Engaging The G

Readers shift the discussion away from trans folk:

I’m writing in regards to your post about the gay guy who thinks of himself as a regular guy who happens to be gay. I feel the same. After coming out later in life (I was 26), I shifted in a way so that most of my friends were gay. I suppose it was a way to surround myself with people who I knew wouldn’t judge me. But then I realized that I couldn’t relate to most of the gays around me. I met my (now) husband and we slowly drifted away from virtually everyone we know who is gay. I found, more and more, that gay men seemed to use being gay as an excuse for being adults who refused to grow up. They continued to be bitchy, like in high school, and do nothing but talk about being gay.

I’m a regular guy who happens to be gay. I like beer, scotch on the rocks, shooting things, heavy metal (and classical music too), and watching Star Wars. I find that I don’t relate to the gays who conform to the stereotype. Heck, my entire bachelor party was with straight guys – and we had a blast. Where are all the “normal” gay men??

Another:

I related a whole lot to the reader. Unlike him, I’m perfectly happy identifying myself as gay, and in some ways I’m not 100% traditionally masculine, least of all in my affinity for Glee (lol), but I’ve never been comfortable with the word “queer”, don’t really have the “gay voice” that you discussed in another recent thread, and my clothes and hairstyle are pretty traditionally masculine, so people I meet for the first time often don’t recognize my being gay without my telling them so.

Since the sexuality of other masculine gay guys is as inconspicuous to me as mine is to them, it can make it pretty difficult for me to pick up guys, especially since masculine guys tend to be the only kind of guys that I’m attracted to (a fact which I can no more help than my being gay in the first place, but which nonetheless often elicits disapproval from the activist-types). It was nice to hear that an older gay man in a similar boat has been able to find venues to meet other gender-conforming masculine gay guys. I need to find some outlets like that myself. I’m not uncomfortable in gay bars or gay-rights campus groups and have made plenty of friends at both, but neither one has been great for me in terms of meeting guys who I’m romantically attracted to and compatible with.

These sentiments came in for a pounding from the in-tray. Some extracts:

Your reader’s issue isn’t with gay men; it’s with effeminate gay men, which he conflates with all gay men. The cognitive dissonance is astounding. He first says there’s nowhere in the gay community for guys like him, then proceeds to list an incredible array of sub-communities and support groups that totally invalidate his point. The gay community is a big, diverse, mess of a community. No one type of person “owns” gay.

But it was the MSM [“Men who have Sex with Men”] comment that killed me.

The reason that label exists is because the people who employ it see their orientation as purely sexual. It isn’t about love, it’s about SEX with men. The idea that any gay man would think that label should be applied to themselves is a sure sign that they have not yet come to terms with their orientation. If you think sex trumps love, then you don’t really understand masculinity at all. You’re chasing a caricature.

Another response:

There is no totalitarian “gay establishment” that tells you, or me, or your reader that we must tow a gender-neutral line or be other than who we are. That may have been somewhat more the case 25 years ago, when your reader came out, but it is not the case today.

I think that somewhat exaggerates the change – but the change surely has occurred, in part because my original reader might well have stayed in the closet, or married a woman, in the past. To reiterate my own position: I think there is plenty of space within the gay population for every single way of being homosexual. And that includes the participants in RuPaul’s Drag Race and my more traditionally masculine emailers. The trick is to make everyone feel at home, and sometimes we don’t always do that, and not with malice. Another reader adds:

And those “DL” athletes and celebrities who “haven’t been offered anything worth coming out to?” Yeah, they’re just chickenshit closet cases. It’s 2014, not 1974. We have openly-gay pro athletes and soldiers. Gay identity is what you make of it. You can be out in a traditionally-masculine field without committing career suicide. If you’re not in immediate danger of homophobic violence or financially dependent on bigoted assholes, staying in the closet is simple cowardice.