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Homophobia: my own

12/22/2010

Life’s a journey folks – all of it. Love, lust, laughter, learning … coming out. It’s all a journey. Although I call this blog I just got here, that’s a bit misleading. We never really arrive. There’s always more distance to travel. And I’m glad to report that recently, I’ve moved a little farther down the road on my journey outward.

This has to do with homophobia – my own. Religious bigots and right-wing politicians aren’t the only homophobes out there. Sometimes it’s us, too. We’ve been socialized to dislike ourselves, and that causes problems. I’ve written before in this blog about men referring to themselves and other gay men as girls. I felt then – and still do, but maybe a little less rigidly – that this is evidence of internalized homophobia – theirs. But really, is anything ever completely black and white?

Here’s the deal –

For my entire life, both before and after coming out, I have disliked “effeminate” men. They seemed silly, unreliable, inconsequential. And, tellingly, they made me uncomfortable. They were an embodiment of all the hostile stereotypes. They gave gay men a bad name.

Of course, what I meant by “effeminate” is, and always was, a little murky. Is an effeminate man one who acts like a woman? Well, if so, what does a woman act like? I know a couple of gals who could out-fight, out-cuss, out-bat and out lift (as in weights) most of the men I know. And besides, who says being a man necessarily involves fighting, swearing, playing baseball or lifting weights? For that matter, who says being a woman involves prancing around in impractical shoes, waving one’s hands in the air and getting into a state of high drama all the time. In fact, now that I think about it, I never liked “effeminate” women either.

These are all stereotypes. We are who we are.

And that’s the point. Being gay is about a person’s natural passions – both erotic and emotional – going toward the same gender. That’s all. So where do I, or does anyone else, get off making value judgments on behavior that isn’t “manly” – whatever the hell that means? Define manly. I dare you.

All of this is on my mind because recently, I’ve noticed a change in my reaction to certain men. Three men, to be specific.

One of them – handsome, smart and quite a bit younger than I am, but also very much in the zone I used to call effeminate – asked me out on a date. To the opera, no less, as if that weren’t a stereotype come to life! This is a guy I would have run – not walked – away from in the past, and to my surprise, I found myself not only delighted that he’d asked me out, but also aware that he was (still is) really attractive.

He and I have been out together a number of times now, we’ve always had a good time, and I’ve always been proud to have him at my side as my date. Amazing!

It happened again more recently, at a cocktail party, chatting with a small group which included both gay and straight people. Among this group was another smart, handsome, talented, younger man to whom I had never paid much attention because of his “effeminate” mannerisms. It took me completely off guard when I found myself standing there, looking at him and thinking how totally hot he was. Amazing, again!

Just last week, it hit me one more time. I was at a small dinner party which included a man I’d not met before. He fit the effeminate stereotype perfectly. After dinner, the conversation turned to butch (stereotype) vs. nelly (another stereotype), and this guy said “I’m just a great big nelly. And I’m proud to be one!” And there it is. He’s happy with who he is – and what could be more attractive than that? As a matter of fact, I began to notice that he actually is pretty cute. I hope I’ll see him again.

Those of us who have just gotten here sometimes find we’re carrying attitudes, beliefs, prejudices instilled in us by the straight world, and by trying to fit into it. Obviously it has taken me a while to shed some of mine. There are probably more to shed.

The good news is that I found my attitude about “effeminate” men changing without any conscious effort on my part. As I’ve gotten progressively more comfortable with who I am, it seems I’ve gotten more relaxed about letting others be who they are. And liking them that way.

More good news: This has opened up whole new vistas of date-able men. And, like any time I set down baggage and move on, it has lightened my load. A good thing!

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