Stop Calling Me “Straight Acting”

I was working late.  My boss was out of town on a job and I was prepping something to be ready for his return.  The only light in the room was the blue glow coming from my computer monitor and the city lights floating in from the outside.  I loved being in the office at night.  It was seven floors up and overlooked Midtown Atlanta.  The floor to ceiling windows made it seem like there wasn’t a wall at all and I imagined stepping out and soaring over the busy streets below.

Which would have been awesome if I weren’t scared of heights.

To keep myself company, I listened to streaming audio from the NPR show, This American Life.  No other radio show could have me crying tears of laughter and sadness in the same sixty minutes.  Very few radio shows could even keep me listening for sixty minutes.  The episode’s theme was “sissies” and the majority of the stories revolved around gay men.  At the end of the episode, an essay was presented by Seattle’s gay “sex advice columnist for the straights”, Dan Savage.  (Heads Up: If you go out and Google “Dan Savage”, be warned, his column isn’t for the faint of heart.  You’ve been warned…twice.)  In this particular story, which was fairly tame (having to pass through Standards and Practices), Savage expressed his hatred of the term “straight acting”.  Straight acting means what you think it would mean: it describes gay men who are masculine enough to pass as straight.  In the essay, Savage talks about how the alternative newspaper he worked for banned the term from their personals ads.  The idea was that gay guys shouldn’t try to pass as straight, but should be proud of their homosexuality, swishiness and all.

I found myself growing annoyed as I listened to the Savage speak.  By the time he was done, I was downright frustrated.  I agreed with him that men shouldn’t fear and demonize any effeminate traits that they had.  He said that he thought that swishier men who go through life “as is” were braver than those who could pass for straight.  I agreed with that as well.  What irked me, however, was the entire implication that if a gay man is more masculine, he was “straight” acting.

There are days that I don’t feel very gay at all and it has nothing to do with attraction.  It has to do with the general stereotype out there (held by many of the straights and the gays) that the more effeminate you are, the “gayer” you are.  I’m offended that, just because I don’t care that Wicked is in town, I’m “straight” acting.  I know plenty of straight guys that were excited to go see the show and I know there were tons of gay men that were in line, as well.  My point is, straight men don’t have a monopoly on masculinity and all the sissies aren’t gay.

There seems to be differing reasons for this attitude among the gays and the straights.  Among straight people, the attitude seems to stem from the erroneous idea that homosexuality=“gender confusion”.  They seem to think that for a man to be sexually and emotionally attracted to another man, he must identify with femininity and, on some level, think he is a woman.  After all, how could a masculine man look at another man and be attracted to him?  Femininity is attracted to masculinity, and vice versa, right?  Well, not always.  I’m not saying that I am the most masculine guy out there (I’m more nerd than jock), but I am a man, I don’t identify with femininity, I don’t think I am a woman and I still think that Adam Brody is hot.  That’s the whole reason behind the term “orientation”.  All those emotions and desires that straight men have towards women exist in gay men, you just take the woman out of the picture and you put another man there.  I think it was my relatively masculine demeanor that seemed to make it hard for a couple of my bishops to believe that I was full-blown gay.  (Trust me, I am.)

Among the gay community, while one may seek out a straight acting boyfriend, one often takes pride in his own swishiness.  It is badge of gay honor: a sort of gay “street cred”, if you will.  Those that could pass as straight are sometimes seen as selling out their own people in an effort to make their own lives easier.  There have been times when in the presence of other gay men that I have felt self-conscious and that I didn’t really fit in because I wasn’t effeminate enough.  I eventually had to tell myself, “No, there is no reason for you to have to change how you act.  The point of accepting your sexuality is accepting who you are – not trying to change yourself into someone that you aren’t.”  My wrist doesn’t hang limp and I am fine with that.

So, to the gays, the straights, and Dan Savage, please stop trying to make me something that I am not.  I am not “straight acting”.  I am gay, which means that my hatred of musicals, distaste for shopping, refusal to use the word “fabulous”, lisp-less voice, stiff wrist, and general shortage of swish make me incredibly “gay acting”.

Holy crap, IMDB has Adam Brody rumored to be The Flash in the new Justice League movie.  Awesome.

8 thoughts on “Stop Calling Me “Straight Acting”

  1. Max Power

    Sigh. I love Adam Brody. Can’t wait to see him in spandex. :P

    Good comments on the term straight acting. I have many masculine traits that would seem to make me a gay poser (I love cars, video games and kickboxing). It’s not me trying to act straight, it’s just me trying to act like me. Those are things I find enjoyable. Although, I do love Wicked and fruit-flavored beverages.

  2. adamf

    Sometimes I wonder if I am “gay acting.” :) Two of my favorite movies are Moulin Rouge and Mamma Mia! (I love musicals), as a general rule I’m from Venus and my wife is from Mars when it comes to conflict and avoidance, and I cry at movies and love having close male friendships.

    I love the blog btw. Very entertaining. Isn’t it great we all get to be who we want to be.

  3. Heather

    yeah… still bugged about what my mom said last night. I meant to tell you this too in our discussion we had about this last night that to me it seems like you don’t have to be that way because you are secure with your decision and you’re not trying to prove to anyone who you are. you are just you… the way God made you.

  4. Troy


    I’ve always hated the term “straight-acting” myself. To me, it implies a certain internalized homophobia when men apply it to themselves. It says, “I’m so masculine that you’d never know I’m gay.” Or, in other words, “I’m not an effeminate queen.” Personally, I don’t like how a lot of straight men act, so I’d never define myself in those terms.

    I much prefer the term “butch (to me a sexualized term)” or simply “masculine”. Over the years, I’ve grown more comfortable with effeminacy because I realize that these guys are every bit the man I am.

    Dan Savage is an entertaining writer. But he’s also kind of old-school. There was a movement against “straight-acting” back in the eighties and nineties. I see the term still pop up on occasion, but usually it’s from someone stuck in the process of coming out (I believe another sign of being stuck is the plethora of gay men calling themselves bisexual, even though they’ve never been with a woman – but that’s another post). Most well-adjusted gay men have just accepted themselves as they are.


  5. Clint Post author

    @Max Power & @adamf – Hmmm…forgot about Moulin Rouge. Way to bring down my entire argument! :-)

    @Heather – Yeah, I know it can be frustrating. Sometimes these things take a lot of time (of which, I’m sure you are more aware than I am).

    @Troy – Good point. Yeah, the gays these days seem to be less hung up on the butch/femme spectrum than they used to, but it is still there in some degree. I agree that the more well adjusted guy don’t really bother with it. Straight people, however seem as concerned with it as they always have.

  6. Alan

    I’m with you on this one, Clint. I don’t match The Stereotype and find much of it distasteful. I wish both ends of the spectrum would be less hung up on images and patterns and really accept that life is a mosaic with innumerable variations. I am definitely not gender-confused.

    And now, having burned a bit of cedar incense to freshen the house, I’m going out back to kill a chicken for dinner before Ultimate Fight Club comes on.

  7. Clint Post author

    @Alan – I’m not criticizing those guys who enjoy musical theater and have an emotional connection to Judy Garland, I’m simply saying that because I have different interests I’m not more “straight”.

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