Recently there was some controversy over a straight actor playing a gay male role saying that when he received criticism for the part and that it should be played by a gay man he said basically they wanted the character to be straight acting.
There is no doubt the actor meant well. He was basically trying to say the character was meant to blend in and not stand out and be mainstream in every way but his sexuality.
But aren’t gay men responsible for forming the term, “straight acting” which is now being used by heterosexuals? Let’s face it, we use it all the time.
Nobody teaches us how to be gay men, so each of us ends up having to find our own way. As members of a subculture, we gay men are degraded in the worst way by being termed faggots, perverts, pansies, sissies, mother-dominated mama’s boys, or dismissed as “more like women,” “immature,” “underdeveloped in their masculinity,” “less than a man,” “weak,” “innately vulnerable,” and “cowardly.”
In gay culture, the drive to escape these negative self-images manifests by looking for—and often striving to become—a “straight acting” male. In any quick survey, you can find gay male personal ads looking for “straight acting” guys, specifying “masculine, no fems.” What the writers really mean is “masculine-acting guys”—and the more so, the better. The Village People even made fun of this attitude in a song lyric: “I want to be a macho man,” implying that the singer wasn’t macho, to begin with.
Imagine a Black man looking for a “white acting” woman or a Jewish woman looking for a “gentile-acting” man. This would seem as ridiculous to say out loud as is “straight acting”.
But people do say these things and ultimately there should be nothing wrong with basically wanting to be with a partner or friends who don’t assume and adopt the cultural means of behaviors and language. But to put it in writing does lend itself the idea that there is something wrong with acting gay or acting black or acting Jewish.
What gay men really mean is that they are looking for a masculine guy—a guy who acts masculine. This is fine and if that is his preference he should be able to say that. Gay men are masculine. Straight men are masculine.
Masculinity does not equate heterosexual men.
Being raised as a boy in America’s heterosexist culture means avoiding and distancing yourself from being perceived as feminine in any way. Being gay is synonymous with being effeminate. This is inherently sexist, of course, as if being associated with anything female would be automatically degrading. Being male is a privileged position, and anything else is viewed as of inferior status.
Nor is the concept of femininity generally acceptable among gay men. Countless times, I’ve heard gay men say of their more effeminate counterparts, “If I wanted a woman, I’d be straight”—always in a negative and hostile way. Many gay men tolerate drag shows and effeminate talk and accept behaviors among friends in the culture, but declare this off-limits in their personal relationships.
Listen to my video on the topic of “straight acting” along with my reasons for why gay men are attracted to straight men which include:
- Internalized Homophobia
- Forbidden Fruit
- Straight Men Represent Authority
- A Chance for Being Accepted by Straight Men
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