While the rest of the world is coming to love us, within the rainbow community we still haven’t learned to love each other. Earlier this week, Russell Tovey, an actor currently strutting his occasionally naked stuff on HBO’s Looking, gave an interview to the UK Observer during which he said he was glad his father had not allowed him to attend theatre school or otherwise there’d have been a good chance he would have become some tap dancing freak without qualifications. “I feel like I could have been really effeminate if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up,” Tovey said. And the queens of the internet went ballistic.
Never mind that he was attempting to articulate why he tends to play both straight and gay roles equally well, he used the Eff word in what the gay media decided was a derogatory manner. And if there is one thing the princesses of the Rainbow Brigade won’t stand for, it’s anyone dissing the fem boys. Collectively, their panties got into a wad not seen since Jared Leto won an Oscar for being a straight man (maybe) playing a transgendered hooker. ‘Cuz when you are out in a politically correct way, outrage over anyone who doesn’t view the world through your pink-colored glasses is your stock in trade. And boy are those queens vocal with their outrage.
Tovey, immediately branded homophobic and The Worst Gay Ever, tweeted a white flag and apologized (kinda, sorta) for his statement about effeminacy, even though his comment was not the implied insult to effeminate men that said effeminate men inferred it to be. Perhaps he should have worn a tiara while doing so; his apology was not universally accepted. ‘Cuz angry queens like holding a grudge almost as much as they do a feathered boa.
Today, as gay men we are told being visibly gay is the only way to go. If you are not in touch with your inner effeminate self, you’re only “acting straight”. And that, as we all know, is nothing more than internalized homophobia. Those who would never win an Oscar for their straight acting abilities tell us that if you are not the flamboyant gay the world has come to know and love, you’re full of self-hate. And it’s all just an act. Angelo Pezzote, author of Straight Acting – a title that should be read with heavy sarcasm – says gay guys who act straight are merely conforming to society’s expectations of masculine behaviors. He says we’re “behaving as we’re expected to rather than how we really are” because we don’t want to stand out, and to varying degrees are trying to avoid the stigma of being too flamboyant. Well, excuse me for knowing how to use a nail gun, but some of us are just being true to ourselves. And just because I don’t know what my foot size equates to in women’s shoes doesn’t mean I’m not proud to be a gay man.
In response to Tovey’s interview, Wade Davis published an op-ed piece in The Advocate which pretty well summed up his stance with its title, Russell Tovey, Sexism, and Imaginary Masculinity. Like most of the visibly gay, Davis can only perceive a gay man’s masculinity as being imaginary. And instead of attempting to come to terms with the fact that some gay guys are just guys, hones in on the ‘acting’ part of the straight-acting moniker instead. “Acting is the key,” he says. “Masculinity is an act or a performance that many individuals try to master with great success, or great imagined success.” ‘Cuz as a gay man, if you are not exactly sure what eyeliner is, or why you’d wear it, there is obviously something very wrong with you.
Davis goes on to relate that he once considered himself to be a “straight-acting” gay, but now realizes how “sadly silly” such a statement was, as it was “obviously based on deep insecurities and ridiculous stereotypes.” Until his epiphany. “It wasn’t until Whitney Houston’s album The Bodyguard came out that I realized how odd and unhip my friend masculinity was,” he says. “I was in Chicago, alone at my uncle’s house, playing Queen of the Night on repeat. As I spun around the living room, arms extended, singing the entire song with everything I had for probably the eighth time, something stopped me. It was masculinity, asking, “What the hell are you doing?” It was that moment I realized how much I betrayed myself by hanging out with masculinity.”
Um, when your masculinity starts speaking to you, you may have a bigger problem than that no hairstyle is off-limits to you. And when you’ve been channeling Whitney Houston, you probably weren’t all that masculine to begin with. I won’t even mention the obvious when your choice of tunes is Queen of the Night. But Davis channels his mom too and concludes his piece saying that in her infinite wisdom she once told him, ” “If you look at your friends, you can see your future.” Davis says he saw his future very clearly on that day in that living room. “And the future I saw never included me,” he says. I’m not sure what he meant by that. But I am sure Davis knows who won Season 1 of Project Runway.
Some of us have never dreamed of having back-up singers, have never called someone “girl friend” who was neither a girl nor a friend, and realized they were gay because they loved gladiator movies as a pre-teen, not because the immediately got Liza Minnelli. But because we have never paid over $50 for a haircut and do not have an opinion on who makes the best messenger bag for men, within the gay community we’re ostracized. Thanks to the Rainbow Brigade, we’re not being the gay men we’re suppose to be unless we are at least a little bit fem, have a cologne collection that shames Bloomingdale’s, know how to “air kiss”, and are just one bad vodka away from wearing heels.
If you’re a dyke on a bike you get to lead the Gay Pride parade. If you look no different than the brother or father of everyone in town, not so much. ‘Cuz celebrating pride is about glitter and rainbows shooting out of your ass. The new normal is to applaud drag queens ‘cuz they’re all so fierce. We’re supposed to admire them for living their lives large, for ignoring those who would put them down for being the non-conformists that they are. Drag queens get brownie points for having the balls (or not as the case may be) for standing up proudly and being true to who they are. While those of us who never watched Sex In The City and would have been unable to empathize with the girls if we had are ridiculed for knowing how many yards there are in the end zones on a football field. The visibly gay effeminate men like to tell you how many hurdles they’ve had to overcome to not change who they are, but never stop to think what it means to be a gay man who knows how to change a tire.
The visibly gay may well understand how uncomfortable it is for them to walk into a straight bar, but have no understanding how uncomfortable it is when a non-effeminate gay man walks into a gay bar. Or how uncomfortable we are wearing a deep V T-shirt. Which is never quite enough of an effort at effeminizing ourselves to fit into the gay world. So instead of finally feeling accepted and secure in our sexuality, we end up feeling straight instead. Even when the DJ cranks up Born This Way, we still feel like we have to apologize for being who we are. Or at least learn to call another dude Mary with a straight face. Or a straight-acting face. Just because we’re not all that familiar with the Kinsey scale and have spent little time deciding exactly where we fit on that spectrum, we end up being the odd man out. Or if a lesbian, a fish out of water. Because in the LGBTI world, there’s no room for the SA.
Evidently, because we are gay, we’re supposed to know the word please has more than one syllable and is not supposed to be used when trying to be polite. And while we are encouraged to celebrate diversity, if we fail to allow our effeminate side to shine brightly, we’re only acting and, obviously, our masculinity is dependent upon a high level of anti-femininity and homophobia; our image of masculinity is an adopted one that promotes the very values that straight society has used to tyrannize the gay community in the past. Because it’s not enough for the visibly gay to insist they be respected for who they are, it’s also incumbent upon every gay man to be just like them. Otherwise we’re phonies who hate themselves and spend our lives trying to hide who we really are. Even when that is who we really are.
So Chris Colfer is awarded accolades for prancing across the set of Glee, even though he exhibits the gay stereotypes we were once supposed to rally against, while Russell Tovey is vilified for being a gay man proud of his abilities to land straight roles. Because as gay men we are no longer allowed to act straight, we’re supposed to act gay instead. Even if you are a gay actor in a straight role.
Okay. I get it. I want to be a good gay. I want to fit in and be accepted by the community, even if that means hiding my natural masculine tendencies in the closet. I want to march in this year’s Gay Pride parade – not on one of the floats mind you, ‘cuz the bulge I sport these days isn’t the bulge that qualifies you for prime viewing, but at least it’d be nice to not be automatically assumed to be marching with PFLAG. So maybe I’ll binge watch every Rodgers & Hammerstein musical ever made this weekend. ‘Cuz watching Russell Tovey having sex with another man on Looking just ain’t enough to qualify me as a card-carrying member of the tribe any longer.
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