Andrew Belonsky

Why Aren't a "Man Gay?"

Filed By Andrew Belonsky | June 15, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Rent, Sports, Stereotypes

Being gay and male comes with more than its fair share of stereotypes: we're all fashionable, have seen Rent a million, billion times, and none of us, not one single homo, likes sports. pinkman-1.jpgBut we do like ballet; we're fabulous decorators and know how to throw a party.

That's what "gay" means to some people, and it makes me wonder why "gay" always comes before "man." Why aren't I a "man gay"? Or just a "man." For that matter, why are we gay or trans anything? Why can't we just be, man?

The Rent reference comes from an interaction I had a few months ago. It goes something like this: an anonymous girl who works for a very rightwing politico suggested that sex is more "dangerous" for women than for gay men. A friend of mine and I agreed that pregnancy can get quite cumbersome, but pointed out that there's a thing called AIDS, which, despite nearly a generation of education, continues to be at risk for infection. And a complete other generation was very nearly wiped out. The woman replied, "Oh, I know about AIDS. I've seen Rent." I let the comment slide for the night.

The next day, when the haze of drink had subsided, I made light-hearted reference to her Rent comment. She took this as an entry to discuss the musical, "Oh, don't you love that part," etcetera. I told her I hadn't seen it: I was familiar with the story and some of the music, thanks to girl friends, but musical theater was never my thing. She looked dumbfounded.

Although this is a funny anecdote, I bring it up not to make fun. It was just one of many experiences in which my "gayness" has been rammed down my throat, just as, reader, your queerness or queer-friendly ways might have been used to put you into a box. And it's not always as amusing as my little story.

Humans are rational, reasonable people. We need to break life, liberty and everything else down into easily intelligible categories. This I understand. When thrust upon people, however, these labels aren't always purely descriptive. They can be quite derisive.

Gay people certainly aren't the only ones who face a prefix to their humanity: there are black women, Asian men and Arab families. Forgive the extreme analysis, but do you think that "white man" would exist if it weren't to elevate themselves above those they dominated. I admit that social labels can come in handy when trying to point someone out in a crowd, depending on the crowd. And some of us should be happy to be given "manhood" or "womanhood" at all, because there are so many other choice words that could be hurled in our direction.

That said, I suppose I'll have to retire my brief spurt of idealism and accept the fact that people assume "gay" means anything other than that I have sex with men. Heck, if that's what it takes to "normalize" gay, I'm proud to face stereotypes head on. But, for the record, I do throw a great party. I don't give a hoot about sports scores so much, although I do watch the sweaty players and lap up all their tabloid, soap opera antics. So what does that mean?

Image via davidmmcneil's Flickr.

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not to diminish anything you're saying or anything...

but i think the reason why gay comes before man is because it's an adjective. #grammar

but in all seriousness - I'm kind of sick of this anti-stereotype rhetoric that we get in the gay media. "I might be gay, but I'm totally manly, you can hardly even tell. See? I like throwing a football just like ALL MEN DO." I thought the whole point of this thing called the queer movement was to move away from a normalized identity. Isn't that what we're fighitng for. That you can be a man who liked ballet as much as another guy likes basketball and none of it matters because all these gender-associated interests are basically baloney. I just think it's odd that we've regressed as a community to the point where a femme man is now the one having to justify himself to the community for "setting us back." The whole thing reeks of internalized homophobia.

Andrew Belonsky | June 15, 2010 11:22 AM

Thanks, Jason! I totally understand what you mean about this "internalized homophobia." In fact, I feared getting comments about such a thing. While I agree that queers should help move "mainstream" attitudes toward a less gendered arena, that doesn't make the stereotypes any less tiresome. In no way am I a "straight-acting" gay man (or man gay). This was just a little exercise to address the ways in which LGBT folk have to constantly explain ourselves to combat wider social assumptions.

It's internalized homophobia to fight against stereotypes? What the fuck is wrong with you? He's not saying that you should avoid things that are stereotypically gay, just that he's sick of having people assume he matches the stereotype.

Rick Sours | June 15, 2010 1:44 PM

Am going to approach your posting from a very different angle. I am a man (male) who, among alot of other characteristics, happens to be Gay. I am just myself.

Having been out since 1972, I have observed/experienced the LGBT community from many different perspectives. Sadly members of the LBGT community, particularly men who are Gay, have been stereotyped. For each person who is under one part of the L,B,G,T, each is a very unique individual with a variety of interests, goals and objectives.

I've seen "male homosexual" before, which is the same order but different words than what you're describing.

Yeah people assume stuff about gay men. I remember when I lived in Arizona several women I went to school with all assumed I was their little pet (not all women there, but a certain group). One even said that I was denied my fashion sense which was my birthright (she wasn't much of a dresser either). I was glad to get out of that later.

A. J. Lopp | June 15, 2010 4:12 PM

I agree with Jason, above --- it's mostly just a matter of grammar. The words gay and male are commonly used both as nouns and adjectives. the word man is almost always a noun --- unless we are discusiing something a bit slang such as man-boobies.

So you can be a "gay man", a "gay male" or even a "male gay" ... but "man gay" ... well, it maybe communicates but it does not compute.

Putting "man" before "gay" gives the impression that "gay" is a more important identifier to you than "man". It turns "man" into an adjective, which is modifying the noun "gay". So basically remember that there is already an adjective in this case: masculine or manly. So maybe you should think of identifying as a "manly gay man". This way you retain your gender-sex identifier "man", your sexual orientation modifier "gay", and add a gender expression modifier "manly".

So you feared internal homophobia comments and instead got a grammar lesson. Our readers are unpredictable.

How do they work, magnets? Words in order, for a reason are. Understand this "man gay," Yoda only can.