As a gay man, I find myself consumed by the concept of masculinity. Yet, I have only a vague idea of what defines it: strength, evenness, self-assuredness, vigor, substantial eyebrows, beer, sports, funk. I have an even more vague idea of whether or not I possess enough of it and what to do with it. To own one’s maleness is a matter of pride, but when that ownership consciously turns outward, it becomes about other people and takes on a theatrical affect. Performance is at odds with masculinity’s ease. I realize that cocky bravado runs rampant in straight guys, but even there it is inherently fraudulent.
This issue becomes even more confusing for gay men. As a gay, you understand that while you’ll always find peers who allow you to be exactly as queeny as you are, there is still a social hierarchy that puts a premium on masculinity. Tops are valued. “Straight-acting” is a badge of pride, despite the term’s corrosiveness. I’m not immune to this – my eye wanders toward men who appear to be more on the masculine side, and I don’t know why that is. Shavings of internalized homophobia that litter my brain could be the culprit. To counter, I’ve been considering adopting an affirmative-action policy toward femme guys. I tell myself, “Get into it,” like the drag queens/all of us say.
I’m learning to not be flattered when someone tells me I could pass for straight, and that’s the most confusing thing of all: for as many people who say they think I could, there are plenty of others who think that I’m flaming. I don’t even know what I’m like, but I know making sure all of my sentences don’t rise as they end is a full-time job - and it is exhausting.