You’re not ‘straight-acting’, you’re just gay.
By Joel Armstrong (he/they)
‘Straight-acting’ is a phrase you see all the time on dating apps like Grindr and Scruff. But what the hell does it mean? If you’re gay, you’re gay, right? Here’s why I think it's dumb.
‘Straight-acting’ means that you, as a gay man, present yourself as more ‘masculine’. Walking down the street, no one would bat an eye. You don’t talk a certain way, you aren’t overly expressive with hand gestures or body language and you’re not obsessed with Taylor Swift. Which is fine! But, why do you think it’s better to act like a bloke? You’re as bad as homophobes when they see an ‘effeminate’ gay man and say “Be normal, act like the
rest of us”. I hate to break it to you, but you’re just as gay as James Charles and Frankie Grande.
Using the term ‘straight-acting’ also places straight men in a strange box of masculinity. It assumes that all straight men are masc - which is a very black and white way of looking at gender and sexuality. Masculinity can manifest itself in many different ways. I have straight friends who dress against conventional gender norms. Does that mean that they aren’t ‘straight-acting’? They’re definitely more ‘straight-acting’ than anyone on Grindr because, you know, they’re actually straight.
Even if we were to say that ‘straight-acting’ embodies stereotypical masculinity, what niche of masculinity are we talking about? Tradies who sink a box every Friday night? Guys who spend all their time making Legos - and show their girlfriends after a big day on site? Car guys? Gym bros? Guys with decent graphic cards? Gymnasts? Cyclists? Ballroom dancers? Like I’ve said before, masculinity manifests itself differently in different people.
Masculinity within the gay community is also very different. It can be more traditional than how straight men perceive it, almost hyper-masculine. We're talking big, burly and hairy blokes with thick beards. They're tatted up, wear leather and love rugby. This is an aesthetic many straight men are shying away from these days. So, is it really 'straight-acting'?
I know I’ve stereotyped everyone and everything in this ramble of an article, but that’s the point. Calling yourself ‘straight-acting’ is stupid, because it’s just identifying with a bunch of stereotypes associated with straight men, rather than gay men. We shouldn’t pine to be something we’re not. We should feel comfortable and happy with how we choose to identify within masculinity. If you want to identify yourself as a ‘masculine guy’ then go all out, but stop calling yourself ‘straight-acting’ because you’re not. If you were, you wouldn’t be on these apps in the first place.