Over half of ‘straight acting’ gay guys think ‘feminine gay men give them a bad reputation’

“Feminine gay men are caught in the crossfire of a battle that self described ‘straight acting’ gay men are having with themselves.”

Results from a European award-winning study released today found that those who had not experienced homophobia in school were more than twice as likely to have used the phrase ‘straight acting’ to describe themselves.

But that’s not all, those who reported using the phrase ‘straight acting’ as a personal descriptor were also 57% more likely to agree with the statement that “Feminine gay men give gay men like me a bad reputation,” compared to 20% of those who had not used the term to describe themselves.

Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. Over half of men who classify themselves as ‘straight acting,’ meaning that they either exhibit social behaviours or actively employ them to convince people they’re not gay, believe that feminine guys give gay men a bad name.

The research also explored the ‘straight acting’ gay respondent’s experiences with prejudice or homophobia. Around a third [33%] of the men said they were less likely to have faced homophobia or discrimination in the past five years.

Interestingly, 35% of those surveyed for the research agreed with the statement:‘I identify more with the heterosexual community than with the gay community,’ something author Cal Strode found intriguing. “We all strive to have a positive self-conception, we want to believe that any group we belong to is positively distinct from others,” he wrote.

“Social Identity Theory suggests that if we feel this is not the case, we will either be compelled to try to migrate to another group with perceived higher status, or fight to change the values attached to the group we belong to.”

But what does that mean for the gay men who are classified and denigrated as ‘feminine’ by other gay men? “Feminine gay men are caught in the crossfire of a battle that self described ‘straight acting’ gay men are having with themselves,” theorises Cal. “The way gay men market themselves is more visible than ever before because of the rise of apps like Grindr. This brings things like femphobia to the surface, and we need to take every opportunity to challenge that.

“It’s not helpful to demonise people who use the term ‘straight acting’, but we should challenge them to realise when they’re speaking from a place of internalised homophobia or a position of ‘pass privilege’. We can’t expect everyone to have an academic understanding of oppression, privilege and the role they themselves are playing in things, so we have to find constructive ways to start conversations and challenge people in ways that brings them along with us.”

This isn’t a new phenomena though, it’s almost as if it’s been ingrained into the social behaviours of many minorities. LGBT History expert and Director at San Diego Pride Fernando Lopez commented that this behaviour is “common” across other stigmatised groups.

“You often see examples of attempted identity migration over to a group with the perceived higher status, though this is only really an option when the boundaries between the two groups are perceived to be permeable for those who can ‘pass’,” explained Fernando.

“For example, we might see Latino people changing their names (something we call “whiting-out your name” here in California). I know of a lot of people who go by John, for example, whereas their real name is Juan, or Michael when their real name is Miguel. Mine would be Frank or something for example –but I like Fernando!”

Fernando went on to reason that if ‘straight acting’ men can pass as straight in their everyday lives then they don’t have to deal with that same kind of discrimination more effeminate men would. “But for the people who live a different kind of life and have more of a struggle for standing out as not masculine, it means more to them to become activists and to do something: they have seen the oppression in a way that somebody who can pass as straight never does,” he explained.

“A big part of homophobia, internalised and otherwise, rests in chauvinism and ‘femophobia’: the fear of all things feminine and being feminine, because it is seen as weak. This isn’t a new thing, but it’s certainly more visible and pervasive than ever before because of the rise of apps like “Grindr” and other dating apps where we can see the way people are marketing themselves. The trend of some gay men excessively using hyper-masculine language is symptomatic of this–terms like “dude” and “bro” etc.” Fernando hypothesised.

However, it’s not just gay men who are to blame, the research and Fernando both point out that the representation of gay men in the media – hyper-effeminate caricatures – lead to this backlash or rebellion of hyper masculinity. “That’s where the whole grungy men of the 70s with beards and bushy hair etc originated,” explains Fernando. “They all wore flannel and work boots etc. That style was very much an intentional decision to hyper-masculinise the gay male community, so as to push-back against the heterosexual male run media. Today it seems that more people are pushing back against themselves.”

Correction: 27/10/16 A previous version of this article was titled: “A third of ‘straight acting’ gay guys think ‘feminine gay men give them a bad reputation’.” And featured the percentage 37% to illustrate that fact. After consulting with the author of the paper this proved to be incorrect. The correct stat was “37% more likely to say they agree with the statement about feminine gay guys giving gay guys like them a bad reputation.” This brought the stat in the headline to ‘over half’ and the percentage used in the article to 57%.” 

Needless to say this topic has created something of an opinion storm on Twitter, with many utterly appalled at the the fact we still have this level of segregation and perceived inequality within our own community.

But, being the bizarre echo chamber Twitter has evolved to be, there were also some sentiments that actually reinforced the survey’s findings…

For many however, today’s list of things to be angry at is just a little too long.



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