A Thank-You to Ross Mathews and All Flamboyant Men
There is no right way to be gay, writes Brian Andersen.
February 28 2017 5:04 AM EST
February 28 2017 12:15 AM EST
There is no right way to be gay, writes Brian Andersen.
Hello, my name is Brian Andersen and I'm a flamboyant homosexual -- a proud flamboyant homosexual. From one flamey gay to another, I want to thank Ross Mathews for his recent thoughtful, measured, and articulate response to hateful former alt-right darling Milo Yiannopoulos's recent dis. Mathews's positivity, humor, and personal strength speak to the person he is.
The world needs more out, nelly gays in the media like Mathews, homos who are as unapologetically and authentically as queer as they want to be, because for millions of people Mathews is an example of succeeding while being 100 percent true to himself.
Like Mathews's, my very nature reveals my innate homosexuality. I'm so obviously gay that the owner to my local comic book shop, which is located in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco -- perhaps one of the gayest spots in the world -- refers to me as "Big Gay Brian" or just "Big Gay." Why? Because I'm the gayest person he knows. In the Castro.
Recently, at my 9-to-5, a fellow gay coworker asked me to do a task for him and added, "Please do it without the sass this time." Sorry, there is no such thing as no sass. Sass is my gift from on high; it's just wired into my flamey DNA. P.S.: Just because he asked for less sass he got 20 percent more.
Being such an overt queer is not something I strove for, but it's not something I'm ashamed of. Nor is it something I try to shy away from. I can't hide who I am -- my voice alone gives me away every time -- and I in no way want to.
However, getting to this point in my life, accepting and loving and embracing myself, has taken me decades. Years ago, it was a very different story. Being called out for being "gay-acting" or "sounding gay" would have wrecked me.
So when walking gay tire fire Milo Yiannopoulos recently held a laughable press conference about his fall from conservative grace and took the time to insult Ross Mathews, I noticed. Not just because I've always appreciated Mathews's spot in the media landscape, but also because he was someone I could relate to and identify with during a time when I didn't like myself much.
As much as I loathe to quote anything Yiannopoulos says, I will regrettably post his aimless comment here just so I can speak to the Mathews dis:
"I've probably done more for the image of gays in the flyover states than, you know, all the gay charities, gay activist groups, and gay publications for the last 30 years. I think they see me, and I get emails everyday along these lines, they've seen me and they've realized this. And I get emails from others sometimes and they say my son is gay and I was terrified he was going to turn into Ross Mathews, but you've made me realize actually gay people can be OK."
Ugh, what a completely ridiculous and terrible statement. There is far too much to unpack and debunk in his rambling remark, so in the interest in keeping the focus on Mathews, I've got to ask: Since when has Ross Mathews not been OK?
For millions of people across America -- between Facebook and Twitter he nearly has a million followers, so millions is a legit stat and not hyperbole -- Mathews has been an adored late-night intern, host, judge, author, and media personality for years. Clearly as an out gay entertainer he's more than OK; I daresay he's beloved.
But let's be clear, what Yiannopoulos is actually attacking is not how popular or accepted Mathews is or isn't. Rather, his remark is a full-fledged homophobic attack on Mathews's entire demeanor, his character, the very essence that makes Mathews Mathews.
This is an attack on Mathews's gayness. His flamboyance. This is an attack on a queer person who dares to be, live, and openly entertain just as he is. Saying that Mathews is somehow not OK -- or acceptable as a gay person -- is harmful, hurtful, and entirely wrong.
What Yiannopoulos showcases is a destructive gay identity, one that is sadly lost in his desperate pursuit of fame. Mathews, on the other hand, is, in his own words, the antithesis of that. Mathews is a healthy and positive gay man who continues to succeed in the entertainment industry because of his talent and drive.
Yiannopoulos demeans gay men everywhere who act "gay" -- men like me who dare to display stereotypical homosexual traits. In Yiannopoulos's misguided world, we who do not display a macho, butch exterior, we are less than. We're not the "OK" gays.
It's that old chestnut, "I don't mind a gay person as long as they don't act it." For Yiannopoulos to pinpoint Mathews's flamboyance as a flaw only gives credence to these closed-minded ideas. It fuels discrimination and gives power to bigotry. It's like that horrible "hate the sin, love the sinner" line certain religious individuals toss out to defend their right to deny a queer person their equal rights or a flower bouquet for their wedding. They scramble to declare their tolerance of my "lifestyle" while denouncing my equal rights because of my "choice."
Screw this notion. I don't need rolerance, nor do I want it. What I do need and demand is respect -- human to human, person to person, American to American. I and all those in my community are deserving of equality, regardless of how someone decided to label us.
Sadly, this very same bigotry is often found within the LGBT community itself. We eat our own -- which Yiannopoulos has displayed all too well.
As a feminine man who's never been able to mask my overt stereotypical traits, I know all too well this internalized hatred. Growing up, I was teased for acting too much like a girl. Even before I knew what the word meant, I knew that being a faggot was the worst possible thing a boy could be. And I was constantly called a faggot.
Though I lamely tried and constantly failed to be anything but who I was for most of my adolescent life, I could never shake my inherent self. I'm just a flaming homosexual. It's not a choice, it's not an affectation, it's just me.
In my 20s, before I finally came out, I discovered and laughed at Ross Mathews's antics on The Tonight Show. He was funny, clever, sassy, and, to my amazement, right there on my television. Not as a character written in some situation comedy but just as himself.
Once I finally came out at the ripe old age of 26, after years of trying to date women and be something I wasn't, I quickly learned that in the certain circles of the gay community being a fem was frowned upon. In a foolhardy attempt to fit in I avoided other feminine gays. I did not want to be lumped into that queeny category.
The whole "Masc for Masc" trend on today's gay dating apps is a prime example of this gay bias. While I understand everyone's right to be attracted to who they are, it's in openly declaring a dislike for feminine men that projects the myth that the only acceptable gay is the one who can pass as straight. Butch dudes in the gay male culture are revered and desired; being masculine is admired, while we fem gays are often dismissed and scoffed at.
It took me years living as an out gay man to realize this queer cultural viewpoint on my sexuality was utterly stupid. I'm not saying butch gays shouldn't be allowed to be as manly and heterosexual-esque as they want to be -- more power to my masculine brothers out there -- but by the same token, we feminine queers are just as worthy and vital to the community.
I love my flamboyance and realize that, like my homosexuality itself, it's a gift. Our differences should be celebrated. There's room at the big gay table for everyone. We need to lift each other rather than be divided up by our sexual appetites.
I never meet Ross, though I'd love to. I do want to thank him for his honesty, integrity, and general presence in our popular culture. He's unabashedly himself, and I thank him for being bold enough to not only be who he is but to succeed in a world and in an entertainment industry that rarely embraces the different. When I was a closeted young man, Ross, you showed me my true self matters. Thank you for that.
BRIAN ANDERSEN is a writer and indie comic book creator who lives in San Francisco with his husband and gorgeous baby daughter.