At a recent costume party, my friend Jason remarked that gay men seem to have lost their ability to have fun. He was wearing a dress nicked from the Strictly Come Dancing tour bus and hooker platforms. He had a ball with it – a little bit Kensington, a little bit wrong side of the river. By the end of the night he had chipped (or lost) every one of his fake blue nails, and went home having had the most fun he could without being naked.
Growing up in a small farming town in South Africa, my early social life consisted of the typical activities you may expect of such a place: house parties, the local pub/bar (with space for dancing), drunken nights on someone’s ranch, someone’s bush camp. Rough and tough, I say, but resultantly I can make a solid fire and drink brandy and coke, the No.1 South African man beverage. This summer, I had a stint working as the packing manager of a grapefarm, to the surprise of everyone who knows the inside of my wardrobe. I apprehended this flexibility from my mother who taught me that no man, woman or in-between should ever be helpless. My father is from here, my mother isn’t. A month after marrying him and moving to the bush, she demanded that my father teach her how to drive a tractor, and proceeded to scrape the roads of my grandfather’s farm. Damsel is not her style.
After school, I left for university in the city. I love my roots, but a boy has needs. Oh, the freedom of bright lights! Being whoever you want to be, doing whatever you want to do! Well, kind of…The dream hiccupped one night at the club when a guy snarkly asked one of my friends what happened to all his friends being straight-acting and goodlooking? Mr Snarky’s outfit and hair wanted to convince that he was a dude, a Joe, someone with a football at home. However, none of it could mask his falsetto or distract one from the fact that everything was a size too small too accentuate the goods. I understood his goal. The point, unfortunately, evaded me.
It influences all aspects of our lives, from the way we identify, the careers we deem appropriate, to the way we dress, talk and engage sexually. Difference arises because people do not internalise these sets uniformly. Gay men are quick to say that their homosexuality is not their defining characteristic, etc, etc. The axioms are endless. However, it would be naïve to think that we are “just like straight men”.
The modern gay man is not necessarily a hair dresser or a fashionista. He may be a lawyer or a lumberjack. He watches rugby, cheering the tries and not the thighs. A tremendously positive development. However, I don’t think our current situation is all it’s cracked up to be. Fighting desperately to dispel the old stereotypes, gay men have very successfully replaced it with our very own Beauty Myth. You may recall the Beauty Myth as that clever story insidiously concocted to convince women to calm the fuck down about equality and buy more make-up lest they wanted to end up virgin spinsters. In the original, strong virile men battle for beautiful fertile women. Now strong virile men battle for straight-acting virile men. Seriously? Fuck off.
I find gay men’s assertions about their masculinity mind-numbingly boring. Vapid musings about “still being a man” and “being men together” in a relationship. I’m not saying you should burn your briefs. Rather, I’m asking why you’re afraid of a bra? Many gay men seem to be as challenged by a guy in heels as the jocks that teased them at school. I think this can be attributed to two factors. The first is the adherence to an absolute binary gender system. Men are men, and basta. Pretty much as backward as homophobia, I’d say. The second, stems from the Beauty Myth, a perception that we have to look straight (or as straight as possible, god bless us) to be sexually desirable.
I have a friend who mostly frequents straight pubs with his straight friends because he likes the kind of rock and country tunes you’re sure to enjoy there. A rugged guy, he is rarely seen without his weatherbeaten Stetson and khakis. Even his name, Jan (equivalent to John), is the epitome of a regular South African man’s man. But Jan is not without campness, and he applies no effort to suppress it. A photo in my possession shows Jan in shiny white jeans, pouting like a bitch. Jan just goes with the flow, his flow.
An is an even more striking example. He’s a Thai guy with a full beard, chest hair and long lacquered nails. He taught me how to explore my gender and werque it. Dresses, trainers, pearls, baggy jeans, plain white t’s, toned biceps and affectations of ladyness. He has distilled a beauty, a confidence and a swagger that draws men like honeybees. An is one sexy motherfucker and by no means does he settle for scraps because he’s different.
Many of us are in desperate pursuit of straight gay men. It’s a delusion that the two parties can barely maintain long enough to get it up, get it in and get out of there. I accept that being me, without compromise or filter, makes me less attractive to some guys. The advantage, however, is that the guy who can’t resist me, can’t resist me; not the pornstar or rom-com character I’m channeling.
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