Writer and podcast host Fran Tirado is one of the internet’s favorite queer storytellers. His podcast, Food 4 Thot, is a weekly roundtable discussion on what it means to be queer in 2018, an in-depth dive into the nuances and complexities of the modern queer experience.
Fran joins LGBTQ&A this week to talk about feminine shame in the LGBTQ community, how he’s pushing the envelope of what people expect from masculinity, and the time his mom found his copy of The Joy of Gay Sex.
Read highlights from the interview here, or listen to the full podcast interview in the audio player below.
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The Advocate: Can you talk about how you experience your gender? Your masculinity really encompasses a lack of historical gender norms.
Fran Tirado: Gender has been a conversation that's bubbled up to the top of my brain more and more. I'd never thought outside the box of gayness until a few years ago. Culturally, as we step more into queerness and different kinds of like gender expressions, I’m happy to push the envelope of what I expect from my femininity or masculinity.
In a work environment, I exude a lot of masculine energy, a lot of machismo that comes from my upbringing, but in terms of aesthetic expression, I'm currently wearing a black maxidress. As of last year, I will never not have manicured nails because that's a ritual that’s become really dear to me. I grew a mustache two or three years ago, and I think that subverts whatever people expect from my gender expression.
How do you see your gender being experienced by other people?
I'm very lucky because I live in New York and I live in a privileged body that people are nice to. Men, who I would look at them and assume were straight, will go out of their way to compliment my nails in a kind of performance of OK-ness, which is honestly kind of beautiful but also a little weird. I can't help but feel like the conversation inside their head is Oh, my God, they're gay. I better reaffirm them in their identity so that they feel better about themselves.
I think a lot about this study in the U.K. that said three-quarters of gay men have been turned off by seeing femininity in other guys.
There's definitely a feminine shame and this deeply rooted odorless gas of misogyny that appears in every single way we interact with this world. It's so wild to me that we’re so deeply cultured to hate women that we can't even have feminine qualities.
When I need something or need to exhibit authority, my voice drops and I stand straighter. I look you straight in the eye. That kills me because the reverse of that indicates that femininity and queerness implies weakness.
Yeah. I wear all black primarily in a step toward that. It’s a neutralizer so people can't assume too many things about me. I'm in this very neutral outfit, so I present power in that, but also, the other thing I like about getting manicures is that when I’m wearing business casual, I still have this wink of faggotry that can be used as a power tactic. A lot of times a red shellac manicure will disarm people.
Do you take your nail polish off when you go home to see your family?
Oh, no. No, I don't. Recently, my family came and visited me in New York and I kept the manicure the whole time. They didn't say anything about it, but it’s definitely something that they noticed. They've come a long way in accepting me as a gay person. I'm literally a full-time homosexual. I’m professionally queer for a living, so they're used to me doing “crazy things” like getting a manicure.
You're very open about sex. How do you feel creating content that you wouldn't want your parents to see?
Oh, yeah. My parents don't listen to my podcast. I've never acknowledged it in front of them. A year or two after I came out, I found a very beautiful vintage copy of The Joy of Gay Sex, which was a watershed moment in books. It has these really cheesy illustrations and it's super pornographic. It’s an amazing book.
Anyways, for some reason I brought it home from college with me and then I left it at my parents’ house. I remember walking into the kitchen where my mom was and saying, “Hey, Mom. I'm looking for some stuff I left here from college. Did you throw away any of my books?” And then she says, “I threw away one book,” and which meant that she threw away my one copy of The Joy of Gay Sex, which she could not have in our house because it had nudity and was pornographic.
That’s a great example of how conservative of a family I grew up in. My family to this day will still cover my eyes if there's a sex scene when we watch a movie together. A lot of my relationship to sex really started out in deeply rooted Christian shame.
Offhand, you said that you don't fit into any porn category.
Yeah. I'm lanky. I'm too tall to be a twink and I have a little bit of hair. I have a mustache. I could be an otter, but I don't have enough hair to be an otter.
And historically twinks have been white men.
We look at porn in order to learn about sex because we're not taught about queer sex. So we look at these categories and if you don’t fit into one of them, we’ve conditioned ourselves to not be attracted to you.
We're absolutely cultured this way. I feel so much of what I’ve set out on this earth to do is to just rid cis gay men of that. We have categories and they’re a prison. Especially when it comes to your preference of sexual positions. I think most men haven't had a long enough conversation with themselves to know what they really want because it's easier to take refuge in a category.
Also, it’s a comedic platitude that makes a great punch line. I make top and bottom jokes all the time. It's really funny, but it's also unfortunate that so many gay men foreclose on the identity of their sexual preference. It’s the same with gender. It's such a failure of the imagination to not imagine yourself wearing lipstick even once in your life.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Click here to subscribe and listen to the full podcast interview on LGBTQ&A.