Blake Pruitt examines why many gay men are no longer identifying with gay culture in New York. Here is his take on their top seven complaints.
‘Lady Gaga is a straight woman who has co-opted gay culture because it works for her.’
A lot of gay men look to strong women as role models. This is great. Women are great role models. I’d be nothing without Beyoncé, but we also need more strong gay male role models – and not necessarily famous ones.
A lot of young gay men are dismissive of older gays, and vice versa, but we all have a lot to learn from one another. Younger gays can learn a lot about self-acceptance and, consequently, acceptance of others from men who’ve been doing so since before we were born.
‘If you were to just say gay guys, an image pops into my head that I’m not so fond of.’
When we talk about ‘annoying gay men’ or hating a stereotype, we’re really talking about the way a gay man is expressing his gender, not his sexuality.
Most homophobes, gay or not, don’t care as much about a man having sex with another man as the typically feminine characteristics he displays.
Yes, there are obviously still too many people who take issue with homosexuality at its core, but the more pervasive homophobia (which has seeped into the gay community) is one associated with a man acting in any way that is traditionally/ stereotypically not masculine. Which brings us to:
‘Masculine men tend to be attracted to masculine men, and feminine men seem to be attracted to masculine men as well.’
Gay men (and women across the spectrum) typically have a healthier balance of masculine and feminine traits than many heterosexual men.
Why don’t we celebrate this? Because a lot of people are put off by a man walking or talking like a woman. Why? Because many men have been taught to internalize a discomfort with feminine behavior.
Being feminine means being weak. Acting like a ‘pussy’ is treated like an inherently negative thing (so is acting like a ‘dick,’ but in a different way). So many of us openly prefer and seek out more ‘masculine’ guys.
Sexual attraction cannot be totally controlled, but this belittling of femininity needs to go.
‘Then you move to New York and you go to the Boiler Room and everyone’s getting that attention.’
Gay men in big cities have it easy in a lot of ways that we take for granted, but it can often be overwhelming to feel like such a small rainbow fish in a big queer pond.
We want to feel different in some way, so we take these ideas of a stereotypical gay man that have been imposed on us by straight culture and try to distance ourselves from said stereotypes by putting others down.
It can often feel like there’s no community at all – just the same strange, photogenic faces at the same clubs every weekend. That is a community, though, and we should embrace it.
‘I just thought I hated gay people, but I think that I really just don’t like people in general.’
The gay man’s equivalent of a post-breakup ‘I hate men’ is often ‘I hate gay guys’.
I’ve said it, my friends have said it, most of us have thought it. We blame relationship troubles on the assumption that: ‘All gay men are sluts and no one wants to be in a relationship with me.’
Is this really true, though? Probably not. It’s simpler to take out one’s frustrations on everyone else than to accept that maybe the right guy just hasn’t come along yet.
Not all gay men only want to sleep around (and those who do are certainly allowed/ encouraged to). Not all gay men are scared of long term commitment. And not all gay man are like your – or my – ex boyfriends/ hookups/ sort-of-boyfriends/ never-called-it-anything-which-is-why-it-fizzled-outs.
‘It means more than just your sexuality.’
We still let decades-old stereotypes define our culture and sense of selves. When so many men in the gay community still assume that a well-dressed man with an interest in musical theater must be gay, we’re holding ourselves back.
It’s hard enough so much of the world still perpetuates stereotypes that kept so many of us in the closet for so long; we as gay men don’t need to perpetuate them ourselves.
‘It’s a way of seeming more masculine, of like, “Oh I don’t identify with those boa wearing gay guys.”’
We all know bullies are just insecure and put others down for displaying qualities the bullies fear in themselves, so why is bullying a problem within the gay community?
Because gay men, like all people, will always be insecure.
Because some of us want to be the cool gay guy who can hang out with his straight bros and laugh at the flamboyant ninety-pound boy in a tank top and heels. Because when you’re insecure it’s easier to distance yourself from the usual targets, to say, ‘Well at least I’m not that gay,’ then to actually address what’s making you feel less than great about yourself.
Blake Pruitt is director of short film 20MALEGAYNYC. Watch it here:
Originally published 22 October 2013.