Monday, October 22, 2007

Dude, I'm Not Gay!

In my book, 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Find Real Love I talk about how men distance themselves from homosexuality.

From chapter 2:

Being raised male in the heterosexist culture means avoiding and distancing
yourself from being viewed as gay in any way. Gay is synonymous with
This is inherent sexism, as if being associated with anything
female would
denigrate you. In our culture, being male is a privileged
status, and anything
else is viewed as inferior. A number of times I’ve had
a straight man notice my
wedding ring and ask if I’m married. I’ll say,
“Yes,” because I am. When he asks
my wife’s name, I pleasantly correct him
and tell him that I’m married to a man
whose name is Mike.
Often, the
guy steps back and immediately exclaims,
“Dude, I’m not gay!” He may then
proceed to ask, “Why did you choose to tell me
you’re gay?” as if I had a
sexual motive, or tell me he was “grossed out” by the
idea. Now, I never
implied that he was gay by telling him I was, nor did I have
any ulterior
motive. I was simply correcting him, just as when people wish me a
Christmas. I nicely tell them I am Jewish; whereupon they usually respond
politely by saying, “Oh, sorry! Happy Hanukah!” I’ve never seen anyone back
away, exclaiming, “Dude, I’m not Jewish. Now all I can do is imagine you in
yarmulke in synagogue and I’m grossed out. You’re trying to convert me?”

In her book, Dude, I'm Not Gay, author C.J. Pascoe writes about how the word, fag, is used to degrade teenage boys in her study on teenagers. She writes:

During my year and a half of research at River High, I found that these
comments, when coming from and directed at boys, often have as much to do with
shoring up definitions of masculinity as they do with reinforcing notions of
“normal” heterosexuality.
In her article in the American Sexuality Magazine she writes:

To sissies and straight boys who don’t play football, ‘Dude, you’re a fag’
How homophobia operates in high school

“I’m talking like sixth grade, I started being called a fag. Fifth
grade I was called a fag. Third grade I was called a fag,” seventeen-year-old
*Ricky recounted as we sat at a plastic picnic table outside of a fast food
restaurant in California’s Sacramento delta region. Though he experienced this
type of harassment throughout elementary and junior high school, Ricky said that
the threats intensified as he entered *River High School.
At “all the schools
the verbal part . . . the slang, ‘the fag,’ the ‘fuckin’ freak,’ ‘fucking fag,’
all that stuff is all the same. But this is the only school that throws water
bottles, throws rocks, and throws food.” Harassment like this hounded him out of
his school’s homecoming football game. “Two guys started walking up to get
tickets said, ‘There’s that fucking fag.’” During the game boys threw balloons
and bottles at Ricky along with comments like, “What the fuck is that fag doing
here? That fag has no right to be here.”
While this singular event stands out
as particularly hate filled, Ricky’s story also illustrates the larger problems
of homophobia and gender-based teasing in high school. Homophobic taunting is
especially intense during adolescence, a time when sexuality and romance are at
the fore of social life. For boys, and not just those who are branded as gay,
walking through a hallway is like running a gauntlet of homophobic insults as
their male classmates imitate effeminate men and hurl homophobic slurs. My book examines this
ubiquitous homophobia. During my year and a half of research at River High, I
found that these comments, when coming from and directed at boys, often have as
much to do with shoring up definitions of masculinity as they do with
reinforcing notions of “normal” heterosexuality.

This is particularly true of
the slur “fag.” While the term “gay” is frequently used as a synonym for stupid,
it lacks the gender loaded skew of the term “fag.” Oftentimes when boys call
someone a “fag” they simultaneously imitate effeminate men (in other words,
behavior they consider to be “fag-like”). Their homophobic comments, jokes, and
interactions, in a sense, serve to punish others into behaving in
stereotypically masculine ways. Though homophobia is usually thought of as fear
of same sex attraction, in high school, boys’ homophobia is also about policing
gendered norms.

At River High I saw and heard boys imitate effeminate
behavior and hurl the word “fag” so frequently at one another that I came to
call it a “fag discourse.” Invoking this epithet and joking about “fags” were
not just random incidents, but systemic and well accepted ways for teenage boys
to communicate. Boys talked about others they considered to be “fags,” made
jokes about unmasculine mannerisms, imitated those mannerisms, and used the term
to insult one another both jokingly and seriously. They lisped, pretended to
lust after men, and drew laughs from primarily male onlookers. They frantically
lobbed the epithet at one another, in a sort of compulsive name calling ritual.
Because the “fag” slur is and isn’t about sexual desire, both self-identified
gay boys and heterosexual boys were subject to the label for failing at
stereotypically masculine tasks or revealing, in any way, weakness or

To buy the book

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