An open letter to gay men
To all the gay men out there, it’s time we had a chat. It’s time to stop objectifying straight men, it’s not cute and it’s not okay.
Within the gay community, instances of falling for straight men has become something of a cliché. It’s almost become a running gag within pop culture. A key example of this is one of token gays (Lee McDermott, played by Kevin Rahm) in Desperate Housewives being known as the ‘flipper’ for ‘turning’ straight men gay. Or even, the ‘pit crew’ in Ru Pauls Drag Race being the object of desire because of their particularly masculine appearance. An appearance more associated with heterosexuality.
Where has this obsession with ‘turning’ straight men come from and why is it problematic?
Its insulting and kind of creepy
The whole concept is wrong for so many reasons. First of all, the whole notion of ‘turning’ someone is frankly insulting. LGBTQIA+ people have stated for decades that sexuality and gender identity are not switches that can be turned on or off. It’s not a choice. So the awareness of sexuality being ingrained in an individual exists within the community but is ignored.
The concept of ‘turning’ someone removes all autonomy from the individual and diminishes their sexuality to something that can be controlled by gay men. Which is frankly absurd.
What’s more, this whole idea of turning someone’s sexuality to suit your preferences is insulting. It erases heterosexuality as a true or legitimate identity, and suggests all men are somehow secretly closeted, awaiting their dream man to f**k them into realising they’re gay. From a community that advocates for people to live their truth it seems awfully hypocritical to assume someone that identifies as heterosexual is any way less in touch with their sexuality than they are.
This whole enterprise is underscored by this unsettling feeling regarding the target being either a naïve or unwilling passenger throughout the whole. It makes me uncomfortable as it’s accompanied by a certain peacock-ery and pride. To have ‘turned’ someone is almost worn as a badge of honour.
The uncomfortable truth is, it’s more predatory than it is prideful.
It’s not cute, it’s verging of predatory
I’ll make an assumption that, like me, many gay men have an awful lot of female friends. The most lovely friendships exist between women and the gays. A strictly platonic understanding makes it a safe place for both to exist freely.
In doing so I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of horror stories about dodgy men ignoring women’s wishes and disrespecting their rights as part of their sexual conquest. We understand this is wrong, yet when it comes to straight men we perpetuate it ourselves.
Such behaviour not only makes men uncomfortable but it also does direct harm to the community at large. Reinforcing an already toxic belief that all gay men want to f*ck every straight man they meet. This obsession with heterosexuality is so puzzling, where does it come from?
Internalized homophobia refers to the way LGBTQIA+ people absorb homophobic and heterosexist beliefs about themselves and others. This internalized self-loathing has been cited as a key contributor to the obsession with heterosexual or masculine traits within the LGBTQIA+ community.
This is often coupled with a particular distain for those that present as more typically feminine with masculine gays viewed as somehow ‘superior’. This is seen in the awful ‘masc4masc’ trend and all related dodgy attitudes associated with it. It also explains the deep rooted preference for heterosexual men and heterosexual-like/masculine men.
This preference certainly plays an integral role in this obsession with straight men as well as the distain for ‘fem gays’. When in reality its an expression of the very homophobia we as a community have been fighting so hard to end.
The grey area
Of course there’s a grey area. Being attracted to masculinity or men is literally the key principle of gay attraction. So of course there is a grey area where you may be attracted to someone and be unsure of their sexuality or even if they return your feelings. What’s more, some straight men are fine with a jokey flirtation. That doesn’t mean they want to f**k you.
Stay mindful of their boundaries and rights. Don’t force your attraction onto someone that is visibly uninterested, regardless of their sexual orientation. They’re not secretly gay just because you want them to be.
If they keep maintaining that they’re straight, it’s probably time to put a pin in your heterosexual fantasy and go.
Final thoughts, take-home message
The temptation to sexualise and fetishize straight men is apparently too much to handle for many of us. I can admit I’m guilty of it in some form over the years. And a friendly joke or flirtation with someone who’s open to it isn’t a crime.
Just don’t cross the line. Don’t lose sight of their rights not to match your energy or respond to your advances. It’s not cute, it’s creepy.
Good luck out there.