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.

What do you think?