You Know How I Know I’m Gay?

January 14, 2008 at 9:11 am 16 comments

I haven’t been “gay” with a guy in quite a while, but I still consider myself as gay as it gets.

I identify strongly with the gay community, but sometimes the gay community does not identify with me like the times that i have been called nigger by white gay men.

I have very little in common with Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter Mary, but we are both considered gay.

So, what exactly does it take to be “gay”?

I posted an open thread with this question on Bilerico on Sunday which got some fascinating responses. I threw out the question after reading a post on Four Four called Just Because I’m a Fag, Doesn’t Mean I’m a Bitch. In that post Rich writes about an absurd offer from the editor of an unnamed publication to write an article about the How to Be Gay course at the University of Michigan. Besides requesting the homo equivalent of a shuck and jive “humor” piece, the editor gave an impossible deadline of only 21 hours and I think Rich was right to decline the offer.

I only included this small excerpt from Rich’s lengthy and incredibly smart post in the open thread:

What exactly does it take to be gay? It depends on the person, and how willing he is to actually be one.

I consider myself to be gay 24/7. Does that mean my thinking is all gay, all the time? No, but it does mean that even when I am not thinking about or doing things that are explicitly gay my thinking in and of itself is gay. By that I don’t mean that I subscribe to some Stepford Gay code of orthodoxy from which a failure to comply means that I will be voted off the Homo Island.

It means that my sexual orientation is an essential part of who I am and informs any decision that I make and every thing that I do. I don’t necessarily do everything in a gay way, but every single thing I do is gay.

I think that Rich’s is dead on when he says:

The gay experience is actually so splintered that about the only across-the-board common factor we share is the option of picking up whatever splinter we want, in terms of interest and behavior.

As gay men, we don’t have to abide by the incredibly narrow gender roles that straight men adhere to for fear of being labeled gay. You know, the rules that say that boys don’t cry, must have a “not gay” seat between them at the movies and don’t worry about whether or not their butts look great on those jeans. By that same token I don’t feel as if I have to live up to anybody’s idea of what it means to be gay but my own. Its my gay in my way. And, my way of gay may be, and most likely is, different from your way of being gay.

That doesn’t make me better and you worse. It doesn’t make you gayer and me less gay. It means that the outdated strictures of what it means to be gay and not be gay don’t apply. It means realizing that your way of being gay works for you and my way of being gay works for me and that really is what makes us gay.

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Entry filed under: Blogs, LGBT, Men, Video, YouTube. Tags: , , , .

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Christopher  |  January 14, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    …”like the times that i have been called nigger by white gay men.

    I’m sorry, Michael.

    That’s mean, hateful and totally unacceptable. People can be unbelievably rotten and fucked.

    I don’t pretend to understand human behavior and why you should be made to suffer such a racist epithet.

    Reply
  • 2. Jersey  |  January 14, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Your orientation is only a PART of who you are, it is NOT who you TOTALLY are.

    Reply
  • 3. Michael Crawford  |  January 14, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Thanks Christopher. Some gays are not so gay.

    Reply
  • 4. Michael Crawford  |  January 14, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Jersey,

    I did not say that being gay is totally who I am. I said that being gay informs every decision that I make and every thing that I do just as my being Black does.

    I don’t separate myself into different parts. I am the sum of all the elements that I am. That’s what makes me me.

    Reply
  • 5. tomitron  |  January 14, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    great post—

    Reply
  • 6. Michael Crawford  |  January 14, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks for the compliment!

    Reply
  • 7. Jersey  |  January 14, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    I am happen to be bi – not confused as some of my gay friends think me to be – but it doesn’t inform or influence any of my decisions outside of those relating to sexuality.

    For example…how does being gay affect your personality, your clothes, or, for an extreme example, what kind of flat you want to rent?

    Reply
  • 8. Michael Crawford  |  January 14, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Let me first of all I do not think that bi people are confused in any way. They are bi period.

    Being gay effects my choice of clothing in that I am more likely to consume media targeted gay people and to choose clothing that I feels good and that I think will attracted other guys.

    Being gay effects the kind of apt. I rent in that I want to be in a neighborhood that is gay friendly.

    Being gay effects my personality in that it is a central part of my overall identity and means that I feel less of the pressure to act “manly” as straight men do.

    Reply
  • 9. rationalpsychic  |  January 15, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Is it gay to be listening to the first Elvis Costello album right now through my headphones and thinking: “I wish I could be a man just a little bit more like him?”

    In any case, I love the post. That interchange between the 40-year-old virgin’s two friends is a great conversation that probably happens 100 times more often than people would think.

    I’m straight and I identify with the whole discussion because when I was a kid I was “too sensitive” and got called fag often. I know that it’s true: If gay men and women and their attitudes and beliefs are more generally accepted, then there’s going to be a wider set of behaviors accepted as “masculine” for all men.

    And, yes, I have a son who is looking to be “too sensitive” although he plays football much better than I ever did.

    Reply
  • 10. びっくり  |  January 15, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Sorry for being direct but, what a bigoted view of heterosexuals you have. What a silly notion about the “not gay” seat. Even when I lived in Texas, everyone would pretty much sit next to the people with whom they came in, regardless of gender. If there was an empty seat between every two people the theater would be less than half-full. The fact that most men find it inappropriate to ask everybody around them how their but looks has little to do with whether they are concerned with it; seems to me it is just a matter of having taste and showing decorum.

    I did however, love your highlighting of Rich’s quote: “It depends on the person, and how willing he is to actually be one”. You clearly lay homosexuality in the “choice” arena (as did Rich). Hopefully, this means the silly “gay gene” factitious concept is a thing of the past, and people are willing to honestly state that they have chosen a “gay” lifestyle.

    Look around a little and you might discover that heterosexuals can choose their lifestyle as well. Sex is not what defines us.

    Reply
  • 11. Michael Crawford  |  January 15, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    R.P.,

    It is not gay “to be listening to the first Elvis Costello album right now through my headphones and thinking: “I wish I could be a man just a little bit more like him?”’

    That just means you’re an Elvis Costello fan.

    You are right that with greater acceptance of gay men and lesbian will come more flexibility in terms of what is considered “masculine.” People should be free to be themselves and not feel that they have to live up to some narrow stereotype.

    Reply
  • 12. Michael Crawford  |  January 15, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    No びっくりI don’t have a bigoted view of heterosexuals. Maybe you have a rose colored vision of heterosexuals.

    The concept of the “not gay seat” is not something that I came up with. Its something that’s widespread and something I did observe when I lived in Texas and also now that I live in D.C. Don’t take my word for it. Check out this article Don’t Look Gay: Why American Men Are Afraid of Intimacy with Each Other.

    Don’t take my using the quote from Rich to mean that I believe that being gay is a choice. I believe that its a complex combination of nature and nurture. Given the choice today there is no way that I would consider being anything other than gay.

    BTW, when did you choose a “heterosexual” lifestyle?

    Reply
  • 13. びっくり  |  January 16, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Interesting question: I guess I would have to say I choose a hetero lifestyle each time someone tries to pull me away from it. Fortunately that hasn’t happened much lately. I do have one friend who likes to lean in really close and talk sweet while gazing in my eyes, but I just speak to him neutrally and carry on. He never seems to clue in, but c’est la vie. However, my narrow-minded view is that hetero is the norm, so it’s not really an active choice; whereas, deviating from the norm requires making a choice. (Hopefully that doesn’t wind you up, because I’m sure you don’t agree.)

    I don’t think I have a “rose-colored” view of heterosexuals: after all, they are human beings and subject to fallibility.

    Reply
  • 14. Michael Crawford  |  January 16, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Wait, so you think that because heterosexuality is more common that it is somehow innate, but homosexuality or as you put it “deviating from the norm” is a choice?

    Also, didn’t you say in a comment above “Look around a little and you might discover that heterosexuals can choose their lifestyle as well.?”

    Just because heterosexuality is more common doesn’t make it better.

    Reply
  • 15. びっくり  |  January 16, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Oh, you got my thinking backward: because I think heterosexuality is innate, so another choice is not the norm. (That’s why I said I didn’t think you would agree.)

    I certainly agree with you that “more common” does not imply “better”. There are many behaviors in our society which are common, but not superior. We could probably come up with a long list of these observations which we both embrace. However, the point on which we would not agree is that I do consider homosexuality to be better. In the future, I imagine it may not be the more common of the two, but my opinion will most likely not vary.

    I think I used your terminology about “choose their lifestyle”. In that context you weren’t using that to describe the choice between hetero/homo, but rather the individual aspects of ones lifestyle which you believe heterosexuals can’t do. (e.g., sitting next to others at the theater, worrying how your butt looks in a pair of pants, etc.,) Hopefully you won’t beat me up semantically when I was using your terminology.

    Reply
  • 16. Michael Crawford  |  January 17, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Your heterosexuality may be innate and therefore the norm for you. To me however, its just another alternative lifestyle.

    I never said that heterosexuals could not sit next to one another at the theater or worry about how their butts look in jeans. What I said was

    “As gay men, we don’t have to abide by the incredibly narrow gender roles that straight men adhere to for fear of being labeled gay. You know, the rules that say that boys don’t cry, must have a “not gay” seat between them at the movies and don’t worry about whether or not their butts look great on those jeans.”

    In other words hetero men tend to do or not do those things in order not to be perceived as gay. I, on the other hand, am gay and can act more or less masculine or feminine as I please.

    Reply

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