By Vish @Vishdlish | Photo © www.flickr.com/photos/partymonstrrrr


OPINION

I’m a campy, limp-wristed, queen of a man! This sentence paints a picture of me being an exaggerated gay caricature. Perhaps true. But to me these words fundamentally communicate effeminacy. So to break it down – I’m an effeminate gay man. Phew, I’m glad to get that off my chest!

 Not that this was some sort of big secret. Just take a look at me and I’m sure you’ll clock my gayness in seconds. “What’s your gayness got to do with effeminacy?” you ask. But let’s face it – the majority of people have evolved to see gay men as effeminate. It’s as if the words ‘gay’ and ‘effeminate’ have become synonyms. This could be due to various factors like media representation or cultural dynamics. When men like me are patronised for being ‘so gay’, it’s implied that we’re behaving like a woman. It’s clear that hetero-normative society can’t see beyond its male gender restrictions where men are expected to be a macho, emotionally unavailable, ball-scratching stereotype.

Reflecting on the extent of my femininity – I wouldn’t say I was born in the wrong body. I’ve never had overwhelming urges to have a sex change. I’d probably get more respect if I became a woman or even a drag queen. I think straight and gay communities would have an easier time tolerating me even in pseudo female form.

This narrow mindedness towards gender identity bothers me. I’m fed up of the raw deal we effeminate men are given by everyone. I’ve come to realise my feminine attributes are my strengths and that I shouldn’t shy away from expressing them. It’s been a turbulent journey filled with questions, anxieties and eventual personal acceptance to get this somewhat secure mentality. With that said, here are some of the past experiences and realisations that have shaped me.

I became aware of my effeminacy at a pre-pubescent age. At ten years old, I stood out like a sore thumb at primary school with my high-pitched voice and Asian ethnicity in a class of predominantly white classmates. I was frequently made aware of my ‘girly’ voice and ‘chocolate face’ by my little peers. Yes kids are cruel and I dealt with it. But what stuck with me were the jibes about my feminine voice. I developed a speaking complex, worried I’d be labelled girly if I opened my gob.

I quickly realised it wasn’t considered ‘normal’ for a boy to sound this feminine. I questioned my two elder sisters about why I sounded like a girl. They simply reassured me that it was all in my head and all little boys and girls sounded and behaved alike. Though a comforting answer, I wasn’t really convinced. Having been brought up in a house of prominent women, I’d naively questioned in my mind if I had caught my girly ways from one of them.

At times I would embrace my femininity. After school, I would slap on my sisters lippy and prance around my bedroom in high heels. It felt fucking awesome. But eventually my sister found out and I was given a lecture about how boys weren’t allowed to wear make-up and that I shouldn’t touch her shit again. I was left mortifyingly embarrassed and confused. It didn’t seem that long ago that my sisters comfortingly told me that boys and girls were similar. But now I was abruptly given a contradicting message that boys should behave like boys. This felt repressive. For me playing with make-up and female clothing was an avenue to express what I now realise is my inherent femininity.

At home my ten-year-old feminine self was fawned over – I was considered cute. But at 15 my mother in particular didn’t like what she saw. “Walk like a man!”, “Boys can’t wear that!”, “Stop acting like a girl!”, “Why don’t you like sports!” were common taunts shot my way that continue today. The truth is my mother is embarrassed of me. Especially about what other people will think of me and how that reflects on her. I‘ve always sensed my mother wished I mirrored the effortless masculinity of my father. After all, my father’s masculinity is all she has ever known to expect from the male species and I’m sure my effeminacy freaks her out.

The strange thing is my prized masculine father has never brought up my effeminacy or gayness. This has always puzzled me. I’m not naive enough to think he doesn’t see it; rather he’s a pro at ignoring it. I think my father sees me through inverted binoculars. My femininity isn’t in focus for him, contrary to my mother’s view where she can read the writing on the wall.

I’m not upset at my mother for knocking my self-esteem. As messed up as it sounds, her criticisms were from a place of love. She just wanted me to fit into society and be accepted. Societal acceptance is a big deal in Asian families, not to mention the importance of having a son. I learnt as a teen that a son is considered a blessing (or saviour) who carries on the father’s lineage and brings home a big pay check. On the other hand, girls are considered burdens and they need to be married off quickly.

It seems masculine heterosexual men have muscled right to the top of society’s hierarchy. Women and non-conforming men like me are often casualties of this infrastructure. I’ve realised that if this hierarchy doesn’t break down, narrow mindedness towards gender identity will remain.

On reaching my 20s, I came out as a gay man. I threw myself into the gay scene looking for acceptance. I found it by the bucket load and it was liberating. However under the surface it’s clear that many gay men tend to look down on effeminate men. They moan that we let the gay side down and that we perpetuate a campy/jokey stereotype. Effeminate men are generally desexualised and labelled repulsive on hook-up apps. Let’s just say you will never see grindr profiles yearning for ‘camp men only’. This type of discrimination appears more prominent and openly acceptable than sexual racism.

We’ve all heard of the term ‘straight acting’. A phrase commonly used within the gay community to describe men who are masculine enough to pass as straight. This term is deeply depressing to me. Why are gay men still pandering to the straight male image and its supposed masculine sex appeal? This macho male image is inescapable and it’s glorified everwhere. I suspect effeminacy-policing gay men are holding on to hetero-normative values they were brought up with. I can empathise that this narrow mindset isn’t easy to shake off. But I can’t help feeling this reeks of internalised homophobia and misogyny.

Yes that’s right, misogyny! To state the facts graphically, I’m a man who many years ago came out of a woman’s vagina. If my attributes match those of my female creator, is that really so awful? But I see a bigger elephant in the room. The truth is many men throughout the world continue to disrespect women and their rights. I feel this injustice has trickled down to gay effeminate men. Perhaps, when women are truly respected and considered equal to men it will finally be celebrated for men to be effeminate.

I’ve gone through struggles being an effeminate man – mainly tirelessly worrying if I’d be accepted by straight and gay communities. I’m now at a point where people’s opinions don’t matter. I’m striving to be authentically me and a great part of that is accepting my femininity. On that note, I raise my limp wrist in salute to my fellow effeminate gay men and I hope to empower them with the following few words – you’re fucking fabulous. 


Would you like to write an opinion piece for FS? Email us on fsmag@gmfa.org.uk.


This article was taken from FS #147: CHEMSEX EXPOSED


INTERACTIVE: