How many times have you seen the words “No Fems” on a guy’s Grindr profile and wondered if that applied to you? And how many times have you tried downplaying your “gayness” even when in the company of other gay men?
According to writer Jack Rushall, it happens far too often.
“For a lot of modern gay men, a big part of being gay is still seeming straight,” Rushall opines in a new Washington Post op-ed. “It’s likely that we entertain this demeanor in the hopes of attracting it, as if we’re part-time actors waiting for our big break: meeting a masculine dude who will accept our effeminate properties.”
Rushall says he often struggles with how he presents himself.
“I have always grappled with identifying as a ‘fem’ or a ‘masc,’” he writes. “Today, some people absolutely know I’m gay. Other people, usually gay men I’m dating, tell me that they weren’t immediately sure of my sexuality.”
Rushall recalls a recent relationship with a guy he describes as very “masc.”
“During the honeymoon phase of this relationship, I felt I’d hit the jackpot. My boyfriend was a suave, Topman-draped journalist with a Kennedy-inspired cowlick,” he writes. “But things got weird.”
A month into things, his super “masc” boyfriend gave him an ultimatum: “I was going to have to bottom (and only bottom), or he would end things.”
Rushall wasn’t opposed to bottoming, he says, but “the problem … was that there was no equilibrium. He decided that he was older and felt more masculine, and I would have to accept this fixed position.”
Rushall acquiesced, but he says it felt more like “a sacrifice to keep my boyfriend around” than anything.
Months later, his boyfriend suggested they move in together. But because of the dynamic that had been created over the whole masc=top-fem=bottom-thing, Rushall turned down the offer.
“I couldn’t shake mental images of me in an apron, placing a hot pot roast on the table while he demanded a refill of his gin and tonic,” he writes.
Soon after, the couple broke up.
“I admit that refusing to let my ex move in with me was a fruitful conversation to have with myself,” he reflects. “The takeaway from our break-up was that I am comfortable inhabiting my own space … I deserve a voice, regardless of how it sounds.”
In conclusion, Rushall says, “I can’t promise that I won’t compromise myself for a relationship again. In fact, I hope I do. Love should mean middle ground.” But, he adds, “love itself is not gendered. In case we’ve forgotten: that’s why some of us are gay to begin with.”
What do you think? Are modern gay men obsessed with seeming straight? And what are your thoughts about “masc” and “fem” roles?