An award winning European study has found some very interesting things, including the fact that a third of “straight acting” gay men believe that feminine gay men give them a bad reputation.
The study was created by Cal Strode, senior media officer for the Mental Health Foundation, and looked at 280 gay men across the UK and California state. It also found that gay men who describe themselves as “straight acting” were 33% less likely to have directly experienced homophobia.
Out of the respondents who said that they had not experienced homophobia, 56% identified as “straight acting”, compared to 26% of those who had experienced it. As we mentioned earlier, a third (or 37%) of “straight acting” gay men are more likely to agree that “feminine gay men give gay men like me a bad reputation”.
Also, 35% of people surveyed agreed with the statement: “I identify more with the heterosexual community than with the gay community. We all strive to have a positive self-conception, we want to believe that any group we belong to is positively distinct from others. 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.”
So basically, straight acting men are more likely to identity with the heterosexual community than that of the LGBT community.
Cal Strode speculated on what this actually means for the gay men who are classed as “feminine” by other men: “Feminine gay men are caught in the crossfire of a battle that self described ‘straight acting’ gay men are having with themselves. 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.”
It’s important to also keep in mind that this type of behaviour is not unique to the LGBT community, as it is present in other minorities’ social behaviours.
LGBT History expert and Director at San Diego Pride Fernando Lopez spoke on how this type of behaviour is “common” among stigmatised groups.
He said: “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’.”
“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!”
“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.”
However, some of the blame must be laid at the feet of the media. For a long time, gay men were portrayed as that all too familiar hyper feminine stereotype, which caused this rebellious push back to that image.
Fernando said: “That’s where the whole grungy men of the 70s with beards and bushy hair etc originated. 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.”