the problem with “straight acting” and “masc”

The following comes from an article about the movie Stonewall, but highlights one of the major problems with terms like “masc” and “straight acting”. Think about it the next time you use those terms yourself or come across them in a Grindr/Scruff/Jack’d/etc profile.

Being ‘straight-acting,’ for a gay man at least, is directly related to how convincingly he is able to present traditionally masculine mannerisms. The term is so markedly offensive because its very existence insists that there is a particular, instantly identifiable manner of being gay that is defined by effeminacy. And what’s more, those qualities are seen as patently unattractive, undesirable and wildly dangerous. Conversely, it then follows that there simultaneously exists a particular, instantly recognizable manner of being straight that is defined by ‘masculinity’. And what’s more, those qualities are seen as incredibly attractive, desirable and wholly advantageous – enough so that gay people would try to ‘act’ in that way.

And there is a long history of straights attempting to straight-ify queer people and of us trying to do it to ourselves. The performance of straightness is something that gay men have struggled with and against for as long as modern gay identities have existed. Because being gay has been so intimately connected with being effeminate, which was – and still is – equated with being submissive, weak and ineffectual. Gay men have been shamed and attacked and murdered for any display that does not reverberate with and reflect what our culture has determined is sufficiently masculine. Therefore many gay men have longed for and looked for any means by which they can throw off or at least hide the curse of even the slightest hint of effeminacy and thereby be welcomed into straight society or at least fly far enough under the radar to remain relatively unharmed.

It’s time we stop using ‘straight-acting’ as some kind of dreamy, aspirational bridge-building tactic or lure. There are all kinds of different ways to be gay and straight and everything in between or outside of that binary. And while we’re at it, how about we just stop trying to act like straight people all together and start acting like exactly who we are? And let’s get some sissies up on the big screen. And let’s get some more trans people in the spotlight. And let’s remember that our community is not comprised of only gay white cis men. Let’s tell our stories to each other and anyone else who will listen.

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