The struggle to embrace our diversity and deal with internalised homophobia is a reality within the gay community, especially for those who don’t conform to traditional male and female binaries.
According to a new study, men who consider themselves “straight acting” are 37% more likely to agree with the statement: “Feminine gay men give gay men like me a bad reputation.”
The study also found that these same men were 33% less likely to have faced homophobia or discrimination related to their sexuality in the last five years.
Additionally, self-identified “straight acting” men were 35% more likely to agree with the statement: “I identify more with the heterosexual community than with the gay community.”
This suggests, unsurprisingly, that presenting and being perceived as “straight” has many benefits in society, such as being able to fit into the mainstream with less fear of stigma and discrimination. “Straight acting” men are also often seen as more desirable within the community itself.
Conducted by Cal Strode, the study surveyed 280 gay men in the UK and in California.
He explained: “We all strive to have a positive self-conception, we want to believe that any group we belong to is positively distinct from others. Social Identity Theory suggests that if we feel this is not the case, we will either be compelled to try to migrate to another group with perceived higher status, or fight to change the values attached to the group we belong to.
“Feminine gay men are caught in the crossfire of a battle that self described ‘straight acting’ gay men are having with themselves,” said Strode. “The way gay men market themselves is more visible than ever before because of the rise of apps like Grindr. This brings things like femphobia (and racism) to the surface, and we need to take every opportunity to challenge that.”
According to Fernando Lopez, LGBT history expert and Director at San Diego Pride, the focus on masculinity in the gay community started as a response in the 1970s to the portrayal of the gay male in the media at that time as a “hyper-effeminate caricature”.
Lopez argued that, ultimately, “A big part of homophobia, internalised and otherwise, rests in chauvinism and ‘femophobia’: the fear of all things feminine and being feminine, because it is seen as weak.”
Strode went on to add: “It’s not helpful to demonise people who use the term ‘straight acting’, but we should challenge them to realise when they’re speaking from a place of internalised homophobia or a position of ‘pass privilege’.
“We can’t expect everyone to have an academic understanding of oppression, privilege and the role they themselves are playing in things, so we have to find constructive ways to start conversations and challenge people in ways that brings them along with us,” said Strode.