“You’re a firework!”
“You were born this way!”
“Be your beautiful self and f*** the rest.”
These vital messages of “staying true” are especially relevant to gay men, yet ironically the only people not allowed to be themselves are “feminine” gay men, those of us living in this community where standards and norms are decided by “regular” or “masculine” gay men.
In the gay community, we share an intrinsic human quality that brings us together; we share similar pain and heartache, constantly having to disprove ignorant perceptions unfairly placed upon us. “Being yourself” is meant to be universally practiced by the infinite diversity of human beings. It takes courage to say “F what anyone thinks, I’m going to be who I am.” And yet...
What is the problem with feminine gays anyway? Where does the obsession with being “masculine” originate? More importantly, why do we disparage fellow queer men for their bravery to be who they are? As a group that is still shamed and misunderstood, why do we pass the blade of stigmatization amongst ourselves, the marginalized among the marginalized?
Every victory for the LGBTQ community is relevant because we still face systemic violence and discrimination here in the U.S. and around the world. Silencing flamboyant gays only divides us further while removing one of the many crucial facets of the LGBTQ experience. We each have our own battles and disparaging feminine gays as “queens” & “flamers” and bashing cliche expressions is not progressive, but rather a sure way to reverse our mission for equality.
A man brave enough to wear makeup and high heels has already won victory by being true to himself. Not everyone matches the standard of masculinity. Most of us weren’t “born that way.” Masculinity was designed the “norm” by heterosexual cis-gender men, the same who deny gender fluidity and possess a narrow and narrow-minded definition of what it means to be a man. Unfortunately, this standard has been drilled into the minds of children who must not only grapple with becoming “men” but also with the possible revelation that they have an attraction to the same sex.
That is, self-discovery and self-actualization are supposed to be celebrations, and can instead become traumatic, all owing to the problems of this kind of learned toxic masculinity.
Internalized homophobia and femme-shaming in 2017 have a rooted presence in social media and permeate throughout every branch of our fractured “community”, especially through apps like Grindr and Tinder, where tame scribbles like the sadly iconic “Masc 4 Masc” to self-telling absurdities like “straight acting only, ” “no fags,” “be masculine,” or “if I wanted a woman, I would date a woman” evidently paint a sense of self hatred borne from toxic masculinity.
These embarrassingly deep delusions and impossible requests to adhere to the unattainable standard of masculinity are together a pitifully backwards step. Seeking equality from without (from non-LGBTQ people) while maintaining inequality from within (between masc and femme presenting queers) by refusing to let anyone live the way they choose, is inconsistent at best, and is deeply harmful to our community. Here’s an idea: let’s live less toxic, and play more “Toxic”; because it’s Britney bitch, and it’s OK to feel fabulous too.
Within my own universe, I’m still trying to consciously unwire and unlearn my own aversion and prejudice to the femininity of other men. I critique every man I desire based on how feminine they appear to be. I scrutinize all subtly feminine, passive actions, vocal tones, feminine flickers of the body and expression of personality because I discretely judge the presence of femininity in every man I’m attracted to. Since I’m quite feminine, I subconsciously consider myself the limit to femininity in a relationship— that I wouldn’t desire a man to carry any more feminine aspects since I possess enough already. I wholeheartedly know this is entirely fucked-up and unfair, and I’m working on it, to practice what I preach. As if having feminine aspects would make the love of my life less desirable anyway? Fuck no it wouldn’t, because it would mean he’s human, and because he accepts me as I am, I need to accept him as he is (wherever he is).
Ultimately, demanding someone be a certain way and singling out elements of an individual that are “too feminine” or dictating how “gay” someone can/cannot be is not equality. All types of men make up what it means to be gay or queer. You can be a UFC fighter who performs in drag, a fashion designer who plays lacrosse, a salt-of-the-earth blue collar dude who frequents musicals, or a genderless being who connects to both masculine and feminine aspects of life. You can be anything you want to be; experiment with anything that makes you curious.
For the sake of all men, let’s try this out: always be yourself and let others be whomever they hell they want to be, because they most likely didn’t ask for your opinion nor your permission to be whatever kind of “man” or human being they want to be.
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