This is because gay men are ‘primed to expect rejection.’ (Keuroghlian) In social situations gay men are always scanning them to look at ways they may not fit in. This is ‘minority stress’ which means being a marginalised group is harder work. This is why I don’t believe gay men have male privilege, but that’s a whole separate post. Everything I do ‘as a gay man’ I am thinking about whether I’m playing into stereotypes or failing them. This means that as adolescents gay men are constantly watching themselves so they’re not found out, so they don’t get seen checking another man out, they watch their mannerisms aren’t ‘too gay’. We also do it as adults too. I’m always aware of how I am in public, I never hold my BF’s hand in public outside of Soho or a Pride march. Basically, ‘whether we recognize it or not, our bodies bring the closet with us into adulthood.’
A study in 2015 found out that anxiety and depression was higher in men who’d just come out than those who were still in the closet. So the community, the new family that’s meant to welcome us with open arms, is actually more stressful and harmful than staying in the closet away from it.
The argument goes that gay men aren’t very nice to each other because they’re used to receiving nastiness from the world, so that’s what we give out to other gay men. As a gay man growing up, you kind of get used to straight people being horrible to you. But you expect your new gay family will be as friendly and welcoming as your straight family often wasn’t. This means that being rejected by other gay men is actually more harmful than from straight people. Other gay men are your source of love and friendship. And now you find out they’re bastards too.
Why do gay men do this?
Apparently it’s basically because we’re men. Masculinity challenges other versions of itself so with men and men that’s amplified. The article says that ‘masculinity is precarious. It has to be constantly enacted or defended or collected.’ In studies you see what men do when you threaten masculinity. ‘They show more aggressive posturing, they start taking financial risks, they want to punch things.’
Hence the masc4masc and no femmes bullshit. It’s like ‘straight acting’ gay men are doing masculinity better than the camp ones who are letting the side down and aren’t real men. But I’ll tell you something, as an obviously gay, camp man, it takes real balls to be a fairy. When you can’t blend in as straight, when you can’t pretend to be married to a woman, when your simply walking into a room and opening your mouth to say something is met with a sea of nods that say ‘he’s gay’ you have to grow a thick skin. I can’t hide my gayness just like a black man can’t hide his blackness. Or a woman can’t hide her being a woman.
This results in a few different reactions:
1) not batting an eyelid and treating me as a human being and asking about my life as if it were no different from a straight man’s. Newsflash – it isn’t. Just because I live with a man I still go on holiday, buy food, have friends family, and do all the other stuff straight men do. Any comments about my partner are met with as much reaction as if I’d said it was a woman. This is my favourite and most adult reaction.
2) the wall of awkward questions response. How did I know? When did I know? What’s it like checking into a hotel with a man? Who does what in the relationship / in bed? This reaction, I used to put up with in my early twenties because generally it’s well-meaning, but now in these so called enlightened times, I find it patronising and invasive. ‘When did you know you were straight?’ or ‘When did you decide you were straight?’ are some responses I give now. As to who does what in the relationship I explain it’s based on who’s better at what and it makes a nice balanced division of labour without all the ‘men’s work and women’s work’ bullshit. And as for the who does what in bed I find that deeply inappropriate and private. If I want to discuss that sort of thing with someone it’s probably going to be another gay man (for the same reason women seem to talk about women’s topics together and same with straight men) and I’m not going to have that conversation with you peering from the edges of my private life like a scientist at a football game taking notes on behaviour and munching popcorn. I also find online discussions from others about how gay men know who does what in bed, and how it works dating-wise pretty distasteful and tacky too. Imagine me asking a straight woman how straight men and women decided who was going to do what to whom in bed when they first met.
3) I love the gays response. In some ways this is actually worse than response 2 because it comes wrapped in all the benign intentions of response 1, yet it’s actually as offensive as response 2. Once I was at a big family occasion and I met a friend of my sister in law who I’d never met before. She ran up to me and my BF who were in the middle of a perfectly normal conversation about (TV, music, food, the weather) and she hugged us both like we were both her best friends and then said, ‘I couldn’t wait to meet brother’s name’s gay brother. I’ve heard so much about you. I love the gays! I’ve got a gay cousin, you should meet him, he’s so camp he’s so funny, you’d love him. You’re all so lovely. So friendly. Such great fun.’
I blinked and swallowed some tea, trying to assemble my thoughts. ‘We’re not all nice, you know. Gay people can be just as horrible as straight people. We’re just people.’
‘Yeah, but you’re not though, are you. Dancing and singing and going shopping together. I wish I had a gay best friend...’ Ad infinitum.
The group of people I was sitting with were open mouthed when this woman left. One person said ‘Did she just say, I love the gays?’
The worst thing was, this woman had no idea that what she’d said was as insulting and patronising as saying she didn’t like gay people.
According to the Huffington Post article, another reason why the gay community provides its own stress to its members is how we reject each other. Unlike more than 10 years ago, when mostly gay men met and socialised in clubs, pubs and bars, now it’s been mostly replaced by social media. For many gay men it’s the main way they interact with each other. The apps have made it much easier to simply swipe left to people, ignore them, or send hurtful messages in ways that were much less prevalent or impossible face to face in gay venues.
In addition, even if someone rejected you in person at a gay club you could still talk to them, have a drink and a dance and may end up with a friend. Rejection on an app because you’re not fanciable is the end of any further interaction. Hence gay men find it harder to make friendships with other gay men now.
The article says that after many years of emotional avoidance, many gay men ‘literally don’t know what they’re feeling,’ I think at the best of times men can be pretty emotionally closed, so if you add in the avoidance of feelings about what others think about us, is it any wonder that so many gay men can’t feel emotions with friends or lovers? I have some single friends whose expectations of a relationship are, in my view, completely unrealistic. Whenever anyone asks me what the trick is to a long term gay relationship, I say it’s the same as any long term relationship: kindness, humouring each other, plenty of shared interests and plenty of separate interests.
To feel fine about themselves, gay people ‘keep waiting for the moment when we feel like we’re not different from other people. But the fact is, we are different. It’s about time we accept that and work with it.’ Which is why it’s so important, as a gay man, to have friendships - and all the ups and downs and long-term richness that provides, not just sexual encounters - with other gay men.
I’m very luck to have a wide circle of GLBTQ friends I met mainly through gay youth groups, friends of friends, ex boyfriends and various places where I’ve worked.
I’ll end on a short quote from the current series of A Place To Call Home which sums up how important having friends with similar interests and experiences is, especially for gay men, as the Huffington post article shows:
It is the 1950s in Australia. A group of gay men and women are having a picnic in a park in a big city and are talking about how they should get H, one of the gay guys, to move to the big city rather than being stuck in the rural community of Inverness.
Man: what’s in Inverness?
H: you, S.
Man: friends are friends wherever you are.
Man 2 :looks at his boyfriend H: And I’m here. :smiles:
H: :shrugs, looks confused:
Woman: I’m sure we could find you a job.
H: why would you?
Woman: who wants to explain?
Man: well it’s like today, bringing us here to cheer us up. Our kind has two families H, the one we’re born with and the one we collect along the way. It supports us against the hostile world.
Man 2: welcome to the family!
Woman: ain’t love grand!
Man: you’re right. We will...survive.
Love and light, Liam xxx