Gay Men: The Straight Man’s Spirit Guide
[NOTE: This essay discusses men (maleness) and women (femaleness) as an aggregate. It goes without saying that there is an exception to just about every rule but here I am talking about the whole and not portions of it. Further, while the term ‘queer’ refers to many identities I will mostly focus on gay men as popular culture understands them. These are men that still identify fully as male and masculine performing.]
No one understands masculinity better than queer men. We are men. Were raised to be like straight men, rejected normative masculinity and reformed it to match who we were born to be. We’ve tested, broken through, and recreated its boundaries limitless times and in ways that straight men have often never considered or only imagined. Fear and disinterest immure straight men in a wall apart from queered masculinity.
As for women, masculinity is something they can only grasp academically. Some feminists would reject this, claiming that as members of a patriarchy they understand very well what masculinity is. This, however, is arrogant. Women understand masculinity about as well as a historian understands the times she speaks and writes about. The historian is a product of and connected to those times. She [the historian] is aware of the cultures, has lost relatives to the wars and has touched the ruins – but she has not lived in and through them. She is affected by it but is not in it. There’s an obvious difference.
In the psychology of all people, male and female alike, queer men exist in the twilight of gender. We are acknowledged as being male but not entirely as men. The genitals are there but where is the spirit?
Gay men specifically, occupy an interesting place in the new America where sexuality and gender differences are fast in becoming either normative or sanctioned. Because of the twilight zone we occupy, a physical male presence with a perceived feminine psychology, many straight men befriend and behave around gay men in a way they are too afraid to with either straight men or women.
In essence, we are male enough that we have access to the inner sanctum of masculine circles while being perceived female enough that our heterosexual male friends will interact with us in a way they would often avoid with their fellow straight men. There is an emotional intimacy straight men can reach with their gay male friends that is generally uncomfortable with their straight male and female counterparts.
The intimacy I am referring to is not sexual. It is an emotional intimacy, the kind we imagine between confidants. Straight men are taught to and indeed prefer to perceive one another as strong, both physically and emotionally. This stoicism perforce alters and limits the intimacy capable of being had between straight men.
Straight men are more likely to allow themselves to be vulnerable around a trusted female friend than a male equivalent because weakness is societally celebrated in women and men understand that emotional intimacy is regarded by them as a bonding tool. However, women fundamentally cannot understand the pressure of being hetero-male in a heteronormative patriarchal culture. As a result, their thoughts, commentary and advice on the matter is often alien and beside the point as far as practicality is concerned.
Gay men are thus, at this point in time, ideal confidants for straight men in a high-pressure hetero-patriarchal environment. Gay men understand the sexuality of men in general, masculinity and what is expected of it, why and when it is troublesome and how to address its conflicts in a male-centric way. Gay men offer a chance to remain masculine while being vulnerable: to discuss relationships, sex and sexuality, and all of this in a non-joking manner without compromising one’s male persona.
I have had male acquaintances seriously engage me in all manner of assistance and advice in sex, relationships, women, and anxieties after less than an hour and realizing that, because I am sexually deviant in our society but also a male, none of these topics are taboo or cause for character assassination and judgment. There is the implicit understanding that because gay men live the experience of emasculation as homosexuals in a hetero-patriarchal woman-fucking world, we are substantially less likely to condemn a questioning and deviating masculinity.
It has been noted that gay men in America are also close to straight women for the reason that they share in the perceived sexual humiliation that straight men often have of them, though gay men still stop short of being the best girlfriends because ultimately they are still men and biologically incapable of experiencing womanhood under patriarchy from birth to death.
Women, however, are in no need of such a confidant as emotional intimacy is not lacking but also because the pressures are different. Women do not suffer from the same gender expression restrictions that men do. For men it is nearly fascist in nature. The ‘tomboy’ for example, has no negative and only neutral connotations while the ‘pansy’ and ‘sissyboy’ are likely to be pulverized in an alley.
This relationship between straight and gay men is new and could dissipate if America continues to progress for the better in a way that opens gender expression. That would be a good thing. So much of this, after all, is about societal constructs of gender and its expression. But until then it is a necessary and positive option.