For further signs of the rift in the Gay Community post-equality, see here for the Adam Dupuis critique of Noah Michelson’s article condemning that hot mess Roland Emmerich film “Stonewall.” Without spending any time on the film itself (which I won’t see and neither should you), let’s dive right into the same camp v. masc debate that last exploded when openly gay actor Russell Tovey thanked the high school bullies who helped him become a proud gay man. By beating the gay out of him. And since I never have the time to respond the way I really want to when this comes up on, shall we call them, social networking apps, (which is to say all the time), buckle up for a long and winding road back to 1969.
But first, straight-acting. Michelson hates it, and Dupuis thinks it’s a perfectly valid label, at least if we are going to allow others to self-identify as “butch” or “sissies.” If there’s a sliding Kinsey scale for sexuality from zero to six (zero being #NoHomo and six being #GoldStarGay), shouldn’t we be allowed to claim the decimal points in between? In Tovey’s view, without his parents’ persistent homophobia or the threat of violence from his peers, nothing would have stopped him from hurtling at warp 6 towards becoming “some tapdancing freak without qualifications”. From another angle, Michelson mourns
“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.”
Both men acknowledge that they would have developed differently, perhaps more authentically, but for external forces that forced them to act more masculine. [Note that I didn’t change the pronouns above because instead of long-sleeved shirts I used perfectly pinned towels to whip my hair back and forth as a protogay.]
Where I agree with Michelson, and where we fundamentally disagree with Tovey, Dupuis and all of their #Masc4Masc brethren, is whether the deaths of all our inner faggots should be mourned or celebrated. Many of us have no choice to act straight. It’s usually the only way to avoid getting beaten up. Equally, I’m sure that for some of us, acting straight isn’t a choice either insofar as what we associate with straightness is their authentic self. But “straight-acting,” at best, is nothing more than wanting to get laid and, at worst, a symptom of deeply internalized homophobia.
Dupuis can have all the decimal points he wants until a Kinsey 6, and Michelson can dream of how he might have broken the scale, but straight-acting isn’t one of the points along the way because there is nothing immutable about acting. Because it is acting. Because acting.
Having said everything above, I am now going to disagree with Michelson because thinking that “straight-acting is an acceptable term” does not make someone an “a**hole.” Especially in the context of dating sites or apps you only get so much space to put up the right picture, describe yourself in the right way, and signal exactly what you’re looking for. Some dudes are really into leather; others want you to come over and perform a specific series of acts that cannot be printed anywhere; all while competing against, or choosing from, everyone else in a given radius. You only have so much time and ability to convince someone, so let’s not be overly critical of the mistakes that happen along the way. Like this one:
If you don’t know what H&H means, then congratulations on making the right life decisions, but suffice to say that Netflix and chill means the same for everyone everywhere. This dude wasn’t an asshole or an addict. He was just traveling and picked up a phrase from the locals that he didn’t quite understand. It’s not his fault if he didn’t very much quite not understand what it really meant….
So, too, with “straight-acting.” Whatever it means to you, it probably means something very different to other people. So before you go around using any words or phrases you should make sure you really know what you’re saying. Some people will think you’re an asshole, others will think you’re just ignorant, and it may or may not help you get what you really want. My caption on the apps used to be “Gay Acting,” but only two dudes ever understood what it meant, so I’m back to boring old “Dates” because at least it signals what I’m looking for in as general a way possible to the maximum target audience.
Ultimately, even though I share Michelson’s sentiments, I have to agree with Dupuis that “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.” I disagree with how he gets there because acting is not an identity, but what does it matter if we’re all acting in our own ways and just trying to attract others for hanging and hooking up? Or other…
Finishing on the subject of parsing language, let’s also realize that no one is a top or a bottom because those are better used as verbs not nouns. We may prefer doing one over the other, but neither is a state of being that defines us. And since acting straight in certain countries can mean men holding hands and being affectionate, in others crossing their legs or on American football fields slapping each other’s butts (the only form of straight-acting that ever appealed to me, but then again #GayActing), it’s too imprecise a term for me to take seriously. Unless you’re bananas hot; in which case #HungDomTopTotesMasc.
PS: Since I promised we’d get to 1969, let’s remember that all of this is happening in the context of who gets to *own* Stonewall. Emmerich and his ilk are rewriting history to present the white, cis gay man as the progenitor of Gay Equality. Or is it Queer Liberation? Or LGBTQQI Assimilation? Each of these terms means something very different, and the observant (or prickly) reader will have noticed that I used “Gay Community” in the opening sentence. I wasn’t being lazy. By choosing “gay” over “LGBT” I excluded entire subgroups of the larger community. And by referring to Emmerich’s film as a “hot mess” I was code-switching. Gay-acting, if you will.