I came of age in San Francisco during a time when we women routinely claimed that the City was awash in men, but we couldn’t get a date. The situation, of course, wasn’t quite that extreme. Eventually, many of us who stayed in the City did get dates and we even got married.
What we were referring to, though, was a legitimate demographic issue in San Francisco: While there were a lot of men living in the City from the late 1970s and through the 1980s and 1990s (when I dropped out of the dating scene to marry), these men weren’t potential dates and mates for us; instead, they were competing with us.
Quite obviously, women and gays weren’t competing for men who were entirely heterosexual or homosexual in their desires. We were, instead, competing for the men in the middle — the ones who could go either way.
How big that number of men in the middle is remains an open question. Although many men claim to be bisexual, probably as many, or even more, claim that bisexuality is just homosexuality in denial. There are also guys who thought they were straight right up until the moment they woke up the morning after the night before and found themselves in bed with that pretty male secretary from down the hall.
I don’t know. I just know that, despite having many gay male friends, I always felt that, at a raw, fundamental level, they didn’t actually like me because they viewed me as direct competition — and, moreover, unfair competition because I came equipped with parts they could only mimic.
This is, I think, why I’ve never been overly fond of extremely effeminate gay men. There’s an unspoken war going on between these men, on the one hand, and women, on the other hand. If you’ve lived long enough with the war, you know it’s real and you know it’s there.
The above thoughts probably explain why this post, “A Ranger Goes To College (Part 4),” resonated with me. Like the post’s author, I don’t care about people’s private lives. I don’t care if men are gay, and I definitely don’t expect them to be hyper-masculine (and, indeed, probably appreciate it if they’re not out there belching and spitting all the time). What bugs me, however, is a man who exhibits the type of hyper-effeminate behavior Jack Murphy describes. Gay or straight, men are still men and I prefer seeing them act more or less that way in the public sphere.
I wouldn’t express myself in quite the heated terms Murphy uses. No surprise there, of course, because unlike him I’m not male, I’m not military, and I’m not from a beer and ball game culture. Nevertheless, I share his sense that there are a lot of good things that come with the biological sex one is born into. It’s therefore unnerving, and even unpleasant, to see someone embrace a cultural stereotype that leads him or her so far away from the blessings of his or her biological sex, regardless of sexual orientation.
And yes, if you’re curious, I think in most cases that hyper-effeminate behavior is a learned behavior, not a natural one. Growing up, the guys I knew could put it on and off like a piece of clothing, depending on context. In the office, they didn’t act hyper-effeminate; but in the bar after work with friends, some would go into super-girlie mode. What’s different about today’s young men is that they no longer temper their behavior according to their environment. Instead, they’re in full feminine mode all the time.
In fact, thinking about it, it seems to me that the maniacally feminine behavior is more extreme now than it was back in my days. I suspect that’s due in part to a Pajama Boy culture that has pushed so many straight men away from traditionally “manly” conduct. With a significant number of straight men embracing their inner sorority girl, complete with hot chocolate and jammies, gay men who normally would be just somewhat more effeminate than the average male are having to push themselves to extremes to distinguish themselves. Also, because everything gay is newsworthy now, I assume that people who like to be front and center when it comes to hot issues are going to exaggerate their affiliation with the in-issue or the in-crowd. Ultimately, it’s always about marketing.
By the way, I don’t think it’s a valid counter to what I’m saying to argue that I’m being unfair to more effeminate gay men by demanding that they hide who they are. I don’t think I’m asking them to do that. Indeed, I’m not asking them to moderate their behavior any more than we ask everyone to moderate behavior depending on the setting. I would argue that men shouldn’t swear in front of children; women shouldn’t dress for the beach when they go into the office; and teenagers shouldn’t treat their teachers the way they do their younger siblings.
Of course, thinking it through, all of the above behaviors are probably bad examples. In this day and age of no manners and no standards, men swear everywhere, women wear God-knows-what to work, and teenagers treat their teachers with disrespect. I guess I’m therefore going to have to change my mind: Go ahead, effeminate gay guys — flirt and flounce to your heart’s content in classrooms and board rooms. Just don’t expect me to like it any more than I like men who swear in my or my children’s presence, women who dress inappropriately for the occasion (whatever the occasion is), and teenagers with no manners.