into my head whenever I hear a fellow gay man say “straight acting.” I ask why is there a need to declare a behavior when you think you “fit in” with society?

Seriously, is being masc or straight acting going to stop you from being attracted to men? I know we all have multifaceted personalities that are differing and we label them as a result of whatever the consensus of normal behavior in society, but come on. To me it feels more like a crisis of identity than a statement.

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But maybe I’m being over-dramatic  Maybe I’m putting more into it. Could it be that I’m concerned with how religious zealots would say the moment they hear a gay man say straight acting? Do phrases like this send a message to others that haven’t come out yet that even when you come out, you have to mask your gayness. It’s a lot of questions, and even though I’ve put a lot of thought into them, doesn’t mean I’m right. But at least these questions need to be asked.

And even with all of these questions, to me the very notion of labeling something as “straight acting” is insulting. I know it’s a natural thing for us as a species to want to fit into the crowd  to not be called out for being different but entertain this phrase is heavy with insecurity.

Why? Because I feel like every single time someone says “straight acting” it’s just another way of saying gay is not good enough, that being gay is less than straight  That it’s scoring some kind of points whenever an man of any stature does something “masc or masculine (I despise this term as well) Is it possible that ”straight acting” because they haven’t fully come to terms with being gay, therefore are still openly identifying societal markers of what they say a man is supposed to be like?

Yeah I’ve talked about different perceptions of our lifestyles, from caricatures of gay television characters, what we do subconsciously before coming out, to even what the definition of what gay means, but this ritualistic labeling, this categorical hierarchy of manliness that I see so much in thee gay community is downright maddening. I even edited the draft section of this article for describing my self as a hippie because it yet again it is adding a category.  I have no idea how it makes anyone else feels, but labels in general to any human being makes me so irate.

Am I saying that we have to police every single phrase that we say? Of course not because that would be very pretentious…and extremely annoying. And no, I am not telling you what to say or that my opinion is the correct way to be gay, even though some like David Halperin may suggest there is a proper way (there isn’t).  

But in my none too important opinion we do need to pay attention to how we label ourselves, especially when it has potentially negative connotations. To me, a man is not defined by whether or not he plays sports, knows how to fix a car, or whatever other concoction society has deemed appropriate to prove someone’s manhood. Being a good person and treating others is respect will always be what makes someone a good human being.

So fellow readers, what say you? Are these rantings just that, a nonsensical rant or do you find reason with my point of view? I admit I’m an over-analyzer that observes everything I say and do to the most finite level. But again, a little self reflection will always be a good trait to inhabit. Regardless, I think we all can agree that being happy with who you are, is what’s most important.