Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Open Forum: "Straight Acting"

We have all done it, know someone who does it, or have varying understandings of what the term means. "Straight Acting" is when a Queer person is not exhibiting any mannerisms that appear to fit an LGBTQ stereotype. For example a gay man who tries to fit in by avoiding seeming effeminate, or a lesbian who tries to avoid seeming overtly masculine.

"Straight Acting" is a controversial and deeply divisive topic, especially among gay/bisexual men where femininity is seen as weakness. Society divides us into gender roles and any variation from it is seen as taboo. This goes back to our earlier discussion on Gay Assimilationists versus Queer Liberationists. Some may see trying to fit in as a good thing, while others may see this as a false attempt to deny ones true identity. Others may feel it is essential for safety and security purposes to cover up their identity.

In his newly released book "Straight Acting" by Angelo Pezzote he says:

"In the struggle to come out, we can experience two conflicting drives - the important need to belong, and the equally important need to be our true selves. We may get caught up in the catch-22 of conforming to belong, while being our authentic selves. We may be out, but we may also elect to conform, at times diminishing the signals that we're gay - to play it more mainstream".

People use the term "Straight Acting" in an effort to differentiate themselves from the broader gay community and culture, they identify themselves as same-sex attracted but otherwise just regular ordinary citizens.

Others are deeply offended by this terminology because it conveys that a so called gay stereotype exists and that perhaps flamboyancy, gender-variation, or gay culture are somehow inherently wrong.
Mr. Pezzote discusses how he believes that this term is representative of Gay Shame.
"In such an inhospitable climate, many gays themselves ingest that being gay is not a good thing. If I feed a plant poisoned water, it can't help but absorb some of the poison. We, too, take in toxic ideas about being gay from our polluted cultural environment. The way we see ourselves is part a reflection of how we think others see us".

Further, not all heterosexuals are the same which begs to question what "Straight Acting" really is.

What do you think about "Straight Acting" is this good or bad for the community, are you indifferent? Or, perhaps are you a "Straight" actor yourself?

18 comments:

CrackerLilo said...

I've had people say they don't believe I like girls because...a lot of stupid things that should be irrelevant. I have long hair and wear skirts. I'm crazy about perfume. I wear turquoise and pink. I love NASCAR and country music. I love cute animals. It's really ridiculous!!!!

When I came out as bi at 17-19 years old (it was sort of a slow rollout process), I thought all I had to like were other women. Boy, was I wrong. I figured, though, that I had already come out of one closet, and that I had a girl who liked me as I am already, so I didn't need to go into another closet by butching up.

That said, the longer I'm in the community, the more beauty I see in gender non-conformity, and the more I want others to appreciate it, too.

CrackerLilo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It seems bizarre to me to force anyone into being who they're not: I know gay, bi, and straight men who are flamboyant and "effeminate" (how I loathe that term); I know straight and gay and bi guys who are not. I know men of varying orientations and gender identities who wear make-up and nail polish while exuding masculinity in the accepted sense. I know gay and bi and straight women who are utter fashion victims, and others who are assumed to be queer because they're not. It's ludicrous to have to force your way out of one closet into another. If "straight acting" is a defence mechanism, a camouflage, or a status symbol, that's screwed up; but if "straight acting" is just shorthand for not camp, not a scene queen, just a very ordinary person, and it describes who you are, to be castigated as not queer enough is an insult. We're supposed to be about diversity, not about being diverse insofar as it fits in with narrow concepts of what is acceptable.

Anonymous said...

It seems bizarre to me to force anyone into being who they're not: I know gay, bi, and straight men who are flamboyant and "effeminate" (how I loathe that term); I know straight and gay and bi guys who are not. I know men of varying orientations and gender identities who wear make-up and nail polish while exuding masculinity in the accepted sense. I know gay and bi and straight women who are utter fashion victims, and others who are assumed to be queer because they're not. It's ludicrous to have to force your way out of one closet into another. If "straight acting" is a defence mechanism, a camouflage, or a status symbol, that's screwed up; but if "straight acting" is just shorthand for not camp, not a scene queen, just a very ordinary person, and it describes who you are, to be castigated as not queer enough is an insult. We're supposed to be about diversity, not about being diverse insofar as it fits in with narrow concepts of what is acceptable.

Judith said...

Respectfully, I think the concept is somewhat stupid and outdated. Yes, okay, someone who is naturally very effiminate/masculine and consciously tries to avoid that might fit within this term, but I think for the most part it's just stereotyping what it is to be gay and then saying if you don't fit the label, you're "acting."

Personally, I don't think people know I'm gay right off the bat. I dress a bit masculine, but not at all in a butch way - I wear suits, but so do a lot of women. I'm certainly not acting in any way, though. If someone asks about my sexuality, I'll tell them. I act like me, and me is a lesbian, and if that doesn't fit someone's narrow definition of "lesbian," then that's their problem, not mine.

Scott said...

What's funny is there's a lot of self-described "straight acting" gay men out there who believes wearing an Abercrombie cap will make them look hetero when they start flaming out.

What's worse, is "straight acting" is just that - an act. Nothing is more amusing than watching a queen stumble and look awkward, while trying to "act straight", and inserting "dude" randomly, after every few words.

Wonder Man said...

It's bad, because it reinforces that "gayness" is wrong or too much

Miss Vicki said...

oh wow i didn't know i was straight acting 'cause im a lesbian that is very feminine - i'll remember that when i go buy these super hot fabulously pink sandals at TJ Maxx this weekend..lol

Grace C. said...

[Crossposted from afterellen]

Sure, we know what it means, but if you take a step back, it's completely absurd. Sexual orientation is different from gender expression. Always has been. Always will be. Unfortunately, society (and even queers themselves) confuse the two. I fail to see how two feminine women wearing heels walking down the street holding hands is "straight acting." In fact, that's pretty gay!

Queers complain that society tries to push them into boxes into which they do not fit. We shouldn't do the same thing to fellow queers by imposing our own standards. When I was in college in the 90s, lesbians were pressured to cut their hair short and subscribe to radical politics to fit in. It was incredibly alienating, and I found that I had very little in common with them. If I had cut my hair short and pretended that I was a radical, I would have been a phony. In fact, I was comfortable in high heel boots and was a borderline conservative. (Now, now. Since then, I've become more liberal. This year, I finally gave up my independent status and registered as a Democrat, so don't jump on me! LOL!)

We should celebrate the diversity that is in the queer community and throw silly little terms like "straight acting" out the window.

healer said...

I would be a Liberationist vs an Assimilationist eventhough people usually don't peg me as queer.
To me things are upside down! the straight community should be more like us not the other way around! they would benefit to loosen their ironclad grip on gender identity. straight men could have more compassion and straight women need to be more assertive.. We are the evolutionist, the brighter future of gender!!

Queers United said...

I think if someone is masculine or feminine they shouldn't try to change who they are but to say they are "straight acting" seems silly to me. What is straight acting? I know many straight people who are fem/masc and it doesn't match what society says their gender role should be.

Anonymous said...

yes everyone of every orientation has their own diverse traits, but you do have to 'act straight' if you find yourself in super strong anti-gay communities or group of people, and I do understand a gay man/woman who doesn't want to allow themselves to be vulnerable to discrimination because for whatever reason they don't want to deal - Because some people are recognizably gay..it's sad that people WILL find themselves in points of their life if they're not ready to be strong and out that they will avoid appearing gay. Many times when I'm around people who haven't been around gay people before (closed-minded) where I purposely make sure I act in a way that will assure them I am just like any other girl, which is sad, and isn't my job, but i am guilty of that.

Chuckie said...

The 'acting' in straight acting means behavior, not dramatization, in my opinion. A 'straight-acting' gay person is one who can pass for straight. That can be very helpful for someone who, for example, teaches in a conservative community. Another fact is that most gay men are attracted to gay men who can pass for straight. Is that self-hating? I think not.

CubPaws said...

The effect a word or phrase has on you can be defined, at least in part, by how you construe the phrase -- what you personally take it to mean.

Personally, I view the term "straight-acting" as little more than an adjective unless the context or other surrounding statements suggest it's being used judgmentally. In other words, convenient social shorthand for when people ask you to describe yourself, but don't want your whole life story.

Now, if something in the broader context does suggest it's being used judgmentally in a particular instance (and yes, it sometimes is)... then that should get us angry. Say, if it's being used in a way that looks down on someone who isn't (or is!), or when a "straight-acting" gay man refuses to forge friendships with more effeminate gay men because of What Other People Would Think... sad as it sounds, I've actually seen this before. But absent this kind of specific evidence, I think we should just take the term to mean what it says on the surface.

Basically, in my view, queer rights are a subset of individual rights... the right to be whoever you really are in sexual orientation, in gender expression, in personal behaviors and mannerisms, you name it. If these "match up" with each other in a way that society traditionally expects, fine, and if they don't, that's fine too... so long as you, the individual, are being true to yourself. (As a gay man who might fairly be described as straight-acting, I can assure you I'm not "trying to fit in" in ANY way, shape, or form... just being who I am).

Anonymous said...

When I initially hear this term I react to it with abhorance. Yet I know that I need to break the hate cycle thru my own behaviors and ignorance and I cant say with 100% certainty that someone who "claims" this label is wrong for doing so. What I can say is that in my 44 years as a queer man, I greatly missed the loving and glorious affirmations of positve queeritude in my youth. Who can forget the very basic discomfort of a childhood filled with the insensitive questions: "do you have a girlfriend yet?" " oh, don't you think she's pretty?" because sadly thats what a Straight Acting culture perpetuates again and again through out our development. As a teenager in the seventies I remember the joy of "genderfuck" because I didn't have to believe the lies that all queers were effiminate(as if that were a bad thing!) I remember when my liberation from disdain of drag queens came,and how happy I was to let go of fear and hate that I knew felt wrong in my heart. When will humans evolve past this? I imagine really smart "intellectuals" thinking "what a dope!" But I continue to pray for the day when someone will say to alittle boy Hey " do you want a girlfriend or a boyfriend or any damn friend at all, cause you can like whoever the fuck you like without any judgement or preconceptual crap from anyone ever again!!!"

Anonymous said...

This term has actually bothered me a lot recently. Time and time again, I will come across guys who are only attracted to 'straight acting' guys. I still don't know what that means. When gay men say this, what are the defining terms to them?

I love the outdoors. I love hiking and even camping in the woods without a tent. I have a very feminine voice, but I don't have a 'lisp.' I am a Wildland Firefighter on a Type 2 crew and will typically have long hair, simply because I can't be bothered with trying to keep it neat in my rough and tough lifestyle. I can get emotional, of course, and am afraid of spiders, but only if I encounter them indoors. I want to be a first responder and relief worker for natural disasters, because I'm passionate about it. So am I straight acting or not?

If I'm not, then I'll assume it's because my hair is long and my voice is high. If I am, then that's stupid. I'm a gay man and I did all of those things. If it's a feminine thing, then that's also stupid. I did all of those things with women and men. The women weren't 'half-participants' in what happened. They did the same things, put out the same effort, and at times even suffered more than the men without complaint. Err, by suffered more, I meant that two of them were on their period when we were in the woods for 14 days fighting a fire. I just imagine that has to suck majorly, especially with the 'carry in, carry out' ideology.

I can understand that there are a good amount of gay men who are attracted to masculine qualities, because we all have our own preferences. What I can't stand is this vague, blanket term that gives off this very derogatory vibe.

Also, the only lesbian or bisexual woman that I've ever met who has 'butched it up' is gender queer and is just being herself. On that same note, I never met a gay or bisexual man that I believed was falsely 'butching it up.' Ah well, now I'm just serving to royally confuse myself.

WarmestRain athotmail dotcom

Reclaiming Natural Manhood said...

The entire concept of 'sexual orientation' is a Western conspiracy against men, and especially man to man (sexual) bonding which is now restricted to members of third gender (gay).

The feminine gendered males who like men, fight for imposing the third sex 'gay' identity on all man to man sexuality, but the entire non-western world still lives in the natural way, as it should be... without any division on the basis of sexual orientation, but division on the basis of 'gender'.

Gender is not only 'gener roles' as defined by various societies. There is also a natural gender which drives people to choose from the social gender roles available. People who choose the 'gay' identity are males who are queers, that if feminine to various degrees, some less, some more... the straight acting are less feminine.

The masculine men who like men (which is practically the entire straight population) doesn't take the gay identity at all, even if it means fighting with their same-sex needs, and this amounts to their oppression.

You are obviously viewing everything from your narrow, gay ghetto, with tainted glasses. Like the proverbial frog who thinks its well is the entire world.

http://youth-masculinity.blogspot.com

Reclaiming Natural Manhood said...

Oh... just a correction... there are some masculine guys who own up their attraction for men and take up the 'gay' identity, but then they are misled by Western propaganda... and they are always, always uncomfortable with the gay identity and space. They just can't place their discomfort, in a society which doesn't acknowledge 'gender' difference within male bodied persons as real.

Btw, the term straight acting actually means someone who acts masculine... and rightly so, because 'straight' is a word that is imposed on mainstream, masculine men by the 'gays' (the third sex) themselves... and they have defined it as 'heterosexual'. (The Western society deliberately confuses heterosexuality with 'masculinity' and man to man sexuality as 'femininity', as part of its conspiracy against men.) But Straight actually means mainstream, masculine guy. And masculinity is real and biological, not just a matter of adopting certain arbitrarily determined gender roles.

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