Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is It Hard for Straight Men to Be Around Gay Men?

This is a bit of a reverse-take on a previous post on this blog where I opined about the difficulties of being a gay guy and socializing with (some) straight men.

I found an article on another blog titled, "Are All Straight Men Homophobic?" In that article, the author (who is straight) describes feelings and behaviors that straight guys have around gay people. He says:
  • "For the most part, when a gay man is in the presence of straight men it can be the most uncomfortable situation for the latter group."
  • "Straight men are so afraid of being perceived as gay that they act extra macho and get kind of nervous."
  • "...I don't want to make any kind of eye contact whatsoever [with a guy I think is gay]. My face screws up and my eyes trail down to the floor or off to the side. Anywhere but the direction of that individual. Uh uh, buddy, you’re not making googly eyes with me."
  • "I know I'm not alone, straight guys tense up all the time in the presence of a gay man. Why? It just makes us very uncomfortable for various reasons."
  • "I bet if a gay person were to walk up to a straight man and randomly pick lint off his collar that the straight guy would jump back like he saw a ghost. That, and probably be ready to fight. But would he have the same reaction if it were an attractive woman doing the exact same thing?"
  • "It's all about perception. It's like there are straight men who feel that just by being in the presence of a gay man that the gay will somehow rub off on them and make them look weak, soft or like a punk."
And from some comments on that blog post:
  • "Some of that fear or anger towards gay men may be some men's own personal anger with gay men being able to be so open and comfortable about their sexuality. If you look at our society, a gay woman is way more accepted than a gay man will ever be."
  • The LGBT Community would like to think that people are scared of them in attempt to shame people of their "cowardice". But the truth is people just flat out disagree with the lifestyle. [N.B.: He claims that he isn't afraid as he does not approve of the gay "lifestyle." Oh cripes, please review my previous post about the difference between sexual orientation and a Gay "Lifestyle". Many straight people just don't get it.]
  • .... Fear has nothing to do with the disgust some have in seeing something they do not value. .... [T]he truth of the matter, those who society deems as "homophobic" are in fact anti-gay." [N.B: so this commenter differentiates between being anti-gay and homophobic. Hmmm... interesting.]

I found this blog post enlightening, and it confirms a lot of behaviors that I see straight guys around me do -- they avoid eye contact, create an even larger physical personal space between them and me, and behave with even more macho mannerisms than I observe them behave around other guys who they know are straight. I had always thought that they were afraid of me -- and some of them seem to behave that way by backing off, being quiet, and totally avoiding any interaction with me whatsoever. Fear may be part of what drives this behavior. But it is also aversion -- aversion to being around something that they just do not like. At all. (Some may call it disgust.)

I can relate, in a way. I am disgusted when I am around some straight guys who use profanity in every-other-word that they utter; who make sexist comments regularly; or who oogle women overtly (undressing them with their eyes.) I am disgusted by that behavior and those remarks.

I learned (or shall I say, some of my thinking was reaffirmed) that there are some guys who are disgusted by the mere fact that I am gay. And it gets worse, sometimes, when they find out that I live in a same-sex relationship. To them, the mere thought that I might have sex with another man is disgusting -- and puzzling. They just don't understand why I would not want to have sexual pleasure with a woman.

As far as I am concerned, I have endured straight men being uncomfortable around me for most of my life, but I never really put a finger on the reasons for that behavior being caused by more than fear (homophobia). Now I have.

I am who I am, and am comfortable in my own skin and with my own sexuality. I don't talk about my sexuality as a "preference" -- it IS an orientation. I'm gay. So be it.

Some straight guys can deal with their own discomfort and minimize it. Some of these guys who have known me for a long time don't even think about the fact that I'm gay. We're tight, as buddies. None of my close (straight) buddies would flinch if I picked a piece of lint of his collar. But the (straight) guys who I see occasionally, such as in my motorcycle club, behave more like what was described in the reviewed blog post than my close friends do. They react with a combination of fear, aversion, and disgust.

Okay, I get it. But to the straight guys who behave this way -- know that your behavior is noticed. Sometimes the behavior of backing away, avoiding eye contact, and keeping a large physical distance between us can be taken very personally by a gay guy, and he gets hurt. I have to be honest, I used to feel hurt quite a bit by observing the "back away" reactions of straight guys when they figured out (or I told them) that I am gay.

I do not get hurt any more. I realize that some straight guys can't handle, or don't want to handle, the fact that I am gay. Some guys are insecure in their own manhood, like being associated with me can remove it from them. I also realize that some straight guys are anti-gay. More than dislike, they really hate the thought of anything involving a same-sex relationship more intimate than a handshake.

I get it. I truly get it. And in this case, the Serenity Prayer applies, "to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

And I continue to live as I always do: I care for my family and friends; I work hard for a living; I contribute to society through voluntarism; I lead groups and organizations; I ride a Harley with an organized group for fun. I am a confident, masculine man who happens to be gay. So be it. Getting to know me will not threaten your manhood and make you less straight, as it would not make me "less gay." We are who we are.

Tune in tomorrow for a guest blog contribution and follow-up to this piece by a good friend who has contributed a lot to this blog and whose thoughts on this matter are truly insightful.

Life is short: understand.


Booted Harleydude said...

The idiot from Mumbai, India, did it again... he tried to post a comment with an embedded link to a commercial website. This is a violation of this blog's commenting policy. All comments with embedded links are deleted -- NO EXCEPTIONS!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I disagree with your analysis of what the straight blogger is saying, or if I'm simply not clear what that analysis is. You see in what he has written another explanation other than fear for straight men's aversion to gay men. In fact, you set up "aversion" as that very alternative to fear. Maybe that's where the confusion is coming in for me. I'd like to suggest that you're making an invalid contrast between these two concepts. Fear is an emotion, and in the present context it is a root motivation for why one might avert one's eyes, hands, or one's presence entirely from another. "Aversion" often is used incorrectly as a synonym for fear; in reality it is an action -- properly understood it is a response to fear.

But I make this point not to quibble about terms and definitions. When I read either you or the other blogger you quote referring to fear or aversion as two possible explanations for straight men's stand-offish behavior toward gay men, it strikes me as the same basic explanation: fear, or if you will pardon the overly broad application of the pseudo word, "homophobia". My impression is that honest, innate fear and ignorance (kissing cousins) are the root cause for the vast majority of straight men's aversions toward gay men.

That being said, I also believe there are those men, and women, who, with varying degrees of knowledge and ignorance, object to homosexual behavior based on some moral criteria. In such cases it is particularly discouraging to me to see these men shy away from gay men socially, both those who are unabashedly active and those who are quietly celibate, but we live in an imperfect world, so I should not be surprised that we must make allowances for fear and ignorance to overlap at times with righteous indignation.

If in your commentary you were indeed trying to point out that some straight men act aversively toward gay men as a result of moral opposition to homosexuality, then you can ignore my comments, and please accept my apologies for misunderstanding you. That point simply wasn't clear to me in what you wrote, nor was I getting that impression from the other blogger whom you quote.


Booted Harleydude said...

Hank, I guess I wasn't clear. What I was trying to say in my blog post was that I learned that there are two reasons that some straight men behave in ways that indicate discomfort with gay people. Homophobia, which we both agree is a problem for some straight guys, and (revelation to me) ... aversion due to what you may choose to call "moral opposition" or what I just refer to as "strong dislike" up to and sometimes including, outright hatred.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification. Thank you also for adding good old-fashioned irrational hate to the list. How could I forget that most popular reason for so many human behaviors?