Griffin Brammer, Arts & Entertainment Editor
What’s your favorite cocktail? Mine’s a Jack and Coke.
This is a fact that always surprises people. They assume that my all-time favorite is some fruity, sugar-bombed, likely rum-based drink with a promiscuous name à la Sex on the Beach. Anyone that knows me probably knows why this is the assumption.
I’ve been out for about four years now. In those 17 years of being in the closet and the rest that followed, I’ve learned a lot about how to present myself in order to succeed as a college-bound gay man.
Gay men aren’t allowed to be masculine. That’s the number one rule the straights will impose upon coming out. They shower you with support until you act a little too “straight.” It comes from the idea that in a straight (and thus, “normal”) couple, the person liking the man is a woman, so if a man likes men too, he better be willing to pick up the slack and be the perfect housewife.
A lot of straight men also prefer their queer counterparts to present themselves as feminine as a way of distinguishing the “real men” from the “fairies.” It’s a self- defense technique — preservation from the embarrassment of interacting with the queer community. If a gay man sees a hot guy in a bar, but he’s chugging a Miller Lite in a pair of unironic cowboy boots… you better back up, fruitcake.
Either one you choose, the reasonings aren’t great. Heteronormative or homophobic: Take your pick.
The worst part is the double standards held by heterosexual men. “What happened to manly men?” they cry, standing at the gates of masculinity that they guard with their lives, baring their teeth at any queer man that dares wander too close.
I’ve been told, growing up, that I was weird for not liking sports like the other boys. Yet, as soon as I take an interest in college: “Oh wow, Griffin, sports must really be exciting for you, you must just love basketball.” Yes. I do. That’s why I’m standing here, in Cintas, watching a basketball game.
Anytime we try to embrace our masculinity, we get put down, forced to retreat into the depths of our femininity, where we are then berated for being a “bunch of pansies.” In response to this, we either retreat further and face continued abashment, or try to conform to more masculine activities, only to get laughed at and shoved down again. It’s a vicious and abusive cycle.
The problem is, despite the immense grip they hold, these rules don’t define how a gay man presents. Rather, their personalities, personal opinions and interests define and inform how they present. Gay men, like our straight counterparts, have different interests and hobbies. I feel like in the year 2023, I shouldn’t have to be pushing the “everyone is special” message, and yet it seems like those unique snowflakes we all are completely melt away when the topic comes to sexuality.
Their rules are hurting my community. They force men to stay in the closet because they are too afraid that they won’t present the right way for other people’s liking. It builds a wave of internalized homophobia as gay men are being forced to align themselves with labels they don’t identify with because it “comes with the sexuality.” It divides the entire community into the “femmes” versus the “mascs” and reduces our entire personalities to arbitrary gender norms about the things we like and do for fun.
As a matter of fact, their heteronormative views of how a gay man should act hurts everyone, straights included. Any act of femininity, show of emotions, or attempt at self-care is seen as “queer,” a mental castration that makes them precede even the slightest of androgynous statements with “I’m not gay, but….”
In essence, it’s a breeding ground for toxic masculinity. A masculinity that values perceptions over mental health; a masculinity that is the breeding ground for misogyny and homophobia; a masculinity that values hatred and violence over understanding.
I’m not going to pretend that I won’t absolutely demolish a Tequila Sunrise at the bars. But I’m also tired of pretending that I don’t love the taste of bourbon. So let gay men be masculine. Let straight men be feminine. Hell, let people be whatever they want to be on the gender spectrum. If we open ourselves up to the power of androgyny and doing what we want, rather than what our sexuality “dictates,” I have no doubt that we’ll all be happier people.
And that’s on period, hunty.