Editor’s Note: This article was written in response to a submission by Nic Bill’s, titled ‘HO-ME-PHOBE – A Message to the Str8-Acting Silent Majority’, which can be found at this link: http://woroni-legacy.dev/
An article in the latest Woroni, ‘HO-ME-PHOBE – A Message to the Str8-Acting Silent Majority’ by Nic Bills, has grossly misrepresented the gay community. There are several issues with his discussion of gay identity that are frustrating, due to their lack of accuracy in representing genuine perceptions of the gay community, both internally and externally.
Nic argues that there is a “misconception that being gay and being masculine are somehow mutually exclusive”. He also emphasises that there are two oppositional stereotypes for gay people: the ‘femmes’ – the “Meryl Streep-loving sass queens with loose wrists and lisps”, and the ‘str8-acting’ – a stereotype that “exemplifies more masculine traits and strongly contrasts with being ‘femme’”. He then goes on to say that because of the prevalence of the ‘femme’ stereotype, the “str8-acting, silent majority” are discouraged from coming out, due to their apprehension of being labelled as a part of the “perceivably pejorative stereotype” of the ‘femme’.
The problem is, that although Nic attempts to challenge stereotypes, his argument actually strengthens them.
I am neither ‘femme’ nor ‘str8-acting’, and I most definitely do not think about the gay community in these terms. I may have traits of both of these purported categories – I love Carly Rae Jepson, colourful clothing, going to the gym, rowing and having a goss in the college bathrooms while I shower with my friends. I don’t feel as though I fit into either of these stereotypes, and I don’t shape myself to be a part of them. I, like Nic, would argue that being gay is only one part of my identity, and that I don’t feel the need to “flaunt” my sexuality.
The way, however, that Nic writes about a divide in the gay community only strengthens the stereotypes he calls to discredit. He simultaneously says these stereotypes must be challenged, whilst advocating a new regime of the dual ‘femme’ – ‘str8-acting’ spectrum. He is so heavily focused on these two opposing stereotypes that he fails to realize what it would actually mean to challenge them.
Nic asserts that he doesn’t feel the need to “flaunt” his sexuality, yet he calls upon the supposed ‘majority’ of gays that don’t want to come out – due to a fear of being associated with a ‘pejorative stereotype’ – to come out, so that the exclusive stereotype of the femme gay can be broken down. This is problematic for two reasons: Firstly, it assumes that there is actually a ‘majority’ of gay people who feel they are ‘str8-acting’, which he doesn’t substantiate in any way. This assumption misidentifies the whole gay community, and attempts to stereotype gay men as a group that fit mostly within the traditional heterosexual male norm. Secondly, it assumes that being associated with ‘femmes’ is something negative. Even if, as Nic claims, one doesn’t have anything against ‘femmes’ personally, the fact that a gay man may not want to come out, purely because of fear of association, suggests an internalized discrimination against this stereotype.
Just breaking down the ‘femme’ stereotype will not stop discrimination against gay men. Nic’s experiences of being at a high school and not encountering discrimination do not translate to every masculine gay man. A friend of mine went to a same-sex school in which even the rugby captain, who was known to be gay, was often ridiculed and only (barely) passed the ‘masculinity’ test because of his role in school sport. Being associated with limp-wrists and Kylie Minogue isn’t what causes discrimination. Homophobia is something much more nuanced than that, and the cause of it cannot be attributed to a single stereotype.
If the worst thing Nic thinks he could be called is ‘Gay Nic’, he should really think of something better to write about.