Monday, April 16, 2007

Covering For Gays

Contender for the #1 position on the chart of humbling-by-hindsight private moment in my life:

A sixteen year old kid in his room repeatedly trying, and failing, to approximate a good strong lisp.

Why work on such a thing? I wasn’t passing… as gay, and was getting flack for being “straight acting,” a phrase I’d come to hate for its use as an underhanded insult to both masculine gay men and their femmy brothers. I came into the gay community very naive about the culture, and expectations. Once I realized I was gay, despite not identifying with how gays were depicted on the television, I kind of expected, once I met another real gay person, those stereotypes wouldn't apply.

Not only did I find they could apply, I found some in leadership positions wanted them promoted. I can understand, in a way. They wanted gays to be seen, and they probably used such as promotion of cohesiveness, like a street gang, but with a certain swishy walk, instead of colored bandanas :-). Nevertheless, I was made to feel I was somehow traitorous for my manerisms, and I was, in a teenage cliché, tempted to cave to the peer pressure. But that session in my room, thankfully, ended with the thought “Forget that. I’m not going to change for them.”

Anyway, I became angry. I remember thinking something like: I went through that misery of coming out to my friends and family to find they were okay with it, and THEN it’s the gay community who has a problem with my nature?! That was an unfair generalization on my part, based on the handful of individuals in gay leadership positions 17 years ago, and much has changed in our community since then, but that’s how I felt for a couple years.

This embarrassing event was brought to mind by MoHo(an abbreviation, which, in this instance, does not express or imply he is in any way adherent to every aspect of the LDS faith ;-))Hawaii’s comment, here.

“I'd be interested in hearing if there are any cases where you feel pressure to be ‘straighter’ in front of people who already know you are gay.”

Now, I wouldn’t claim to be some epitome of masculinity. I’m not, say, a construction worker, a police man, or even a Native American; I spend my days in a lab. Besides, there’s little more comical in the gay community than a femmy guy who thinks he’s all butch :-). I've masculine qualities. I also cry in movies, or at any significant attention to my emotions for my family, and I’m sure I’ve other “gay characteristics” (aside from the obvious, sleeping with a dude). But I am severely lacking in the gay skill set, and we both do naturally and easily pass as straight on our own, by the accounts I have. But we’re not straight acting! :-)

So, in short, no. I don’t recall an instance of feeling pressure to be “straighter” for those who know we're gay. Even in the situations where I’d say we’ve the most pressure, around Rob’s extended family, we act as we would in our own home (outside the bedroom… ;-)). What this notion of covering actually brought to mind were these instances of feeling I needed to be “gayer” for those who know I’m gay, and my resentment towards them.

On this topic, I have even heard the accusation that the very act of being monogamous, marrying, and having children is an act of covering (Yeah, sheesh, if only monogamy was a heterosexual trait!). To those gays, who’ll take my family as some sort of pathetic act of caving in to The Man, I'll say an enthusiastic “F*beep* you.” And without the beep (For my LDS friends, that’s “Fetch” then). Have these gays not noticed the opposition would rather they live in the traditional gay lifestyle? They absolutely don't want us married, they don’t want us as parents, and if I wanted to keep our detractors comfortable, I’d follow the lead of such gays. To my experience, the sexually "free" gay man, letting it all hang out in the Castro District is not the gay they resist the most. That gay man is their motivation, their boogieman, but the other is their aim. And the more gays who come out without the emotional and moral trauma, I'm sure the more they'll follow other aspects of their nature, such as the drive to couple into family.

Simply, I’d rather have two more anti gay rights activists in this world than another bitter gay trying to undermine and belittle our families from inside our own camp. If they think coupling up and pursuing and feeling the calling to become parents is nature segregated into humans with a heterosexual orientation, they’re as bad and as bigoted as our detractors. And yes, I’m now officially riled up :-).

I’ve little patience for such gays, and, sure, it’s made me some enemies in the old guard of our little gay community. Dealing with such folks used to even keep us from wanting to participate at all in the gay community, but I count that as my mistake. Such folks are all being replaced by a new, more reasonable generation anyway and quickly. While I’ve always been involved, we did step into the background for many years, and I simply shouldn’t have let such keep us away at all. And now we don’t; we don’t want to be gayer or straighter for anyone either. We volunteer a lot of our time, from community events to politics to media. Our faces are out there, and we do all that is reasonable to ensure we’ll not pass while remaining true to who we are. Sure, in part to help our community, but I must admit, the idea of passing is nauseating enough for the idea that Rob and I may be regarded as just friends. The thought that our boys may be mistaken as not our children or not brothers is far worse.

Funny though that our stubborn recommitment to activity within the gay community and being as out as possible, was primarily motivated by our family. :-)

5 comments:

playasinmar said...

If you just are what you are and can just do what you do you have nothing to stress about.

Oh, and can I call you Thcot?

MoHoHawaii said...

Yoshino's book that started this thread has some examples of "reverse covering" demands. One case was of gay person seeking asylum in the U.S.; he ran into to trouble because his manner was not "gay" enough. Immigration officials wanted evidence of flamboyance to support the claim of persecution. (That's really twisted, IMHO. Broken bones and death threats aren't evidence of persecution, but deep knowledge of 1930s musicals is.)

Scot-- Thanks for the post. Your devotion to husband and family is evident. Some people (gay and straight) are threatened by this. Tough noogies for them.

For myself, I'm sick and tired of having people prescribe the course of individual lives. We are who we are, whether straight or gay, conservative or progressive, religious or secular. What I'd like to see is a society where these differences are put aside in favor of working together to solve common problems.

I see some hope for this in the coming generations. For example, my college-aged kids tell me that nobody really cares about sexual orientation on their college campuses. Sexual orientation is not invisible, but it's not a big deal. I also see a wider variety of social adaptation in young gay people today. They are much more integrated. This seems like progress to me.

Scot said...

Playasinmar
"If you just are what you are and can just do what you do you have nothing to stress about."

No, not stressed, but I do think at least agitated enough to whine about it ;-). These pressures to be something you’re not do real damage, and I’m glad to watch them shrivel in our gay community. (I should also say I probably got a bit too heated here for thinking of some specific events, my bad).

" Oh, and can I call you Thcot?"

Honey, you can call me Nanthy if you want.

Thank you, MoHoHawaii,
" Immigration officials wanted evidence of flamboyance to support the claim of persecution."

That’s terrible. Heck, if it kept me out of Iran, I’d put Rue Paul to shame. Or try, anyway.

" I see some hope for this in the coming generations."

I agree, and it seems to be such a quick change.

Edgy said...

"Simply, I’d rather have two more anti gay rights activists in this world than another bitter gay trying to undermine and belittle our families from inside our own camp. If they think coupling up and pursuing and feeling the calling to become parents is nature segregated into humans with a heterosexual orientation, they’re as bad and as bigoted as our detractors."

Amen.

santorio said...

agree that college-age kids are overtly tolerant of just about any lifestyle, but they still carry stereotypes which can lead to a nimby attitude