The Gay’s Gaze

Yesterday I was on a train, minding my own business when a gaggle of girls got on.

You know what they’re like, super generic, college aged girls, loud, obnoxious, blah.  Kinda like these girls:

I severely read one of them.  I updated my Facebook profile about this, and here’s what I wrote:

On the train, a gaggle of college girl clones walk in, all average looking, but ugly from being generic, all skinny the way girls that age are.
one sits next to me, tugging her skirt as she sits and proceeds to yell at her friend across the train.
I tap her on the shoulder and say
“Umm, hi, one fat gir…l to another…” followed by fierce side eye.
Peace and quiet till my stop.

I did start to think though about my gut response of being totally repulsed by the generic-ness of these girls (I’d say women, but I don’t think they would).

There’s nothing actually wrong with what these girls were wearing, but I’ve said it many places before: Tasteful is not the same as Good Taste.  And in the US at least, “tasteful” is easy to buy and there appears to be a cultural rejection of good taste, because we’re all equal.  So nobody has bad taste if they buy tasteful things, nobody has good taste from being bred around the upper class, because of course, there isn’t an upper class.  You know how it goes.

But then I was thinking more about why “generic” is so gross to me.  And it got me thinking about the gays.  I think about the gays a lot.  I also get horny a lot.  There might be a connection here.  But I was thinking about how the gays can be so generic sometimes.  In some bars, my people can look so alike.  Here’s an example of the look on a famous couple of gays:

image from

And when you cruise online, an even greater sea of generic, people describing themselves as “straight acting”, and “normal”.

Recently, an article appeared in The Guardian about this very issue, titled The End of Gay Men Being Camp:

“It’s not just the look. He’s also very camp. Very camp indeed. Indulge your most extreme stereotype of the effeminate gay man, and you won’t be far off.

It occurs to me, suddenly, that there seem to be fewer of these very feminine types around these days. Most of the gay men I know or see around me aren’t camp at all: you wouldn’t pick them out as gay at work, in the supermarket, or even at the hairdressers. A small city like mine, where the gay scene amounts to one bar and a men-only ballroom dancing class, is perhaps not the place for flamboyancy to flourish. But this is fairly typical middle England, the sort of place where millions live, and it has become pretty much a camp-free zone.”

Oh my god!  It’s an international problem!  Of course if you title an article like that my ears perk up because I like being a minority and oppressed, I say it when I cross the street a lot.  “Don’t hit me, it’s a hate crime twice over! I hear you call me a chink and a fag!”  And now I’m an endangered species too!  I thought I was just an exotic Asian flower.

But then when I look at the generic gays in the bar, I don’t think they look particularly masculine.

And then when I think about it deeper (I know, I know…) I think the conversation that’s been happening among the gays about the politics of “straight acting” being a poor euphemism for “masculine” is all wrong.

I don’t think Straight-acting is another term for masculine.  The opposite of straight-acting is not feminine, it’s camp.

Think about it.  Would you call a leather daddy “Straight acting”?

But a leather daddy is certainly campy.  As Susan Sontag might say, he isn’t masculine, he’s “masculine”.  It’s a kind of performance of masculinity.

Straight acting is the opposite of this, no irony, not self aware, wanting to be one of the masses and disappear.  All tasteful, no taste.  This is going to piss some people off, how dare I suggest that gays don’t have taste?  I mean, haven’t we cornered the market on taste making?  Well, suffice to say, generic clothes were probably designed by some faggot somewhere.

So the next time you hear “straight-acting” and your immediate response is to think “self loathing” or “if you’re putting a dick in an ass, that’s not very straight”, maybe try to remember that it isn’t all about the gays and straight isn’t the opposite of gay, it’s also a word to describe something that’s unadorned, as in “whiskey straight up” and that’s what the mo you want to fuck on Manhunt is saying about himself, he’s unadorned, he’s tasteful, but don’t expect much more.

4 Responses to “The Gay’s Gaze”
  1. Crystal says:

    I think you’re onto something in the dichotomy of straight acting/camp.

    But I don’t know that to be straight acting or to pass means that you’re boring. I’ve had many a gay boyfriend. For whatever reason, most of them at first glance would fit into the stereotype of “straight-looking.” None of them are trying to pass as straight…each flies his pride flag in his own way. This includes a friend who by day is all t-shirts and jeans and by night used to do a drag act. I don’t know that blending is the same thing as hiding in the closet, especially as we’re not all fabulous enough to pull off a more flamboyant/campy look.

    I’m curious how you think this applies to lesbians. Do you think that femmes are trying to pass or do we just like lipstick and heels a lot?

    • Someone finally called me out on it!
      I should clarify, I do draw a distinction between the person who says “I am masculine”, or “I’m a T-shirt and Jeans (or khakis) kinda guy” and the guy who says “I am straight acting”. My sense is that the guy who calls himself “straight acting” is what I described. Yes, I am describing a certain slippage if you will. I’m not overtly concerned with what I think you’re describing when you say “straight looking”, I think the point I am making is that the idea of appearing heterosexual is increasingly meaningless.

      I’ve never met a lesbian who described herself as “straight acting”, And I think I am suggesting that the conversation might want to extend beyond butch/femme or masculine/feminine. And also consider high adornment/low adornment. Stone Butch vs soft butch vs lady with short hair. High femme, vs femme vs woman who wears skirts.

      From what I hear though, you’re off heels for a bit huh? sorry.

      • Kelsey says:

        My gf and I have been trying to figure out what the difference between soft butch and hard femme is, since we intuitively suspect that I am one and she is the other.

        I have no idea what a straight acting gay girl would be.

      • How would you define soft butch? How would you define hard femme, I’ve never heard the term, so I’m intrigued?
        I think a straight acting gay girl is, like a straight acting gay guy, putting very little effort into presenting gender. That’s not to say she isn’t feminine or masculine, but perhaps somewhere between very low femme and very soft butch?

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