Why do Straight People Pretend to Be Gay?

First of all…. WHOAHHHH GUYS!! I AM LEGAL NOW!!! I JUST WANT TO YELL THIS AT EVERYONE I SEE!  I AM SO HAPPY AAAAAAAAHHHH RAINBOWS POURING OUT OF MY EYES LIKE TEARS.
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Anyway.

Now, I don’t mean straight men and women are committing to a daily lived performance of “being gay” in the way that I survived my own closet for countless years (and sometimes re-enter in certain professional and public contexts). I’ve never met a real-life “Lisa” (of the L Word) and anytime a man has told me he’s “actually a lesbian” I know he’s not confessing that he’s trans and he’s definitely being annoying.

Instead, I see straight men and women momentarily pretending to be gay, often on Facebook. Sometimes it’s a one-time comment in the context of an argument or a joke, other times it’s as elaborate as a fake relationship, maintained for several days or even months. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of responses by my straight “allies” to the Supreme Court marriage equality decision that are more or less, “Now I need to find someone to get gay married!!”

Photo courtesy of Katie Seibert

Photo courtesy of Katie Seibert

I didn’t know right away how I felt about this, but I knew something was wrong. First of all, these folks are making the distinction by calling it “gay marriage” so I’m not sure they’re imagining something significantly different than just “marriage” — maybe something with extra rainbows — but that much is immediately off-putting. So is the idea that “gay marriage” is something you just off-and do on a whim and not a right that was hard won after years of violence and oppression.

My friends and loved ones who attended SF Pride this year are reporting the sense that there were a lot more straight people in attendance than years prior. An article about this is unsettling in its flippant headline, When, Exactly, Did Pride Become A Party For Straight Teens?, despite touching on the recent and possibly related violence. That’s right, shots were fired at SF Pride.

So, I find myself wondering with increasing urgency why exactly do straight people pretend to be gay and how exactly should I respond to that?

With no initial judgement either way, I present the cases I most often see:

  1. Because women are objectified as sexual objects, lesbians are seen as less threatening and often sexually desirable to straight men. Some straight women borrow this objectification and perpetuate fake encounters or even entire relationships in order to enjoy the attention and to feel desirable. Because they are straight, however, they maintain control over this interaction, unlike me — I can’t choose to retreat from this objectification and it permeates my life.
  2. Some straight women may or may not do the above while also perpetuating a loving “advanced” friendship, calling a woman “wifey,” and elevating a particular best friend. These women may also or merely be enjoying the intimate and affectionate closeness possible between two women that is less possible between men due to male homophobia, without trying to overtly attract men. They may be filling a void due to inability to find the relationship with a man they desire, or they may actually be avoiding relationships with men by appearing “taken.” It can be a placeholder or a replacement for romantic relationships. Facebook posts might avoid any sexual implications, but there is certainly enough PDA in the form of “loving” wall messages to suggest there are external social motivations.
  3. Straight men and straight women will momentarily pretend to be gay in the context of a joke. If it’s supposed to be funny because it’s so improbable, I’m not amused. If it’s supposed to be funny because two people of the same gender have an uncommonly close friendship and love each other a lot, I might think it’s cute, or I might think it’s shitty for people to think it’s not normal to love your friends. Daniel Tosh is funny because he might actually be gay or bi, but he’s toying with the fact that it is not actually any of our business and we may never know.
  4. Straight men and straight women will momentarily pretend to be gay in the context of an argument. If my dad was dealing with a bigot he might feel like pretending to be gay to personalize the argument and hope to make the bigot feel like an asshole. He feels an enormous amount of pride for me as a human being, but he also enjoys laughing in the face of people who think their “ideological” arguments are so important but can’t do more than sputter when it comes to actually applying these arguments to me, a real (and adorable) person. Straight men and straight women leverage their relative safety in order to “borrow” a gay perspective in arguments and force their opponents to recognize their targets as people.
  5. Straight celebrities will pretend to be gay for notoriety and attention (Tosh not excluded). Writers will pretend their characters are gay for the same reason. It’s called queerbaiting and we hate to love it and love to hate it. Seriously though, Hollywood, can you just put homoerotic tension in everything (or how about just homoerotic)?

…You might have picked up my preference for the even numbers in this list.

I can’t say definitively that it’s never appropriate to “pretend” to be gay. Sometimes it even seems to help push along the conversation. I only caution my friends who are used to making the “I need to get gay married” joke (and any similar faux-homage, or should I say homoge?) to reconsider making it in the upcoming months. There is already a dangerous and hateful backlash to the Supreme Court decision and it will probably continue to worsen. It is hurtful for anyone not affected to make light of something that is so serious for the people who are affected. Even if we don’t want to get married, there is something legitimizing about knowing we are recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States. Most of the time, I feel ready to dare anyone to defy me because I can tell them love has won.

But sometimes I feel less safe in my “acceptance,” because I see so-called-allies using this acceptance to entitle themselves. I see a guy at Brass Rail last night videotaping a female go-go dancer on his phone, and returning to videotape her even after another patron told him to stop, and resisting my efforts to also make him stop. Someone I care about sees a straight guy actually fucking ask where he could “see some boobies” at her pride parade in SF last weekend. I see straight men lurking at gay clubs for the straight women who have always tried to find a safe place to party (and have been welcome for years), straight men waiting for the end of the night when women are drunk and tired and trying to get home. I see people who earlier this month insisted calling Caitlyn Jenner “Bruce” now “celebrating” this “LGBT” victory. And then I have to see straight people on Facebook with a rainbow filter say they’re going to get “gay married.”

Forgive me if I don’t think that’s hilarious.

LGBT Art Exhibition

I will be performing at the Lambda Archives for the Queer Artists Project on March 15th.  My performance will start around 8pm.

Lambda-Archives-San-Diego

Friday, March 15th | 8pm | Facebook Event

I’m imagining building a fort and plastering it with No Trespassing tape. Behind my baricade, I calmly target the audience with a mic and a video camera. Isolated sounds float disembodied through speakers and the images I gather project onto my body.

That’s what came to me last night after a brisk cold walk to the bar from my car.

I think I want to comment on the appropriation of gay culture by popular cultures.

This is my homage to Jeremy's style.  It's amazing how hard it is to find sparkly mens spandex shorts on Polyvore -- that is, until you type in the word "fabulous."

This is my homage to Jeremy’s style. It’s amazing how hard it is to find sparkly men’s spandex shorts on Polyvore — that is, until you type in the word “fabulous.”

A very good friend of mine adorns himself with glitter and nailpolish.  He minces and flames.  He’s 100% straight.

I adore these things about him.  I pinned my rainbow button to his drowsy girlfriend’s sleeve as she sat in his lap. She is trying to explore her bisexuality – I wanted her to know that I see her.  But also, in away, I wanted to say that I love and accept them from the bottom of my little gay heart.

Recently, however, I saw a picture of him with rainbow suspenders and I recoiled.  I thought of the trendiness of swinging, straight couples hunting for that perfect bisexual woman who will love both of them in a harmonious triad, and 1-dick-per-relationship policies.  I thought of dudes who ask me to sleep with their girlfriends, but insist that they at least be allowed to watch.  It’s hardly a gracious offer.

Jeremy is not selfish or rude unlike some people who seem to forget what the word “lesbian” means. I’m ashamed that for even one second my brain wanted to connect the dots between him expressing himself and people who suck.

I don’t own all the rainbows and unicorns and I can’t deny the fun of a threesome that lines up perfectly with your expectations and fantasies.  I know I am projecting my own fears and injuries.  I think I am bitter. The collective pressure to submit to a normative sexuality, the times when I did submit, and (when I am angry and/or drunk enough to claim) that I was “collectively raped by society,” fill my mouth with pith and poison.  I have taken man to access woman; why shouldn’t a straight pair do the same?

Here's a drawing of Katelyn murdering a unicorn.

Here’s a drawing of Katelyn murdering a unicorn.

I gave myself the power of “no” too late in life.  And so, when a man asks access to my body even after he knows I’m gay I feel forced to use my no.  It feels less like a choice and more like a struggle.  Years of all the unsaid NO gather in my fists and my eyes.  They don’t know the implications of what they are asking.  They haven’t studied the male gaze nor been pinned under it like a lizard under a curious child’s hands.  Yet every time they ask (I’ll write a post someday about the frequency zomg) I’m hit by a truck.

There is a conversation.  It is not that tourists and heteroregulars infiltrate our spaces, our bars, our clubs.  We also invite them.  I literally bring Straighty McStraight guys to my bars.  Like some kind of sadist, I toss ’em in the sea of gay fish and the evil voice in my head says, “swim sucker! Dog paddle like I have to do every day of my life.”

I'm one of them lipstick lesbians or something.

I’m one of them lipstick lesbians or something.

I am only vindictive when I am weak.  Really though, I need my rainbow-suspender-wearing friend.  He is a pioneer in this conversation as much as any of us queermos.  His choice of attire asks, “Will the straight community accept this?” and inversely, “Will the gay community let me borrow this?”

I’m a femme, so at first glance most men assume I want to bang ’em.  Kidding, but many assume they even have a chance.  I borrow femininity and receive invisibility. I access a “normal” that butch does not.  I allow the assumptions and the lack thereof.  I ask, “Will strangers accept my sexuality even if I do not perform under their expectations or stereotypes?”  I ask myself “how much of this crap will I put up with before I out myself….?”

Yet I’m not femme because I want to be a pioneer.  Like my friend I’m just trying to do what I want.  We just freaking like nail polish.  AND GLITTER.  And extra vaginas for everybody to share.  Being in this larger conversation about sexuality and freedom and agency feels less like a choice and more like a struggle.  What is my responsibility, what is his?

So the video projects on my body, but I also select it.  I target the audience, but they also see their image on my skin, can smile or frown, wave or duck.  I allow, they infiltrate, and visa versa.  That’s the idea with this project anyway.  Thoughts?