Straight-Acting

In this piece written exclusively for The Advocate, Angelo Pezzote — advice columnist and author of the new book Straight Acting: Gay Men, Masculinity and Finding True Love — examines the gay community's obsession with the idea of being "straight-acting" and how destructive it is for gay relationships and one's psyche.

BY Angelo Pezzote

March 18 2008 12:00 AM ET

It doesn't matter
whether a guy is really masculine or not. What matters
is the perception that he is masculine. Problem is, you
can't really say "I'm gay," and "I'm straight acting"
in the same sentence. It’s an oxymoron.
Straight acting is engendered by gay shame. I don't
think that straight acting is bringing us into equality as
much as it’s moving us back into an extension
of the closet -- the closet of masculinity. By
offsetting our inherent "gayness" with masculinity,
we're not really progressing socially and assimilating into
mainstream culture as much as we're actually doing a type of
social conforming -- in which case we're really moving
backward -- away from self-acceptance.

The problem isn't
being masculine. It’s when we use masculinity to
cover our gay essence. To stamp out the sissy inside
we learn to dislike, having to protect ourselves from
severe ridicule, physical harm, and emotional
rejection. Masculinity is not an essence. It’s not a
part of who we are. Masculinity is a set of social
expectations based on one’s being male. For
instance, American men are not the same as European men.
Masculinity is how males are socialized to behave -- how
we're influenced to express our maleness in our
culture. It’s our gender expression.
Masculinity is learned, and it can be unlearned.

The solution? Our
focus needs to be on embracing our inherent gay nature
and fostering self-love. It’s not about what’s
wrong with you. It’s about what’s right
with you. There is nothing shameful about being a gay man.
When you're confident and accept who you are, it doesn't
matter what other people think. You don't have to be
effeminate if you're not. You just have to be the gay
man you are without any facades.

By understanding
what’s keeping gay men apart, we can come together,
finding one another’s hearts.

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