Bruce Parker

When Good Gays Use Gender Expression as an Insult...

Filed By Bruce Parker | August 12, 2006 2:35 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex

Well, over on Advance Indiana a good post turned ugly. In AI's discussion of Rep. Woody Burton's new "In God We Trust" license plates, I was eagerly agreeing and glad that he was covering the issue until he resulted to insulting Rep. Burton based on gender stereotypes and homophobia.

Advance Indiana concludes this post with,

Anyone notice how many rings and gold bracelets Woody wears. Who's he trying to be? Liberace? Where I grew up Woody, real men don't wear a bunch of rings and bracelets. Them are for girls. But we know Woody's true passion is for women (note the plural) so we shouldn't be confused by this expression.

To insult someone by comparing them to Liberace(a known gay man) seems deeply homophobic. Rep. Burton doesn't seem to have the sense of some of the most senseless gay men in our community. Why would we give him the kudos to even insinuate that he may be gay?

Any time I hear the statement "real men" it inevitably reminds me of when I was younger and I was constantly told that "real men sleep with women" or that "real men play sports." How many people in Indiana would consider me, Gary or any other gay man "a real man"?

The issue does however go beyond homophobia when in reality we are faced with a comment not on Rep. Burton's sexuality, but instead based upon his gender expression. A gender expression that Advance Indiana seems to find unacceptable and worth poking fun at to the same degree as his religious zealotry.

I found this petty insult demeaning and demonstrative of the majority of gay men's lack of awareness around gender expression. Are we as gay men so scared to look at our own gender expressions and the ways that those expressions are related to discrimination we face, that we continue to feel it necessary to insult others based on gender inappropriateness?

However, one positive thing that can be drawn from the the excerpted statement above is the way that gender expression clearly relates to sexual orientation. We are asked (with the intention of getting a laugh, I am sure) to think of Rep. Burton's jewelry as comparable to Liberace(a noted feminine gay man). Liberace is a figure that is often used to poke fun at and demean gay men.


This is a harmful assumption. Some gay men are feminine. Some straight men are feminine. Regardless, people shouldn't be judged based on their sexualities or gender expressions. Lets find some more mature and less offensive insults.

As the INTRAA representative to Indiana Equality and often the INTRAA liason with the larger gay community, I am often shocked when good gay leaders resort to gender stereotypes or show genderphobia. I wonder if AI is acting out repressed from being made fun of for not being a "real man" when he was younger?

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Melissa Williams | August 12, 2006 10:54 AM

Well said. BTW, on your Facebook, you mentioned a Foucault reading group. Is this open for new members? Can I join? Should we invite the whole membership of Advance America as well?