Welcome to ¡Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m pretty comfortable with who I am. I’m a gay man, and if someone were to ask me my sexuality I’d be upfront about it. Still, it’s not something I flaunt, and while it’s a part of who I am, I don’t consider it important to who I am. But this is where I run into a problem. Because I’m “straight-acting,” I find it’s difficult to find my place in the gay community.
I’m not flamboyant in the way I act (even if my playlist looks like a 12-year-old girl’s) and that’s not the kind of man I’m attracted to. So where do I fit in? I feel like an outsider who’s been roped in by technicality. I’m not a twink, and I’m not going to win any beauty contests. I’m self-conscious of my physical appearance. There are so many labels that don’t really fit me, and I don’t meet many men who are what I’m looking for in a guy, or when I do I assume they won’t be interested in me.
What can I do to better connect to people beyond the community, or maybe get out of my head so I can let myself feel more included?
Missing Membership Card
Hey there, Missing!
And welcome to ¡Hola Papi!, the Out edition. Same Papi, new outlet, higher dosage of Fluoxetine. You know the drill, so let’s get into it.
You sure said a lot of things that, if you were to put them on Twitter, would have earned you several quote tweets dragging you for internalized homophobia. It’s kind of yikes after yikes here, buddy! But i’m not interested in dragging you. I’m interested in converting you to my chaotic gay lifestyle. You know what they say: you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. So, you know. If you want flies, that’s how you get them. Anyway, let’s open the Trauma Suitcase™ and start unpacking.
To be honest, I think a lot of people approach this topic with a dash of hypocrisy, Missing. Sure, nowadays I can shamelessly walk into a pitch black basement in a gay club wearing nothing but a jockstrap, come home in a wig and heels somehow, then show up to work on Monday in that same wig and those same heels and feel perfectly comfortable with myself. But it wasn’t always that way. I used to feel a lot more like you do right now.
Back then, I thought if I was going to be a gay man then I needed to quickly establish everything I wasn’t: I wasn’t feminine. I wasn’t promiscuous. I wasn’t the kind of guy who was a part of “the scene.” I wasn’t like those gays. People are always complaining about how flamboyant gay men “announce” their gayness with the way they dress and act. But, Missing, let me tell you, I’ve never felt more pressure to “announce” things about myself than I did back when I was trying to fit in with straight people in Oklahoma.
I mean, your letter sort of does the same thing. You announce that, in your mind, gayness is only a small part of who you are. Did you assume I would think otherwise, or were you just trying to signal to me that you’re different from those annoying homosexuals who wear crop tops and watch Drag Race? No shade! I’m just saying. It may not be a glittery, extravagant persona, but you, just like those gays, are both sending messages with the language and behavior you choose to employ. Being a “straight-acting gay” is not the absence of a carefully constructed persona. It’s just not a particularly compelling one.
I’m not going to pretend like some people don’t make gayness into some kind of competition, that there aren’t self-appointed gatekeepers who think they’re the arbiters of who is and who is not “gay enough.” Those people exist, and they suck for reasons independent of their interests, sexuality, and gender expression. But in my experience, those people are fewer in number than the people who celebrate, uphold, and promote masculinity. We’re talking, like, a few catty twinks in WeHo vs. most of the human population here.
So I don’t think your issue is that the gay community at large just hasn’t made space for you. In fact, I get so many letters that sound like yours I often wonder why you all don’t just meet up and validate each other’s bootcut jeans. My best guess is that it’s because you’re not really looking for approval from other gay men — even gay men who look and act like you. You’re looking for it from straight men because this hell world has conditioned you to place them front and center even though they’ll never sleep with you.
No, I think your bigger issue is that you’re judging yourself with a criteria that, by design, will never give you a passing grade. How are you supposed to ever feel good about yourself if you can’t even listen to your favorite music in peace without self-deprecating about how your playlist looks like “a 12-year-old girl’s?” What about pop is even exclusive to 12-year-old girls, by the way? Why would it be a bad thing if it were? The musical stylings of Carly Rae Jepsen deserve better than this rhetoric.
I want freedom for you, Missing. I want you to stop worrying so much about what you aren’t and start nourishing what you are. Maybe you like sports! Maybe you like pop! These things can coexist without a problem. No one is forcing you to fem it up or sleep with anyone you don’t want to sleep with. But baby! You’ve got to stop wishing you were a straight man! Who does that serve? Who is that for? I think if you just let yourself enjoy what you enjoy and let yourself be who you are, you’ll find more acceptance from people across the board. I know it can be hard, but I promise it’s worth it.