Recently, Erik... a wonderfull young Youtuber who goes by the name "straightactinggayguy" was feartured on Queerty in a video discussing how difficult it is to find a date when you live in the midwest...your fresh out of the closet...and you don't have contact with other gay people. Sounds innocent enough right?...I thought so at least. What actually happened incited a comment flamefest because of what Erik's screenname implies. The interesting thing that came from all this was how important the labels we apply to ourselves, and others, can be.
The term implies a gay man with no overtly gay qualities....other than the obvious attraction to someone of their same gender. In theory, this is a person who can blend into heterosexual society and no one would realize they were gay(unless you are blessed with good gaydar....sadly, I am not). Picking up the average personal ads or going to a dating sight and thumbing through the "men for men" section will turn up the term with regularity.
Queerty readers took extreme umbrage at Eriks use of the term. But decide for yourself, watch Erics Video and Jays response to queerty's readers and ask yourself "just what was so wrong about it?"
A great many of us when we first come out, have never heard anything about gay people but the worst of stereotypes. This was true for me when I came out. I was actually shocked at how much diversity there was in the gay community. I never expected to find men that evoked as much strength and character as those that I had grown up with in my cloistered, heterosexual family life...but I did. It was an eye opener to me just how different the reality of the gay community was from the way I had preconcieved it to be. During that time of my life I would also have easily used the term "straight acting" because, to the me of that time, "gay acting" had so many negative connotations.....and most importantly...because I didn't really know what it meant to be gay in all its facets or how much gratitude I would develop over time for my own homosexuality. It was a long process of meeting gay men...dealing with my own insecurities about what it did to my manhood if I allowed myself to occasionally be a "reciever" in sex, that it does not mean that my manhood had been compromised or that I was suddenly , in anyway, become "passive". I learned to chuck out all the gender rolls that I had been raised with concerning dominance and submission within sex and relationships to see them in a new light. That was tough and it took time. When I came through that however...I was less prone to judge others because I had a bigger pool of experience to draw from.
I see this graduall development in Erik. In reaching out on Youtube...Erik is not only attemping to help others as he claims is his intent,....he is also reaching out to a larger gay community to help connect himself to a part of himself that he senses needs to be filled in. Thats something only time can do.
However, instead of helping Erik understand this about himself. Many queerty readers took offense at his use of the term. the responses ranged from overtly offensive attacks on his looks:
He looks like the McDonald's moon man.
To thought out...but nonetheless hurtfull remarks that betrayed the posters insecurities more than they helped express why Erik's use of the term is construed as hurtfull. Like these:
...He should stop using the term "straight acting." If he wants a date. We all know what it means when a gay man uses "straight acting." Translation: "I hate gays." Which is actually even more accurately translated: "I hate myself for being gay." Same translation as "I'm not like other gay guys," and "I don't fit into the gay community." Its all a product of self-loathing....
...At risk of further flogging a deceased horse, yeah, why would a proud homo site inaugurate such a service by trying to find a date for someone who subscribes to a bunch of heteronormative "Imma act straight because they're better than all those 'faggy' fags" bullshit? Whenever I meet someone who boasts about their 'straight-actingness' and whines about being single, I can't help thinking "maybe all the good gay guys are too busy acting GAY...
Come on! He lives in the midwest in a virtual gay vaccuum. Was he supposed to just know how much this term would offend by virtue of his gayness? Also, aren't all you seasoned gays, who supposedly have found acceptance of yourself, able to confer a little of that hard earned wisdom instead of tearing the poor guy down?
And why is it so bad to use that lable when so many in the gay community will willingly put themselves under one of the many labels pictured at the top of this page? Why is it o.k. to use the term "twink"...which I find offensive by the way...but not o.k. to say straight acting?
Someone fill me in because I don't see the sense in any of this. It seems to me that the real hypocracy is in not acknowledging that identity is a fluid thing and that we all willingly attach labels to ourselves at times. Like Whoopie Goldberg quoted long ago, "Its not what you call me, Its what I answer to."