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How do you react when a straight person says ‘you don’t look gay’?

How do you react when a straight person says ‘you don’t look gay’?

David Hudson - what does it mean to look gay

There’s a funny meme doing the rounds of social media. Its accompanying caption reads.

Straight person: but you don’t look gay
Me: oh sorry hang on let me change

It’s followed by a photo of a person dressed in a rainbow flag.

 

'You don't look gay' meme

I have been told ‘you don’t look gay’ a handful of times over the years. My initial reaction is, firstly, slight surprise. I’m not sure why but I tend to assume people can discern my sexuality just by looking at me or reading my body language.

Perhaps because being gay is so much a part of my own identity and life (I work for an LGBTI news website, after all), I think I must project gay-ness to the world. That’s clearly not the case.

The second reaction, if I’m being totally honest, is a small flush of pride.

Hooray for me… still passing as straight. Well, what sort of pride is that? Certainly not gay pride, I’m ashamed to say.

I’ve written about feeling internalized homophobia before, so won’t go on at length about it here. If you never ever experience feelings of internalized homophobia, good for you. For most of us, we’re still works in progress.

That said, I like to think I’m thankfully long past any conscious efforts to be ‘straight-acting’ and just want to simply be ‘David-acting’. Being your authentic self is so much more important than trying to fit in with the crowd.

Surprise, compliment or criticism?

But what of that statement? ‘You don’t look gay.’ How are we supposed to react to that?

Is it being offered as a statement of surprise? Or as a clunky and misguided compliment? At the very least, it would suggest the person saying it thinks gay people look a certain way.

Does the fact they can’t determine someone’s sexuality just by looking at them make them feel uncomfortable? Is it a subconscious criticism?

Men at Malta Pride in 2017
Festival-goers at Malta Pride in 2017 (Photo: David Hudson)

Do they really think they were walk around like we’re on a Pride parade 24/7, with a rainbow whistle dangling from our neck and witty slogan T-shirt?

Maybe, if it happens again, that would be the best response.

‘I don’t look gay? Tell me, what does a gay person look like?’

Follow David Hudson on Twitter: @davidhudson_uk

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