Preference or Prejudice: Femme Gay Men
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February 26, 2016

Preference or Prejudice: Femme Gay Men

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When talking about dating and sex, we have to be mindful of where our preferences are coming from.

This article discusses preferences when it comes to sex and dating, specifically in terms of a man’s “femininity.” This article does not comment on racial preferences, not because it is an unworthy topic, but because it is a topic of equal importance. It will for that reason be discussed in a future article.

I had coffee with a friend the other day. We were talking about different issues within the gay community; comparing ourselves to other gay men, not having an outlet to voice our concerns and insecurities. He mentioned in a roundabout way that, “people know” he’s gay, and that has made dating hard for him.

I know the feeling. The gay community, in general, fetishizes straight men and the straighter you act as a gay man the more attractive you are. I can’t speak for all gay men, but as a rule, I believe this to be true.

He asked me, “do we hate ourselves that much? That acting or sounding ‘gay’ makes us less desirable?”

Growing up, and even still to a lesser degree, I would hear my gay peers mention how they’re “gay because they like MEN.” If you don’t act like a man, they’re not going to find you attractive. Most of us have grown out of that exclusion, but many gay men would still prefer a soccer player to a drag queen. The question is, why?

There has been a lot of talk about preferences with the advent of Grindr and similar apps. It is commonplace to see messages like, “no femmes,” or “masc for masc. Just a preference.” We all have sexual preferences. Liking men more than women, or women more than men, or both equally are all examples. More specifically, some like tall, some like hairy, some like quiet and some like loud. But is there a deeper reason behind what we have labeled “preferences” when talking about “femininity” (I put “femininity” in quotes because it is a perception of what is stereotypically female)? I think the answer is yes, and there are many possible reasons behind our adverse thinking.

One reason may be our inbred notions about women’s inferiority. Society has taught us, whether outright or beneath the surface, that women are worth less than men; their opinions, their skills, their motivations. Examples of this can be seen everywhere, from the wage gap to reproductive rights, from the silence around college campus rape victims to the unfortunately few female voices in our government. Women are seen as sex symbols, the bearers of children, and the caretakers of man-folk. So when gay men don “feminine” traits, such as higher voices, clearer diction, high fashion, sensitivity and so on, they are seen as lesser, weaker men.

Another possible reason behind our contempt for the effeminate and the cause of many problems in the gay community is internalized homophobia. This is something many gay men struggle with, whether they realize it or not. There is a small part of most gay men that has not yet come to terms with their sexuality.

For example, when I was a child my mother used to teach my brother and I how to be good husbands to our future wives. She taught us to hold doors for women, to stand on the street-side of the sidewalk in case a car skids off the road, and so on. She used to give us lessons on our relationships with our future wives. And even though she supports me as a gay man, those lessons are ingrained in me. No matter how comfortable I am with myself, there will always be something inside of me that disapproves.

Attraction is a natural instinct within us. We have fought with society and with ourselves to admit that our attraction to other men is not a choice, but a hardwired trait. Preferences within that attraction are learned from past experiences and environments. Preferring taller men to shorter men, or brown hair to blond are all examples of this. When “femininity” is involved, though, we have to think deeply about whether it is preference or prejudice. There is nothing wrong with having preferences, as long as you know where they are coming from.

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Dain Evans
A transplant to Brooklyn from the Midwest, Dain has been an advocate for change since the beginning. After graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Documentary Film Producing, he continued this work at organizations that shared this mission, including Kartemquin Films, creators of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters, POV, a documentary series on PBS, Film Sprout, the community outreach powerhouse behind The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground, and UnionDocs, a non-fiction community arts organization. He continues this passion as the founder and host of Permission, a blog and podcast encouraging "no apologies" in the LGBTQ+ world.