This month we’re going to talk about passing as straight and the whole concept of ”straight acting”. It was inspired by a video I watched last week that’s the fun and interesting piece this month.
Is it easier for guys who can pass as straight or for those of us who are obviously gay? Of course there are advantages and disadvantages to both. The first thing we need to look at is this whole idea of what straight acting even means.
If you’ve been following me for a while it won’t come as a surprise that I’m not going to be concerned about being politically correct here. The reality is that we’re talking about stereotypes. We may not like it but human beings use generalizations in their judgment of people and situations. So, men who seem more stereotypically gay are perceived as gay whether they are or not. The same is true of men who are perceived as stereotypically straight. Of course the gay stereotype comes from the straight world and the straight one from ours.
I’ve always thought that my being gay was painfully obvious. I’ve been told differently by enough straight guys a this point that I guess I pass now. That certainly wasn’t true when I was younger. So I’ve had both experiences.
Men who are perceived as being gay in the culture at large suffer discrimination. They are often the targets of homophobic slurs and even attacks. They may be perceived, and treated, as less than by straight men. But, on the other hand that very experience can create radical self-acceptance. As one of the interviewees mentioned fem men never have to come out. Everyone just assumes they’re gay. Of course that must be a very challenging experience for fem men who aren’t. But, that’s not our topic.
More traditionally masculine men may receive wider acceptance from their straight peers but there is a price. It’s almost as if these men come with a built in closet. If it becomes too easy to stay there they can suffer greatly in terms of self acceptance and in feeling part of the gay community. Constantly having to come out to everyone they meet may seem trivial but it’s going to have powerful impacts on their openness with the people around them. One of the men in the video reports that some people, even his parents, simply refused to believe that he’s gay. I have two friends, a couple, who present as extremely masculine. They were once turned away at a small town gay bar until they kissed and told the bouncer they’re married.
The reality is that many straight men don’t live up to our stereotype either. Our whole idea about “butch” men deepens the issue. Not only does it oppress more feminine men, but it also leads to objectification of those we consider more masculine. How would you feel if the most your new beau’s friends had to say about you is “He’s so straight.” It likely isn’t meant as an insult but it’s not the truth and reduces you to a desirable sexual partner and little else.
The truth of the matter is that the only thing that can truly be defined as a man being straight acting is being attracted to and having sex with women. Gay acting is its opposite. The rest of it is just cultural baggage the we would all be better without.