I love gay men in all their varieties but I hate when a gay man says, “That’s why they hate us.” Whenever I hear it my blood starts to boil and the fight music from Kill Bill fills my head as I try to avoid a rage stroke. If you’re lucky enough to be unfamiliar with this phrase let me explain. It’s usually used by more masculine leaning gays to describe a gay man who is comfortable with his femininity. The ‘they’ in question refers to Republicans and religious leaders who condemn us for having what they believe is an immoral lifestyle. Even though I should ignore the phrase and write it off as internalized homophobia I can’t let it go. The term internalized homophobia is a buzz word that, like bullying, has been overused and watered down so let me take this opportunity to dig down and unpack everything that’s wrong with the phrase, “That’s why they hate us.”
First the basic logic of the phrase is flawed. Over the past few decades we as a community have done a great job at changing people’s attitudes toward us. One of the most successful ways this has happened has been through entertainment with shows like Will and Grace, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Before that it was Elton John and Liberace blazing a fabulously flamboyant trail in music. I’d argue that straight people actually like flamboyant gay men the most. Every girl wants a fabulous gay best friend that she can gossip and shop with. For example NBC hired flamboyant figure skater Johnny Weir as a commentator for the summer Olympics simply because the public loved him. Therefore the phrase would actually be more accurate if it was “That’s why they love us.” It still doesn’t change the fact that there’s a large number of people who hate gay men. When a person hates someone for being gay it’s because they’re a bigot. Plain and simple. That hate has nothing to do with clothes, lisps, or hand gestures. The problem lies within them.
Sometimes when I’ve challenged the phrase with a person they explain it by saying something akin to, “I just don’t see how anyone would find that attractive.” So fucking what?! There is a very important distinction that needs to be made. Just because you don’t want to fuck him doesn’t mean he deserves disrespect. So many gay men determine the value of another man based solely on his looks. We all know guys who are bad friends that use and mistreat people but they always seem get a second chance because they’re hot. I’ve tried pointing this out to many of my bears friends in the past but they look at me like I’ve just said the earth is a triangle. Unfortunately the concepts of value and sexual attraction are very hard to untangle but be aware that they are separate. Humanity, kindness, humor, talent, and intelligence all have nothing to do with the way a person looks.
Lastly and most importantly when a gay man says “That’s why they hate us” what he’s really saying is “That’s why I hate us.” It’s his own shame, ignorance, and yes internalized homophobia being projected onto another person. His deep seeded need to blend in and be just like everyone else creates a fear of anyone who challenges that safety. A brave and flamboyant gay man challenges every part ourself that still hides in the closet.