These conversations happen more often than you’d think. Why?
Dear Straight Guys:
So, we just met. Maybe we’re at some networking event, maybe at a friend’s tailgating thing, maybe we got stuck in a line at the DMV and I commented on the Big Ass Something-or-Other tattoo on your arm. I’m wearing a ring on my left hand, you’re not. Or maybe you are. Irrelevant here. We’re dressed about the same, business casual or old jeans and a hoodie or cargo shorts and a team shirt. I’m half-a-foot shorter than you, not as muscled, a lot thinner, but we’re both sporting the “Eh, I’ll shave when I feel like it” look.
We talk for a few minutes, something in common, and you tell me, “So I was hanging out with this guy, but you know, not like that, just, you know, hanging out, because, I’m not like, you know, gay or anything,” and you continue your story. Another one of you tells me, “So when these guys found out I was into _____, they were really into me, but not into me, if you know what I mean. They just wanted to find out what I knew.” More than a few of you, upon realizing that you kept talking about the same dude, or that you’d gone [shopping/to a play/out for a beer more than twice) with the same guy, felt that it was very important to state some version of, “But dude, I’m not gay.”
Straight dude, I don’t feel the need to tell you I’m gay. If I’m out, I’m not going to not mention someone I may be dating, or an ex-boyfriend, but I can’t imagine a situation in which I’d actively try, early in a conversation, to assert my gayness.
Look, I’m not the manliest guy around, but I don’t open a conversation with, “Hi, I’m Joe. I’m gay.” I don’t bedeck myself in pride gear (gay guys, if you do, fine, your thing, just not mine). As far as I know, I don’t give off gay microwaves or leave poofs of glitter behind me. And most any of you could kick my ass in about 5 seconds flat. And hello, ring? So I’m not convinced you’re trying to “warn away the gay”. I’m mostly not a stereotype, most of the time. Most of us aren’t.
Because I hear you do it with guys who are generically manly in the muscle-y way, or the eat-whatever-I goddamn-feel-like way, or in the motivational speaker charcoal suit and pocket square way. If you’re going camping and someone makes a remark about sleeping arrangements, you’ll say yeah, you’re sharing a tent, but you’re not gay or anything. You talk about they gym and some guy you saw there who had awesome [body part], I can almost guarantee the next sentence will be about your straightness, that you weren’t checking him out. I hear you justify a compliment to someone with “no-homo” or, should you have a best friend or bro who is gay, make it explicitly clear that you are not, in whatever way you have to, including listing “gay” things you don’t do…or telling how “not gay” he is. “Well, yeah, he’s gay, but not gay-gay, like, he doesn’t do drag or sing showtunes or act like a girl or stuff”.
I hear it more from you younger guys, the ones I would hope would be past this. Maybe you’re trying to prove your masculinity and assert yourselves as men among your peers.
So what’s going on here?
- You’re afraid of being judged as gay and that people won’t like you or include you if they think you’re gay? (I’m not talking about fear of being the victim of violence. That’s another matter entirely.)
- You’re afraid of being teased or talked about if people think you’re gay?
- You don’t want to be the only one not being “not gay”? You don’t want to break from the groupspeak, the unspoken rules of how men address certain situations to one another?
- You are truly worried that every man around you want to grab your junk? If so, seriously, you need to get over yourself. We don’t want to. Trust me.
- You believe that asserting yourself as straight puts you in some sort of power position, should there be any gays about?
If you are in the “gotta say I’m not gay”crowd and you’re not coming from a place of fear for yourself, and you’re answering yes, maybe it’s time to think about this. Check some of your assumptions, listen to the people around you, and consider the message you are sending, especially around young people who take their cues from adults or who may themselves be gay; or in the workplace, where coworkers attitudes have a tremendous effect of the people around them; or around your friends or family, who may be questioning if they should come out.
But then, of course, maybe you just don’t care what other people think about you or what you say.
Just as long as they don’t think you’re gay.
Photo: See-ming Lee/Flickr