To the gay men I love & their ‘sassy’ misogyny
I wake up today, conflicted and confused about my personal space and how the people around me perceive it, specifically the gay men around me. Last night my friends and I decided to go out dancing in Hell’s Kitchen — known for its plethora of gay clubs/bars/places to dance — to blow off steam after a long week. As the night went on and people got drunker, one of the gay guys in the group who is famously known for his lack of control over his liquor, got touchier and touchier. As much as I love dancing, hanging out with my friends and meeting new people — my sense of friendliness, openness and freedom do not come at the cost of my personal space, privacy, and safety. This friend was persistent in his efforts to feel me up inappropriately, all in the name of “Relax! I’m gay! It’s no harm, only fun!” and I wondered to myself, “fun for who?” cause I sure as hell was not having fun with someone forcing their lack of self-control over me. Then, I stopped myself for a second and thought that maybe I was “just overreacting.” A statement that a few of my female friends threw around the next morning as they told me to “relax, he probably didn’t mean it…he was drunk…he’s gay?” shrugging apologetically.
Long story short, that night I asked him to leave me alone, sober up and take a walk and obviously, he did the exact opposite because no means no is still a foreign concept. Naturally, I left the club annoyed, violated and honestly surprised that some gay men use their sexuality as an excuse to hold their “masculinity” (or lack thereof) over women. Did I miss the memo? Did it suddenly become okay to fondle women just because you weren’t attracted to them?
Being a gay man does not give you a free pass to touch me without my consent, in fact, it’s just as bad as straight men sexually harassing women and further encourages rape culture. Maybe even a little worse because as a gay man you are not even sexually attracted to me so you are literally invading my personal space just to assert your male dominance over my body. You’re simply creating an uncomfortable and hostile environment because you can. Yes, hostile environments include the times when gay men slap her butt ‘as a joke’, grab her tits to tell her how great they are (thanks, but no thanks for your validation) or when they unexpectedly grind up against women at clubs because “relax! I’m not attracted to you so how does it matter?.” Don’t get me wrong, this is not the same as a consensual platonic relationship between gay men and women — the relationships where you get down n’ dirty and raise the roof at the club, makeup beat each others face, snuggle, etc — consensual being the key word here.
In the famous words of Rose McGowan, actress and singer “Gay men are as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so.”
As someone who had the incredible opportunity to graduate from one of the world’s best fashion and design schools (not to say most liberal schools), I have frequently seen gay men throw around words like “cunt” and “whore” amongst many other degrading and demeaning words. They’re quick to jump to their own defense when called out on their derogatory language, claiming that “oh! I’m gay!” and “Girl! I totally get it…my best friend is a girl” as if their sexuality and token-female-best-friend are excuses to their casual and blatant misogyny.
While I’m sadly desensitized to such language because it is so often thrown around by men and women in regards to other women (and otherwise) this kind of insidious misogyny not only works against women but also against gay men. The very essence of homophobia is bred from misogyny; the stereotypical description of a man who ‘acts gay’ is when he talks, walks, act throws like a girl — like it’s an insult. Like the worst thing you can be called is a woman. When a gay man is bullied, beaten and called a “faggot”, it is because he’s ‘acting like a woman.’ Homophobia hates women who do not fit their role of fucking men or dressing, acting and talking ‘like women’ — it is when men or women draw outside the lines and don’t fit the mold that society has set for their gender.
A female bisexual friend once told our gay friend how tired she is of catcalling, being sexually harassed and having to always look over her shoulder to feel safe. The gay friend then proceeded to tell us how he “totally understands!” — because as a gay man he chooses to express himself with some makeup. When she tried to explain to him that it’s not the same thing, he argued that she had “no idea what it feels like to be scared every time you leave the house” and “being a queen is tough work.” Women may not experience the exact same fear you do when you walk into the street, but you still walk around in a man’s body. His statements were appalling, to say the least because as a gay man who wears makeup, you use what you think defines my womanhood as a costume to enjoy the momentary superficial perks that come with it. Then you take the costume off when it’s convenient and continue to enjoy all the gifts life has to offer you of this patriarchy and being a man.
I’ve also had close gay friends police my wardrobe choices and makeup choices like they knew how to express my sexuality better than I did. That wearing my skirt like that meant that I wasn’t expressing my femininity ‘the right way.’ Or that wearing red lipstick as a woman of color made me look like ‘I was trying too hard.’ In return when I gave them makeup advice they responded with a condescending “No honey! You don’t need to tell me.” And for anyone who knows me, they know that I definitely don’t need help with makeup. A friend to go Sephora-splurging with? Sure! Of course, if person A (man, woman or they) is better at makeup than person B (man, woman or they), share the knowledge without being patronizing, we can all learn something from each other.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard and spoken to gay men who react with a cringeworthy “EWWWW STOP TMI! DISGUSTING” and “Who would want to have sex with a vagina??! gross! ” when I talk about my period. No. You don’t get to do that.
My period cycle portrays my ability to create life and bring a tiny human into this world, you do not get to talk about it like it’s a dirty word. This is my body and it is not disgusting.
So, to the gay friends that I love and the ones that hate me — I urge you be more conscious of the way you approach women, ‘being femme’ and unintentional or unconscious sexism. Eventually, your sexist and inconsiderate behavior is not only damaging towards the constant efforts to dismantle the stereotypes and boundaries set by society for gender roles, but also very directly damaging how the gay community is perceived as a minority.
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PS: Yes, I know. Not all gay men are like this or all women feel like this.
PPS: The incident mentioned at the start of this post actually happened almost a year ago as I did not know how to articulate the events of the night. This post has been a work-in-progress for a while now.