During my honest, soul-searching moments, when I look deeply inside myself for the truth, I'm forced to admit that I'm homophobic. Sounds like a contradiction, I know--I'm gay, yet I have a "hatred or fear of homosexuals." This would account for why I've had so much difficulty over the years accepting and loving myself because I'm gay. It would also explain why I've had difficulty accepting other gay men.
Well, not all other gay men. I have no difficulty accepting those who don't look or act gay. If I see a handsome, well-groomed man, with all the outward signs of masculinity (thick musculature, hairy chest, five o'clock shadow, etc.), and I learn somehow that he's gay, for some reason, I hold him in higher esteem than I do the weak, soft, effeminate man, whose physical appearance and mannerisms often scream gay from the moment you see him.
That's why I've always understood those "Man to Man" personal ads in newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. The ads that state the man placing the ad is masculine looking and acting, and he's looking for a fellow who's masculine looking and acting too. I understand how, in our society, still largely homophobic, a masculine looking gay man, who wants companionship from another man, usually expects to link up with someone who doesn't look or act gay, who won't attract negative attention to them when they walk down the street as a couple. Let's face it, it's easier to be gay and to be in a gay relationship if you don't look gay. (Like I said, I understand this, but I don't like it. It's just the way it is.)
The gay man I have the most difficulty with is the flamer, the fellow that, as far as I'm concerned, goes out of his way to ensure everyone around him knows he's gay. You've seen the type: He dresses in tight, skimpy clothing that you'd expect to see on Britney Spears. He wears his hair in a style that draws attention to itself, usually because of how feminine or wild or colorful it looks. His wrists are limp, he minces or sashays or prances when he walks, and his voice sounds like a girl's with a bad cold--all feminine, and affected, and frankly, sickening to listen to.
This is the gay man who makes me crazy. Everything about him screams "GAY," in big, bold, bright, neon letters. There's nothing subtle or understated about him. He's "out there," and his life seems to be all about making the political statement that he exists, whether we like it or not, and that he doesn't give a rat's ass if anyone knows he's gay. There's not a bone in his body that makes the least effort to downplay who he is.
He's also the one who, from a stereotypical perspective, gives being gay a bad name and makes all of us who are gay look like we're cut from the same cloth.
I know damn well I could get into trouble for saying all this. After all, gay is gay. If you're gay, whether you're masculine and don't look it, or you're a flamer and do, then you're all about connecting with other men on an emotional and physical level. In that sense, there's nothing different between gay men.
But that's where the comparison ends, as far as I'm concerned. I've written about this before too: Being gay is more acceptable, both to the straight world and to other gay men who aren't flamers, if you don't look it or act it. It's all right to be gay--just don't make it unmistakable when people see you or watch you. I'm not saying this attitude is right or wrong, I'm saying "it is." It's reality.
Every time a flamer is let loose in the community--whether on the street, on TV, on a stage, at an art show, wherever--the stereotype of what gay men are is confirmed. Historically, many people, straight and gay, have come to expect that gay men are flamers. So if you're gay, whether you're a flamer or not, it's expected that you'll look and act like one.
Every time I see a flamer, wherever it might be, I think there goes the neighborhood again. The stereotype is perpetuated once more. What homophobic straight and gay people alike think is reinforced, making being gay consistently difficult for those who are.
I hate thinking that I'm being compared to flamers. I don't want people to scrutinize me, looking for the stereotypical characteristics of gay men in general. But, I admit, I do it myself. When I see gay men, I look for the telltale signs that they're gay. I look for the forms of attire that make it obvious; I look for the habits and mannerisms, the speech patterns, the idiosyncracies, all of the little things that are so "gay."
When I don't see them, I'm pleasantly surprised. I give the men a lot of credit. It's not easy to fight the impulses of who you really are inside. It's not easy to stifle the real you, to pretend to be something you're not, just to present a more acceptable face to the straight world, just so being gay is an easier experience for you.
When I do see them, well, I'm not surprised. I expect to see them, so I'm not disappointed when I do. But I know it changes how I feel about them. Rather than bring me closer to them because our sexual orientation is the same, it distances me. I'm fearful of being around them. I don't want to be compared to them, just because we're together in the same place. It's easier for me to be gay, perhaps, when I'm not in the company of flamers, because, honestly, then I don't have to face seeing myself in them.
Perhaps this is what irritates me most: When I'm in the company of a flamer, I see in him some of the very characteristics I abhor in myself. Their presence forces me to hold a mirror to my own face, and I hate what I see. I hate the effeminate characteristics we share. As much as I try to downplay them, I know they're there, and being near a flamer worries me that they might come out, that who I really am will be betrayed, that my sexual orientation will become all the more obvious because I'm near them.
I can't tell you how many times over the years I've stopped myself in front of my bathroom mirror and noted that the way I've styled my hair makes me look gay; the clothes I have on, whether it be their style or color or how I wear them or how they look on me, make me look gay; my overall appearance makes me look gay, even though, sometimes, I can't even tell what it is about the way I look that makes me appear that way. All I know is I have to do something to make sure I don't appear in public that way.
I know what I am. I'm gay. I'll never get away from that. But do I have to look it? Do I have to act it? Do I have to be it, in the eyes of other people?
How many times has the real me been stifled because I didn't want anyone to know I'm gay? Why can't I just be myself, and whatever people think of me, whether they be straight or gay, be damned? Is hiding who you really are from the world any way to live your life? When will being gay no longer be an issue in any respect whatsoever, so that every gay man along the spectrum, from ultra feminine to ultra masculine, can truly be himself and not be concerned with being less acceptable to the world around him?