Apparently Some Labels Are Okay And Others Are Not.

Where do you stand on the straight-acting and masculine debate?

Maybe you know the saying, "When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you."  That’s how I feel when someone is complaining about gay men using the terms straight-acting and masculine. 

The most recent occurrence of this is argument was from Noah Michelson, Editorial Director, The Huffington Post Voices. In a piece called “If You Think 'Straight-Acting' Is An Acceptable Term, You're An A**hole,” Noah informs me that I am an asshole.  I would like to inform him that he is a hypocrite.

The main focus of his piece is the new movie Stonewall and how it was directed.

In a recent interview, director Roland Emmerich attempted to explain his baffling decision to make the protagonist of his much-maligned new film, "Stonewall," a fictional twinky corn-fed white cis gay man instead of one of the many non-white transgender people, genderqueer individuals, drag queens, butch dykes and sissy men present at the iconic riots credited with birthing the modern queer rights movement. –

Just to check in at this point, twinky, butch dyke and sissy men are acceptable terms.

The fact that Emmerich can earnestly trot out the term "straight-acting" (he apparently used it in the production notes for the film, too) with a straight (no pun intended) face (and without spontaneously vomiting up his Fruit Loops) means he's either luxuriously ignorant… or he's just an asshole.

Being "straight-acting," for a gay man at least, is directly related to how convincingly he is able to present traditionally masculine mannerisms. The term is so markedly offensive because its very existence insists that there is a particular, instantly identifiable manner of being gay (defined by effeminacy). And what's more, those qualities are seen as patently unattractive, undesirable and wildly dangerous. Conversely, it then follows that there simultaneously exists a particular, instantly recognizable manner of being straight (defined by "masculinity"). And what's more, those qualities are seen as incredibly attractive, desirable and wholly advantageous — enough so that gay people would try to "act" in that way. –

Able to present?  Is this a beauty pageant?  Well kinda, yeah, I guess life is like a pageant.  We all put on airs, some of us put on Gucci, make-up, a jock strap, or all of them at the same time, and then many of us try to be just us, who we are, plain and simple. 

And there is a long history of straights attempting to straight-ify queer people (and of us trying to do it to ourselves). The performance of straightness is something that gay men have struggled with and against for as long as modern gay identities have existed. Because being gay has been so intimately connected with being effeminate, which was — and still is — equated with being submissive, weak and ineffectual. Gay men have been shamed (and attacked and murdered) for any display that does not reverberate with and reflect what our culture has determined is sufficiently masculine. Therefore many gay men have longed for and looked for any means by which they can throw off (or at least hide) the curse of even the slightest hint of effeminacy and thereby be welcomed into straight society or at least fly far enough under the radar to remain relatively unharmed.

I should know — I was one of them.  –

I think most of us were “one of them,” not wanting to be different in any way shape or fashion since different from the norm is always deemed as bad.  But for some of us, we only differ in the bedroom.  We need to be us and we need to be happy with ourselves. But labeling yourself straight-acting or masculine in this big gay rainbow world is ignorant and wrong?

I spent most of my young adult life trying to butch myself up. And it worked to some degree: I'm nowhere near the sissy I was when I was growing up. My deliberate metamorphosis was a survival mechanism. I survived. But I still mourn the little faggot inside of me who pretended to be Jem and secretly draped long-sleeved shirts over his head so he could live the dream of having mermaid hair for a few minutes at a time. I miss him. And I wonder what incredible things I've missed out on — and who I could have been today — because I euthanized him twenty years ago. But I also wonder if I would still be here — if I would still be alive — if I hadn't.

The bottom line is that we shouldn't have to choose between living as exactly who we are and death (figuratively or literally) because our society says in order for us to be worthy and valuable we have to "act straight." Too many queers have bought into this lie for much too long. –

Let’s get back to those fingers.  Moaning and groaning about the straight-acting or masculine labels and if someone uses them, Noah’s going to call you an asshole.  Is it hatred toward those using such a label or is it the three fingers pointing back and more self-hatred that you are not masculine, not straight-acting, but instead a sissy, twinky, flamboyant, etc. 

By claiming that in order for straight people to like us or understand us, we need to be like them in very specific, stereotypical ways (or that if we are like them we must be "acting") Emmerich and anyone else who uses the term "straight-acting" — including the legions of men on hook-up apps whose profiles read "Masc 4 Masc" and "Str8 acting only" — is affirming all of the lies about who we are (and who we aren't) that we've been raging against for as long as we have been a "we." In fact, isn't this what the heroes of Stonewall were ultimately battling? Didn't they finally say "enough" to the constant tormenting they faced for being different from what society expected and demanded of them? And how stupendously offensive to take the story of these brave warriors and attempt to repackage it so that straight people can find a way to comfortably stomach our rebellion.

No. Enough.

It's time we stop using "straight-acting" as some kind of dreamy, aspirational bridge-building tactic or lure. There are all kinds of different ways to be gay and straight (and everything in between or outside of that binary). And while we're at it, how about we just stop trying to act like straight people all together and start acting like exactly who we are? And let's get some sissies up on the big screen. And let's get some more trans people in the spotlight. And let's remember that our community is not comprised of only gay white cis men. Let's tell our stories to each other and anyone else who will listen. And if they won't listen, fuck 'em. If they'll only take us seriously (or won't jail or oppress or exterminate us) if we look and sound exactly like them, fuck them. Seriously! We'll just keep telling our stories over and over again until we all know them by heart and they're so loud and powerful and yes, of course, awful and painful and tragic in parts, but finally so ..iful and true that when we're finally heard — and we will be heard — they'll know exactly who we are, what we have been through and why it matters.

There are enough bad guys out there making it hard for us, Roland, without you joining their ranks. There are enough assholes telling us that we aren't butch enough or white enough or safe enough or relatable enough, Roland, without you adding fuel to their already handsomely blazing fire. "Stonewall" is a mess — but this isn't over: There's still time to ensure this becomes an invaluable lesson for anyone watching now or one hundred years from now. The sooner you — and all of us — stop acting and start being honest about who we are and what we've achieved, the sooner we'll no longer feel the need to make the hideous concessions and compromises we're told we need to make to be like everybody else because we'll no longer want to be like anybody else but ourselves. –

This entire argument reminds me of the Kinsey Scale.  It seems that most are very content in using words like sissy to denote those of us that are more flamboyant than others.  Some even use sissy as a sense of pride and that is totally acceptable.  But what about using terms like butch dyke and the lipstick lesbian?  Aren't those by definition aligned with the "straight norm?"  

Isn't sissy part of a scale that we use to label each other? Yes, I said label.  Egads!  Shock!  Why can't we all get along and not label?  Because we do label.  Noah and others have no problem using labeling terms as long as they are deemed homo-positive in their eyes.  I am queer!  I am a sissy!  But if someone says I am a masculine guy, it's like they've pissed on the rainbow flag and shat on Judy Garland's grave. 

So if you hate straight-acting and masculine so much, let's think of another term.  N.E.I.L. Richards? (Normal Except I Like Dick). Ha!  But there's that normal term.  That's even worse than using the word straight.  Maybe we should look at the colors of the rainbow and the Kinsey Scale.  Maybe I'll just call myself a red gay.  It's where the straight-acting would be while sissy would be indigo or violet, right?  Maybe I'm more a orange or yellow gay. 

I guess what it may come down to is that many dislike the straight-acting and masculine terms, but embrace other terms like sissy.  Is it okay to have a term for your place on the rainbow, as long as you are a G-BIV, but if you are a ROY?  That is unacceptable.  Okay, now I'm liking the term ROY.  ROY for ROY, no G-BIVs.  What it seems like is the closer you get to "the other side," the straight side, the less right you have to describe yourself with any term, especially if it may use terminology from "the other side?"  So just the G-BIV's are gay enough to label themselves.

You may agree or disagree with my rant and that is totally fine.  But as many of you have found your way in this gay world, realize that others are trying to do the same, but their way may not be as far down the yellow brick road as others.  I would have been fine stopping at the Scarecrow or the Tin man, but others needed to go all the way to Oz.  So instead of calling the straight terminologists assholes, understand that we are all different and not all of us identify with this gay "lifestyle" the same.  By calling us assholes you just push us further away and divide the rainbow just as much as you think we are by using masculine and straight in our attempt to identify ourselves.  And as you ridicule and point that one finger toward those that search to define themselves, you point three back at yourself for being three times as judgmental. 

So until YOU come up with a label for US that YOU are happy with, keep pointing that finger.

I do want to thank Noah Michelson for sharing his story and his opinions.  For his original article by Noah Michelson, Editorial Director, The Huffington Post Voices, click here.

I also want to thank him for not using heteronormative in his article.  It always seems like a word LGBT people use to shame you for believing in anything at all, what your parents taught you, how they lived, what the colors red and blue stand for. There's a word we can get rid of.

25 thoughts on “Apparently Some Labels Are Okay And Others Are Not.”

  1. People seem to be missing the
    People seem to be missing the point that if there is such thing as “straight acting” then there’s such thing as “gay acting” and that is somehow a bad thing. You’re not straight acting if you’re gay. It’s simple. To me the term comes off as shame of being gay or shame of other gay people. That’s also how it is most often expressed by people who identify as such.

  2. “Straight Acting” is one of

    "Straight Acting" is one of those terms that will inevitably become outdated. And it'll happen rather soon. I can't imaging anyone describing themselves that way. 

    One thing about the author that I have an issue with, and a lot of gay men, is his absolute angst from feeling pressured to modify his behavior. In the case of the author, his behavior as a child. Why does this bother him so much? It's necessary for everyone to be able to evaluate themselves, their place within their social structure, and modify their behavior so that they can coexist among others. Not only in fem/masc terms, but in a lot of ways. There's a young kid in the neighborhood that loves to drop the f-bomb at every opportunity. He proclaims "this is me, and if you don't like me, then fuck you!" No one finds his attitude cute, and no one wants him around. It's a case where he should really take a look at his behavior modify it. But in most of our situations, a healthy level of self awareness and small micro adjustments are all that's necessary to be able to comfortably exist in a variety of different social situations.  There's nothing wrong with that.

  3. There are so many subcultures

    There are so many subcultures within LGBTQ culture. Some gay guys are straight acting. That's them. Let them do them and you do you. Get over it. 

    • Straight acting is an

      Straight acting is an inauthentic term though.  It implies a false sense of self and utter dishonestly.  Masculine is a far better term.  Really think about the term itself, straight acting.  Acting implies you really don't embody the masculine qualities to begin with.  It is a very self deprecating term.  The language needs to be challenged and modified to something much better fitting.  I know there are some guys out there who are acting straight, and who are not really masculine, but there are guys who are more masculine than most straight guys.  People should absolutely be who they are and not act out anything.  Masculine is a much better choice because it describes a state of being rather than a term that implies an inauthentic sense of self.

  4. Masculine I think is fine.

    Masculine I think is fine.  It is a straight up descriptor, an exact term of an actual state of being.  Though most people who use this term are not masculine by hyper masculine.  They overshoot the moon, putting on an act that is very disingenuous and not authentic in the least.  Though not all.  Like their straight counterparts.  I find the most masculine guys really are comfortable with their sexuality, and comfortable being around other people who are not masculine.  Not true of those I like to call hyper masculine and those tend the be the ones who use the label I do not like, straight acting.  Acting implies what I was just talking about an inauthentic self.  In a sense I really believe this is a sense of internalized homophobia.  I have seen in the community first hand how many discriminate against each other under a supposed rainbow banner symbolizing inclusiveness while the actions of many contradict that very ideal and principle.  How can we demand equality, fairness, dignity and respect from the straight world when we can not give these things to other in our own community.  The lack of honest self examination is sorely lackin the community.  And thank you for the wrestler clickbate.  ūüėÄ

  5. Aaaaand¬†even¬†more ‘political

    Aaaaand even more 'political correctness' to be thrown into the mix. We have lost the ability to say what we are thinking, out of fear it might offend someone. When the hell did we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves? I remember when 'In Living Color' had Blaine and Antoine and it was hilarious, being lispy, swishy and effeminate, it was funny. So was Handi-man, Vera DiMilo, etc. Now because everyone is so ridiculously over-sensitive, we now have to qualify and take offense to things like 'straight acting' or masculine. Well, sorry everyone, I'm simply me. I don't care about any or all of the labels you can give me or my partner. We have most likely heard them all before and have said them ourselves. Everyone needs to lighten the fuck up.

  6. What the¬†f*** is “straight

    What the f*** is "straight acting"? I have effeminate "straight" male friends. So, what the f*** do you mean?? Just call yourself a bro. At least that might be more accurate and the rest of us know just to hit it and quit it.

  7. Because you really don’t get

    Because you really don't get it I will try to explain it to you in a way you could, if you tried, understand.  Using the words Straight acting implies an internalized homophobia.  I am sorry you don't understand that.  In fact if you want to be straight acting start sleeping with women then you will be straight acting.  Gay people have a rich history and culture and so many of us are to uneducated to know this and are throwing it away for a culture that really isn't that rewarding.  If you want a 50 percent divorce rate go for straight acting and say hi to your wife.

    • Insults with explanation.

      Insults with explanation. Excellent.  Guess I'll have to believe you then.  If I started sleeping with women, wouldn't I be straight-being instead of straight-acting ? 

    • *Using* the term “straight

      *Using* the term "straight-acting" isn't homophobic, discriminating against others or applying a value judgment based on their perceived masculinity/ "acting straight" is. 

    • I agree it is internalized

      I agree it is internalized homophobia, but I think there are two other critical parts that are missing here too.  The word acting itself implies a disingenuous nature.  Putting on a facade which is what it is.  And that stems from an unexamined life.  A lack of deep intellectual and spiritual self examination.  These same people always want from others, what they do not give to others either.  They want respect and dignity but then judge others in the very same community.  Hypocrisy is rife in western civilization and the LGBT community is no different in this.

  8. I do have a problem with the

    I do have a problem with the term "Straight Acting" because it implies there is a way to be "Gay Acting" which is frankly kind of offensive. Some gay men are more masculine while by the same token, some straight men are more effeminate. That's just people. Masculine, effeminate, nelly, butch are all perfectly acceptable adjectives to describe behavior. I don't understand how describing someone's behavior as traditionally masculine is an insult to someone who's behavior is more on the effeminate side. Outter behavior really has nothing to do with the strength of one's character or how strong a person is. Some of the toughest men are know are big, nelly, queens. I will say I like your color coding terminology though. Nice!

  9. To each their own, if they
    To each their own, if they want to say straight acting, ok why make a big deal about it. Remember, their are all different types of gay men now, it’s not just drag queens and femmes, we need to accept the diversity amongst our community

  10. I don’t have a problem with

    I don't have a problem with the labels.  I have a problem with the majority of the people that use them.  I've known many gay men that claim to be str8 acting.  In my observations that usually means that they hate themselves for being gay so acting str8 makes them feel better.  This is made worse by the fact that they hate anything twinky or femme because it's too gay.  If we are ever going to be taken seriously we have to present a united front.  If str8 acting men continue to throw shade to any other members of the community that don't conform like they do, we'll never truly make progress as a people.

      • So what you are saying is

        So what you are saying is that you know me personally and would like to challenge how I label myself, may it be any part of ROY?

        • What I’m saying is that you

          What I'm saying is that you have "gay face" in your profile pics on social media sites, such as LinkedIn. You can label yourself however you see fit. I just find it funny how some gay guys label themselves as "straight acting" when in reality they have Queen Mary written all over their faces.

          There is nothing wrong with being gay and masculine, and labeling yourself as such. Straight acting on the other hand implies negative feelings towards being gay.

  11. I don’t care for the term

    I don't care for the term "straight-acting" because it implies some gay men are acting and are not being their true feminine selves because a lot of society thinks that all gay men secretly want to be women (wrong!) I know we have some truly masculine men in the gay community. Its hollywood that has perpetuated the sissy stereotype for many, many decades. Another reason I hate the term straight-acting is because if you are a male that has intimate relations with another male you are NOT acting straight. That does not mean you aren't masculine, a term that I have no issue with as long as it isn't followed by "acting". I know that our community has both masculine and feminine men in it (and women too of course.) Why can't we just accept that we are not all alike, every person's journey is different and just as valid as the others. We don't need to throw all this animosity over what labels are politically correct and which ones are not. They are labels and shouldn't matter. I personally am tired of being told that because I am only attracted to masculine men that I am being discriminatory to effeminate guys and missing out. I don't feel that way at all. I am no more attracted to a fem guy than I am a female. For me the point of being gay is to be with someone of the same sex. Not with someone whose mannerisms and looks represent a sex I am not attracted to. I know people will disagree with me, but I also know many fem guys that are some of the most wonderful people on the planet. I also know that there are entire groups of people out there that find them sexually attractive. Someone for everyone as they say.

    • No one should be ashamed for

      No one should be ashamed for who they are attracted to.  I am attracted to masculine guys as well.  I have also met guys who are exclusively attracted to feminine guys.  We are sexually attracted to what we are attracted to.  Shaming that in any way is total hypocrisy on the party of anyone in the LGBT community.  But the hypocrisy comes because many people only hang out with people who they are attracted to.  And besides that being immature is emotionally, socially and spiritual very unevolved.  If you discriminate toward others based on their masculinity or effeminacy that is where most people are getting upset, and rightly so.  It is a double standard I have seen broken many times in the community over and over again.  Guys who want respect and dignity from the straight community but can not give that to others in their own community.  And that is why I think masculine is a great term, but straight acting is horrible.  Be authentic, have no shame over what you find attraction to, but afford everyone respect and dignity even if you are not attracted to them.  And not judge others for being different, the same way you want that for yourself.  You must afford that to others first before you can ask that for yourself.

  12. Are we now policing what is
    Are we now policing what is okay and not okay to say? Give me a break! I will say masc because i want to have sex with a masc guy, plus i’m save you the trouble of leading you on if you are fem. Fuck this politically correct nonsense. If i put a masc4masc in my profile, let that help you save your precious time.

  13. The irony about straight

    The irony about straight acting gays in the eyes of those who resent them is that any of the "sissies" would be attracted to the guy in the photo at the lead of this article. I assume that's Adam Dupuis? And the older I get the more non-gay I look. When I'm elderly I suppose I will be labeled "old man" and that will be all most people see.

    I agree with the writer of this article. Some of us have never been effiminate acting; some of us, like me, are just ordinary and not even fabulous.



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