Paul posted a comment in my last post defending "Queens" that caused me to write a reply that became long enough to be a post itself. His comment is here. Basically he was asking why some gay men become outrageously flamboyant, and hinted at the damage they do in the public eye (that, or I read too much into things :-), but it’s true, nonetheless). So:
I see it this way. While most folks easily enough fit into traditional categories of male and female, there is a gradient between in every dimensions: self identity, genetics, physical appearance, orientation, and so on. All of these can and do vary independently, even though some do tend to correlate with others. For example, a disproportional number of effeminate boys will grow up to be gay men, though many gay men aren’t near effeminate and not all effeminate boys will be gay men.
You can get all sorts of combinations, from individuals who are anatomically and genetically both sexes to 100% straight men with a pronounced flair for girly stuff. I know a male to female post op transvestite who always knew she was a woman, but nevertheless ended up with and has never felt anything but the traditionally male sexual orientation towards women. She was basically a lesbian mind in a man’s body; talk about trouble finding a partner.
Why are people like that? Many reasons; I don’t know for sure. People just have such differences by chance of nature or nurture; it really doesn’t mater which. Some guys simply feel most in their own skin when they look as pretty as Judy Garland. Other guys identify with Russell Crow, and still other guys identify with Alan Turing and are attracted to Russell Crow (What are you looking at? ;-)). I get that it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around some of these permutations. I’ve felt such difficulty from both sides. Personally I find concern for topics like fashion to be trivial concerns, I don’t get transvestitism, and Lord knows I’ve clashed with my more fabulous gay brethren. I know first hand they’re tough by making enemies of some :-).
Before I discuses the negative aspects, I want to say I do know many wildly effeminate gay men who’ve taken far more honorable roles in society than I or most, in their familial or charitable commitments. Though not my thing, I’ll not nearly fault that guy for wanting to put pink designer sunglasses on his bleached hair, or dress in drag when he goes out. He gets my respect, if not my direct understanding.
There are, of course, guys whose life has turned into a self focused cycle of finding a new way to be shockingly and outrageously gay, showing it off to the public, and then often numbing themselves in bars. I imagine those men are the men you, Paul, are referring to? Such gay men definitely exist--it’s not only a stereotype. I know they politically hurt my family in a round about way. Still, I’ll give them a wide berth. When we were in the vital transitions of adolescence, they were often the ones taking damage, while I was taking cover. My more masculine demeanor let me hide, ironically, and I don’t know who I’d be today if I took on some of the challenges most gay men must before I was ready.
I think those trials set them on their path, made them feel they had to advertize their orientation in neon as a defense from rejection. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but when you've been hurt by a homophobe you loved, like a parent, I can see how you'd want to advertize who you were so loudly that no homophobe would touch you with a 10' pole. You want all to know you're gay so you can't get close enough to someone who'd reject you for it.
I have much respect for the effeminate gay man who made it to healthy adulthood despite his obvious bully-provoking difference in adolescence. But for the other effeminate gay guy, the one who ended up self abusive, outrageous, defensive, and self focused I still have respect. Simply, there but for the grace of God go I. While I do often publically disagree with such men (and they don’t agree with me and my life either), and while I will and do find myself fighting them and their negative political effect on my home, I can’t deny that they beat a path for me at one point. They took some of the brunt off of my young self, until I could carry it myself.