Op-Ed: I'm not gay, I'm normal
I identify as a man who loves men; however, I’ve recently been hesitant to adopt the identity of “gay.” If you think about the average gay man, what archetype pops up? For me, it’s an attractive jock wearing revealing underwear, maybe posing with other equally attractive jock friends. Even if he’s not a jock, there are lots of other types of gay men that you could think of. The twink is lean, smooth and hairless; they go great with each other or more muscly types. Of course, the drag queen is campy and fun, or campy and mean, or campy and… you get the idea.
And finally, there’s me. I don’t fit any of those boxes of what a gay man should be, and, frankly, I don’t want to. I don’t want to be forced to go to the gym to get the perfect ass or be a catty bitch to establish dominance. I don’t want to conform, because I’m just getting comfortable with who I am. Recently, when I asked friends familiar with the nuances of gay men which type I fell under, the response was unexpected: “You’re just… normal.”
Now this isn’t a problem, per se, but the implication of the statement is that I’m no longer gay; if I were, wouldn’t I neatly or at least messily fit into one of the “normal types” of gay men? Wouldn’t I be a “normal twink” or a “normal jock?" What is a “normal gay?” What is “normal?”
I think that one can be a type and still be “normal;” however, I’m “normal” and I’m not a type — apparently not culturally “normal gay.” The identity of “normal” seems to sometimes override the identity of gay: I’m a man who loves men, but since I’m not a “normal gay,” I’m instead just “normal.” The ultimate question is, why is there this selective disconnect between being “normal” and being gay?
I believe the answer boils down to the exclusivity of the typology of gay men. Whenever you make a type, you make an in group and an out group. By definition, if you’re not in the in group, you’re in the out group. The problem with this is that the spectrum of in groups is selective, and overwhelmingly selectively white.
People have argued that gay men are super shallow when it comes to being fat, femme, transgender, disabled… the list goes on. If you’re not a “proper” body type you’re already facing an uphill battle to be considered attractive, as a “normal jock” or “normal twink.” This is not to say that Asian men can’t be jocks; however, it does mean that an Asian jock will be seen as less masculine, less desirable than a white jock simply because of their race. You can rinse and repeat for all marginalized identities: they’re inferior to the (white) hegemonic, dominant identity.
Furthermore, just as Asian jocks are seen as inferior to white jocks because their race feminizes them, this lends Asian twinks extra credence. The problem with this, besides clear fetishization, is that these standards are all determined by the dominant group in the gay community: white men. What this ultimately boils down to is that all marginalized people will never be able to truly reach in-group status (even if Kim Chi from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has a fabulous critique of it all).
White gay men, therefore, generally dominate in all of these groups. If you fit, you can pick your poison as to which type you’d like because they’re all communities in which you’ll find people who look just like you, which cannot be said for gay men in a racial or other social minority. There are always exceptions; however, go to Pride Night at Necto Nightclub any Friday and take a peek at the racial demographics.
White gay men are seen as the “typical” gay man and “typical” LGBTQ person, so we have the power to represent the rest of the communities. It’s such a shame that we’ve decided to use our privilege to bolster ourselves and put our political needs first at the expense of everyone else, both in terms of the selectivity of the types of gay men and in terms of political sway.
White men have corrupted LGBT Pride from a symbol of empowered solidarity and celebration of sexual difference to a vehicle that transmits a false sense of unity in the LGBT communities. In other words, our whiteness, maleness and overall gender conformity bequeathed us the mic under the assumption that we would speak for everyone and we have consistently abused that privilege. Pride has become a hollow symbol that only represents white gay men’s voices, not all colors of the rainbow as we like to think.
It’s for these reasons that I hesitate to identify as gay. As a white man, that term has a lot of baggage from which I would like to dissociate. I’d rather be a normal guy who likes guys. A “normal guy” — but not a “normal gay.”
A “normal gay” accepts the conflation of the terms “LGBT community” with “gay community,” which erases identities and orients the broader queer community toward strictly male concerns. A “normal gay” conforms to and reproduces the toxic masculinity that elevated their position in the LGBT food chain, perpetuating sexism, racism and all other social hierarchies. A “normal gay,” in other words, puts themselves first and holds back the rest of the LGBT community.
I challenge white gay men of any and all types to get over our racist, sexist, cissexist, hateful demons. Society and socialization in our corrupted gay circles have taught to be this way. It’s not our fault; however, it is still our responsibility to recognize your shortcomings and fight them. It is only by embracing the LBTQ of LGBTQ that we can make Pride what it was meant to be: a way to build an inclusive queer community, to use our privileges as white men to elevate unheard voices and to celebrate our community of differences in all their forms.
Who knows? Maybe that will make the inherently white “normal gay” palatable again.
Ben Bugajski is an LSA senior.