08 Aug The Male Gaze of the Male Gays
Certain men bug me. This is with regards to cisgender men who frequent apps such as Grindr, Tinder and Surge, whose profiles read:
straight / straight acting
real men only
no fats, no fems, no blacks
I feel a deep rage that I have to encounter that level of misogyny and homophobia, in what is one of the few “safe spaces” for a gay person.
It is no news that the gay community is rife with bigotry. Being a marginalised community does not absolve that community of propagating stigma against other marginalised communities. Gay men are still afforded male privilege and white gay men are afforded privileges that far exceed those of womxn and people of colour. Though these privileges are given, men regardless of sexuality are conditioned by society to portray what is deemed as heteronormative and appropriate gender roles.
Gay men are often looking through misogynistic eyes – the male gaze of the male gays. Misogynistic standards of beauty and dated ideas about ‘lady-like’ behaviour are imposed on gay men by gay men and so are expectations for men to behave and look like ‘real men’. These glorified ideas about ‘masculinity’ and the clinging on to being ‘straight’ are very regressive as they are only fuel to promote stigma and make homosexuality a taboo.
Not all are afforded the opportunity to come out. There are many closeted men who have not been able to come out due to the restrictions and pressures of conservative families and communities. Furthermore it is often more accessible for white men to come out than for gay men of colour. Likewise it is easier for men who are born into middle-class and wealthy families to come out than those living below the breadline. Every individual circumstance differs. There are those who cannot come out because they will be faced with sentences of torture, imprisonment or death. There are those who cannot come out because they will be put out onto the street. And then there are those who will not come out because they think it will make them look less ‘manly’. As I said there are many reasons why a non-hetero male may not want to openly disclose his sexual preferences, though I think that these reasons should be scrutinized more harshly for certain individuals than others.
Staying in the closet because you have no choice is the fault of patriarchy.
Staying in the closet by choice makes you a part of the patriarchy.
Being gay is not a choice, but being out and proud is a choice that I have been afforded and a choice that I will advocate because being openly gay is more than a human right, it is a social and political statement.
To address the gay men who perpetuate misogyny. It is not to say that gay men who have experienced oppression are suddenly woke. As stated before, gay men are still men, taught to be and behave a certain way. Often, gay men are expected and expect other gay men to present what is traditionally masculine and straight; ‘to be a real man’ and to ‘act like a man’.
While there is no shame in being attracted to physical attributes and personality traits that one deems ‘masculine’, we must not disregard that all our subjective ideas about gender identity and expression are conditioned by patriarchy. Therefore the claim of being ‘straight acting’ or ‘masculine’ is only a fragile attempt at clinging to a fragile masculinity rooted in internalised homophobia and misogyny.
There is an exceeding intensity of bigotry on online platforms such as those I listed before, where individuals who are protected by the anonymity of the internet are able to decide who they will interact with based on a process of discrimination rather than a process of elimination.
Here you will find individuals who flaunt their bigotry; those who assert all privileges and heed no social responsibility: The able-bodied, wealthy and white, who are without shame, actively shaming those fat, fem or black.
Just a cue note to you, if you’re guilty here; while you are never compelled to engage with anyone you don’t want to, sometimes it’s better to be a bigot in your head than out of it. There is nothing attractive about being a bigot. Though I guess a fat phobic, sexist, racist profile may be a very crude telltale about the individual in question and full disclosure is always fair warning.
Ironically I have found it generally easier to come out to people as gay than to come out as a feminist, particularly being a white male and a feminist. Homosexuality it seems is more accessible to the general public than feminism.
It is unfortunate that if one wanted to go on Grindr, Tinder or Surge there will undoubtedly be encounters with the ‘straight acting’ misogynists. One is also prey to being sent unsolicited ‘dick pics’, which is sexual harassment and promotes rape culture.
Gay men represent a powerful minority. We need to use that power in a positive way and advocate for intersectional solidarity.
If we use our influence more decisively, consciously and inclusively we have the power to make greater changes for not only future gay men but for all marginalised people.
My hope is that we as gay men can break away from the presence of ‘acting straight’ and move towards a more authentic movement of ‘being real’. Let us stop glorifying this masculine archetype as something to be marveled over rather than acknowledging it for what it truly is; a compensation for internalised homophobia and misogyny. Stop telling men to be ‘real men’ and rather focus on teaching men how to be feminists.