Gay men tend to enjoy talking about cock. In our gyms and barbershops and health food stores, we gab about penises. It’s like talking about the weather. We scroll through cock pics on our smartphones. Dick innuendos linger at the end of every double entendre and witty comeback. But when we hear “vagina,” the word is nearly always the butt of a joke — one made at the expense of women.
It’s time to face a blunt fact. This is the systematic oppression of women, an injustice we contribute to every time we call women “bitches” and think it’s OK — because we’re gay. On the eve of a political administration that is decidedly antiwomen, with a president-elect who has freely bragged about sexual assault, we can no longer sit idly by and allow this behavior among gay men to continue. Browse these 15 signs that you might be part of the problem.
When you’re filling out your Grindr or Scruff profile, please place your politics and prejudices front and center — it helps me know who to block. But if you write “MASC 4 MASC,” you’ll lose the guys who have let go of internalized phobia and the fem-shaming that goes along with it (read: the fun ones). Happy hunting.
What does this have to do with women? Let me walk you through it.
Blanket refusals to a certain demographic of gay men — black, Asian, HIV-positive, kinky — indicate that you’re the sort of person who refuses to see people beyond their membership in said demographic. In doing so, you contribute to an environment in which people are reduced. In that line of thinking, all women are the same, all HIV-positive guys are the same, and all black men are the same. People who are “other” become one giant mass. They become less than people — they become labels behind which you stop seeing their humanity. This is a psychological trick called “dehumanization,” and it’s how Hitler made the Holocaust happen.
This is how misogyny thrives. When we tell ourselves that everyone who is female or everyone is fem behaves a certain way (and when we pass on this lie to others), we allow prejudices, stereotypes, and falsehoods about these demographics to spread and become reinforced.
If you think all fem guys are unattractive and refuse to see them as more than their femininity, you’re a gay misogynist.
When I was a baby gay (high school, college), I used to make gagging noises when people talked about vaginas. I thought it was funny. Eventually, someone called me out on my bullshit. “What’s so ugly about vaginas?” she asked me. “I don’t act revolted at your body parts. Why is my vagina so gross?”
I got schooled — and am grateful for it. Vaginas are weird, but they are also interesting and awesome. Vaginas are not weirder, more interesting, or more awesome than penises. Human bodies in general are very weird, interesting, and awesome. They are lovely machines evolved to do incredible work.
Don’t disrespect vaginas. And to our future commander in chief: Don’t grab them. Ever.
Women are emotional. Women are flighty. Women travel in packs. Women are weak. Women cry easily. Women are soft. Women are dishonest. Tough, strong women are bitches. Women who have lots of sex are sluts.
These are all lies. We have all been told these lies repeatedly by a patriarchal society that still oppresses women by repeating and reinforcing these lies every day — in film, music, schools, and the workplace. If you parrot these lies, you’ve been duped by a system and taught misogyny. It’s time to break out of it.
It’s not OK. If you have a female friend who sincerely doesn’t mind it when you say “She’s my bitch” and has expressed as much, then fine, whatever. Some women have appropriated slurs like “bitch” and “cunt” as power terms, just as many gay men (not me) call themselves “faggots.” I think this is a slippery slope. Redefining slurs is tricky business, and some attempts have been more successful than others. For example, I freely use “queer” despite its history as a slur, and I love calling myself and other gay men “homos,” even though some consider this word a slur also (in my defense, “homo” is more basely factual than any other term: I am, after all, a homosexual). Words only have the power we give them, but it’s hard to remove a word’s power. It’s hard to extract a slur from its hateful history.
Slut-shaming in general is something I want no part of — it goes against all the work I do in my life — and this is slut-shaming of a certain caliber, a shaming rooted in the sexual oppression of women. Misogynists punish feminine sexuality, reserving promiscuity as a male-only privilege (another cultural lie).
When a fellow homo gets too drunk at the bar and gets horny or touchy, or does something embarrassing, you say, “Girl’s tanked.” “She’s thirsty.” “She needs a dick — bad.”
Not cool. Sure, I call fellow homos “girl” sometimes, particularly at the gay gym, when maco egos are flaring. I also kiss queer male friends on the cheek when I meet them. Calling other gay men “girl” or “girlfriend” comes from a long-held tradition that goes as far back as Harry Hay and the Gay Liberation Front. But I avoid using feminine nouns or pronouns in such a way that the usage is itself an act of mockery. Think what this implies: that women are worthy of teasing, that feminine pronouns are derogatory. These are markings of an age-old misogyny in gay male culture. Check your words.
Some gay bars and gay sex clubs are explicitly male-only. These spaces are fun, cruise-heavy haunts and have their place, but they are becoming fewer and fewer. They are relics of a culture that is nearly gone.
You can still find gay bathhouses and sex clubs in big cities across the U.S., but their days are numbered. More and more gay bars are becoming queer havens as our community wakes up to the fact that there are others in the acronym besides gay men.
You must support inclusive queer spaces — now more than ever. Throw open the doors to queer women. Welcome your trans and genderqueer family members. There has never been a more important time to protect and support our more inclusive sanctuaries. Unity, not division, will help us get through these next four years.
If you’re perturbed at the number of queer women at your next Pride parade, you’re a gay misogynist.
EverydayFeminism.com defines transmisogyny as the confluence of “the negative attitudes, expressed through cultural hate, individual and state violence, and discrimination directed toward trans women and trans and gender-nonconforming people on the feminine end of the gender spectrum.”
Shorter definition: Transmisogyny is the ugly love child of transphobia and misogyny, born of the cultural lie that women are inferior to men.
Many trans men have described the experience of their transition to their authentic selves and how patriarchal culture suddenly favors them. They transition from a world of not-so-mirco aggressions against women to clear, blatant male privilege.
Trans women experience the opposite and are viciously punished for it. Transmisogynist hate has led to the deaths of more trans women this year than any year on record.
I don’t have much to say about the “gay bros,” the Reddit group of masc-only homos who enjoy huntin’ and fishin’ and sportsball and all that ruddy stuff. I see a group of boys with massive internalized homophobia latching on to everything they consider “straight” in an attempt to be less gay. I take a very opposite approach, believing gay and queer culture is very different from the world of our hetero counterparts — a wonderland of circuit parties and glory holes and fabulous interior design.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an L.A. Dodgers game if you truly like baseball, but be OK with leather guys and tranimal club kids in glitter heels too. I’ve met so many gay bros who hate women, hate femininity, and don’t want anything to do with guys who “act gay” (when they say this, they mean “act feminine”).
Atlanta-based bearded lady Hydrangea Heath suggested this one to me. (Hydrangea is part of the same east Atlanta drag family that Drag Race season 7 winner Violet Chachki calls home.)
“So many gay guys think gender belongs in two roles,” she said. “The gender binary. So when I get onstage with a full beard and challenge that, they don’t get it. They want me to be feminine or masculine. They don’t want me to be both. That’s why I love what I do.”
Hydrangea smashes gender roles beneath her velvet pumps.
I’ve heard gay guys say that their masculinity needs defending because it’s the way things are, the “right way,” the “correct way” for men, gay or straight, to behave. My first criticism to them is always this: If male-identified humans were supposed to be masculine — if this behavior is reliably natural and native, with no exceptions — why would it need reinforcement? If something is “right,” “instinctive,” and “true,” why can’t we sit back, delete the gay bros Reddit, and allow nature to do its thing? Honestly, I have the same response to evangelical Christians (our nation’s most persecuted demographic, apparently) who think they are constantly being bullied: If an idea is real, why does it need defending?
Behavior is taught. If we stopped trying to reinforce masculinity as a male ideal, we’d see a healthy generation of men who simply behave the way that feels right — something I wish for everyone in the world.
This means you hold a stance that women don’t have autonomy over their bodies — a bizarre stance considering the fact that, as a gay man, you are not a woman and cannot speak to female identity. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. The entire GOP leadership, a parade of misogynist men (and one extremely misogynist president-elect), all believe they can speak for women too.
You don’t have to be a gay misogynist. Really, you don’t.
I was raised religious, so on top of heavily enforced gender roles — one of the South’s little cultural delights — I was taught that men were designated by God as “spiritual leaders of the family,” and that it was men’s “job” to protect and defend women. It took me years to see the wrongness in the lessons I was taught from birth.
It’s difficult to see outside the teachings of patriarchy — we are fed them at a young age. But just as people recognize the wrongness of their racist upbringings, and change from homophobes to queer allies, you can start uplifting women the way they deserve to be uplifted.
Women are our equals. Forget the time-worn parallels between women and gay men that get touted everywhere, which are based on the assumptions that women are straight and all queer men are gay, not bi. Forget about who likes dick and who doesn’t. This isn’t about having “girlfriends” or besties or drinking buds. This is about the power of women and our ability to recognize it and ally ourselves with them, even if that means taking a stand against ourselves. This means allying ourselves with trans women and genderqueer and gender-noncomforming folk on the feminine side of the gender spectrum. This means seeing femininity as strong, complex, and beautifully human.