Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Resist the Sissy Overlay!

I'm still talking about sissies fags and queens, specifically in response to the "I can't stand those faggy queens" mantra that remains pervasive in so many slices of the gay community. People who know me have heard much of this before, in some form, but in the worlds I sometimes circumnavigate this is a continuous battle. I wish the Mythbusters television show would take some of this on: All they ever show on tv coverage of Pride parades are the freaks: busted! There are people for whom everything is about being gay all the time: busted! Those queeny guys give all of us a bad name: busted! If only we could show the world how normal we are there would be no more anti-gay prejudice or legal barriers to equality: busted, busted, busted!

When people talk about not being able to stand those faggy queens, I try to ask what they mean by this -- what specific behavior they are referencing, and what is the harm in the behavior that is sufficient to cause such revulsion. I have had people tell me that there is a high-drama aspect to what gets called faggy behavior that can be unpleasant, or a culturally-sanctioned bitchiness that can also be unpleasant. But the people who have provided those explanations have not been gay men, and this is not at all my sense of what the men are talking about. No, obviously what I see in this is gay men who are expressing a profound and active distaste for other men who exhibit the personal mannerisms that are culturally associated with homosexuality. It doesn't take much to see what I think this is about.

The last time I talked about this, pinkfish asked why I would even tolerate such people in my life, who would express such attitudes. At a certain level of friendship, I don't, but I am not yet ready to withdraw from the gay world as I find it on the Internet and at the Eagle and in various social venues and even in some publications. The more you get out there, the more of this you see. I admit to a certain weariness after thirty-five years of hearing the same stories, of hearing the back-scratching in-group reassurance of cultural myth that people repeat to each other. But I can't provide the reassurance of agreement that such comments are intended to evoke, or even the silence that would be interpreted as agreeement.

There are any number of overlays you can use when evaluating whether you like people (or in this case whether you "can't stand" people). Why would something that comes down to manner of speech, dress, and perhaps gesture (are people really claiming it's about something else?) be the overlay to use? Why not strength of character, wit, honesty, affection, responsibility. generosity, conviviality, intelligence? I'm not saying we should ignore the sorts of things that get called faggy behavior (it's part of the panoply of humanity), but I'm saying these are not valid attributes to use in the sort of sweeping judgements people make -- or, in any case, there are countless other attributes that matter far more. Please, folks, spend a minute thinking through what bothers you and why. You will be the happier for it, I promise you.

So far I don't think I'm being particularly controversial. But I hinted the other day that what I'd like to see is for the sissy/non-sissy (or masculine/non-masculine if you will) axis to be ignored, in terms of both self- and other-evaluation. I honestly can say that I have never met anybody who didn't, in some ways in some circumstances, display attributes that could be evaluated as sissy and also display attributes that could be evaluated as non-sissy. Or use butch and non-butch. There might be times when these adjectives provide a shorthand summary of somebody's general air, probably no more or less valid than any number of other personality and behavioral descriptions. But I look at the overwhelming, looming, bigger-than-all-else, first-question significance this particular factor holds for so very many gay men and I think I've found myself in a sort of cuckoo-land of unexamined romanticization.

There are people who ask, by way of complaining about what they see as guys who are too-gay, must everything all the time be about being gay? To this I respond: Must everything, all the time, be about how masculine you have determined somebody (or yourself) to be?
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