Saturday, September 19, 2009

'Passing as straight'

I thought, there we go again! I talked to a gay male friend the other night, you know, one of those all-over-the-place type chit-chats. Anyhow, at one point he tells me with some pride that one of his closest straight female friends complimented him the other day by saying that he'd 'pass as straight' easily. 'Passing as straight' is a primary preoccupation of many gay (I presume mostly male) folks. Goes also under 'straight acting', and stuff like that. The price is yours if you 'pass as straight', you lose if you fail and people can 'tell' that you're gay.

Now, what is it that makes gay men 'pass' as straight? Well, you guessed it, looking as if they're REAL men (I'm being half tongue in cheek here). What's a real man like? Well, you gotta have a deep voice naturally, you don't flap around too much with your hands, and, if at all possible, you make sexist jokes on the odd occasion (mind you, most drag queens are sadly excelling at that), it also helps to be dressed not too fashionably (mind you, metrosexuals are good at dressing properly these days, too). I suspect you also better have a pint instead of a glass of chardonnay, but I might be off on that one...

It's funny, I have had this 'compliment' more often than I can recall, both from straight and gay folks whom I know/knew. I always thought of it as seriously offensive to be honest. After all, I happen to be gay, and I'd much rather be identified as such if someone sees the need to identify me according to sexual orientation. What's the point of gay men mistaking me for a straight guy? Same is true for straight women... - defeats the purpose, doesn't it? What kind of compliment is it to tell someone who's gay that they don't 'look' gay. I mean, how often have you heard someone telling straight folks that they look 'soooo gay', and that one would have never thought that they might be heterosexual? And of the few who might have heard this 'compliment', how many would have taken pride in this in the same manner that very many gay folks take pride in 'passing' as straight?

What's even more puzzling is that this seemingly innocent 'compliment' also reveals a LOT about people's silly stereotypes. I mean, to be a gay man, does one really have to talk in a high-pitch voice and flap a lot around with one's hands? Isn't that at best a reflection of age-old stereotypical assumptions about gay men being some kind of stereotypical women? And that to be a 'proper' lesbian you got to be REALLY 'butch'. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the drift.

Much of this is based on the age-old assumption that gay folks really are the 'other' sex, and that they'd behave like that. I doubt that there's a biological hardwiring that ties this kind of behavior to sexual orientation. Certainly there's no good reason to take pride in 'passing' one way or another. Better to call people out on the prejudices that such 'compliments' reveal.

Stepping off my soap box now :).

Ps: It goes without saying, should you feel like acting it out camp or should you really feel like camp is you, it's REALLY fine, too. None of this matters one way or another!

3 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more with you!

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  2. Passing as straight is presumably desirable for those gay folks who wish to keep their sexuality secret. Would that people did not have to do so, but it's sadly still the case for some.

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  3. I've been having this very conversation over the last few weeks. I too heard someone say, with some amount of pride, that they pass as straight. I can't help but think that the reasons for which people desire to 'pass as straight' have something to do with their distaste for "femmes" (whether as lovers of friends) and insatiable desire for so-called straight-acting, masculine, DL, men.

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