I decided to make a short documentary, 20MALEGAYNYC, after hearing each of my gay male friends say, “I hate gay guys,” or at least, “I hate stereotypical gay guys.” I wanted to talk to gay men about gay men – what it means to be our age, gay, and living in New York in the year 2012; how we treat each other; and how stereotypes play a role in our daily lives.
The chance to interview my close friends —friends who have expressed disillusionment, frustration, and dismissal towards the gay community (or lack thereof) off-camera – was a moving experience. I found them articulate, honest, and brave for giving voice to thoughts that I’ve been wrestling with, as well as ones that are far more complex than anything I’d thought about prior to the interviews.
No one is going to say in an interview, “I basically fulfill every gay stereotype,” but every single one of these guys (myself included) are capable of acting in stereotypical ways. But these “gay guys who just want to sleep with each other,” or “boa-wearing gay guys,” or “ninety pound boys in tank tops screaming” are images that we’ve convinced ourselves exist as whole people, and not just elements or stereotypes.
Some have an expectation that other members of the community should not act in a typically homosexual or heterosexual way for lack of a “real personality.” However, I’m confident that I could speak with any gay man, however many boas he may be wearing, and have an intelligent discussion about gay identity and internalized homophobia. And he would continue on his way, skipping down the street singing showtunes. The stereotype is not “the other”—it’s us. When we push away other members of our own community by labeling them as a thing rather than a person, even though we acknowledge that the concept of this “thing” comes from outside the gay world, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. Renato identifies this (correctly, I believe) in the film as partially coming from “self-hate.”
The problem is that the self we hate isn’t totally defined. I have heard so many times, “I know I’m stereotypical in a lot of ways, but…” Why is there a “but”? What we see as resisting these clichés is only keeping them alive. I can see how a young gay man would be scared to come out and enter into a world in which acting too stereotypically will not only lead to bullying by others, but also a total dismissal from fellow gay men.
Ken says, “Women can be great role models, but we need gay male role models.” Perhaps all we need is open, honest discussions about being young and gay. So much emphasis is put on coming out and acceptance. Still, we cannot reasonably expect to be embraced as complex, layered, loving human beings when we reject each other so easily. Cole’s point that “all the gay community has in common is their sexuality, so the center of gay culture is sex” demonstrates a rejection of all that an authentic community can offer. The modern conception of a young gay community in New York City is disjointed, varied, and seemingly unnecessary as a support system, but also far more complex, layered, and filled with non-stereotypical qualities than most people, including the people within it, seem to acknowledge.
We all have this concept of “the other”: those flamers out there ruining it for the rest of us; but we're ruining it for ourselves. This internal judgment becomes external when we try to act cool for the straight guys by hating limp-wristed clichés as much as they do. We do ourselves a disservice when we continue to perpetuate gross stereotypes, even in attempts to distance ourselves from said stereotypes.
Watch Pruitt's short film below:
BLAKE PRUITT is a filmmaker living in New York.