With the growing number of gay suicides, the continuing litigation over gay marriage and the growing popularity of the “It Gets Better” campaign, I’ve begun to wonder if it gets worse. To add insult to injury are we, as gay men, the ones responsible. Gay men seem to be doing the most damage to the gay community and even promoting homophobia. It seems like a lot of the depression, unhappiness and oppression we feel seems more a case of friendly fire than social injustice.
Imagine the typical gay teen, you spend years being picked on or dreading people will find out your secret. You arrive in the gay “world” only to be met with unrealistic expectations of masculinity, beauty and an overwhelming lack of acceptance.
In the days of Harvey Milk and the Stonewall riots there were lightning rods that helped build a sense of community. Nowadays, it seems as if we’ve abandoned all of that and gone mainstream. Sure, the only difference between gay men and straight men is what we do in the bedroom. And yes, cross dressers, plushies and people who fall in love inanimate objects aren’t having parades, vigils and rallies. That being said, we’re denying our similar socialization, baggage and basic similarities. We spent a significant amount of our social life unable to express our real feelings…and we love the Golden Girls. Not to mention the fact that we are openly hated in the outside world.
It’s subtle how it happened. As it became more socially acceptable to come out and talk about being gay, homophobia started to seep into our minds. You started to hear things like, “It’s fine that you’re gay as long as you don’t bring any of those queeny types around.” or “Now you’re my kind of gay guy. You like sports and working out. You’re not like them.” Those queeny types are the kids who faced hearing the word “faggot” ad-nauseum. Those were the ones who were victimized for how they talked, what they liked, and how they acted. Those are the ones that you didn’t want to be like so you ignored them or separated yourself from them. They are the ones who found the strength of will to persevere and survived the culling of gay teens that happens behind bedroom doors with Facebook suicide notes.
After all of that struggle and strife how are they rewarded? With a cultural need to wear Abercrombie &Fitch, lower their voice three octaves and portray the masculine ideal. Because apparently, for every one goth teen, awkward gay geek or drama fag their were three closeted jocks having a circle jerk and internalizing their feelings of self loathing and depression.
I’m not vilifying someone for being naturally inclined to be “masculine” or “straight-acting.” We all think it’s hot. We all want the unattainable. We all want Tommy the quarterback who ignored us but we wish secretly lusted after our awkward teen bodies. We’ve created an entire porn business that employs hard on their luck, yet deliciously hot, straight men willing to make big bucks having apathetic sex for money.
But where does the fantasy end and the reality begin? Mr. Straight Acting Gay is not our high school sweetheart. He’s not the person who confronted homophobia head-on and said, “I’m going to be me!”
He’s the guy who internalized all the anxiety, homophobia and stress that other guys dealt with first hand. He’s the guy with intimacy issues and needs to drink before he can have sex. He’s the one who was socialized on clandestine sex meetings so he decides to have secret sex behind your back. So is he Mr. Stable-Relationship-Type? Not so much.
Ultimately, my point is this by setting different standards for what being gay should be we’re shifting the focus of homophobia into our community and reinforcing the framework that is oppressing us. When we don’t correct someone and say there is nothing wrong with “those queeny types” or when we say to our friends, there is no “right” type of gay we send the message that it’s ok to be homophobic. What gay teens need to hear to not kill themselves is that they can be whoever they want however they want to be. They need to know that eventually there will be a group of peers to welcome them and not judge them. Saying “it gets better” is false advertising because if you’re a big queen, a fattie, or a femme you might face similar high school like scenarios when you hit the adult world.
Instead of saying “It Gets Better” let’s make it better. Let’s foster a sense of togetherness and acceptance. Let’s strive to be friendly to people because there is a value to fellow gay men outside the bedroom. Let’s find a sense of community and common interests and build something positive. Let’s face it, by building gay ghettos in big cities and being sated with two-dimensional token gays on television we’re just twiddling our thumbs while the wheels that oppress us continue to turn in Washington, the media and all those small towns we keep trying to run away from. That leaves the little baby gays all alone with no positive role models and validation that it’s okay.