On a recent Saturday afternoon, I drank beer at a tailgate and cheered by butt off at the Wisconsin-Iowa football game.
That night, I danced my butt off to Taylor Swift at a gay club.
That’s who I am. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those things.
Recently, an Army basketball player who has two dads explained that his dads are great because they aren’t flamboyant or wear pink. Sure, he is straight and we can’t expect him to fully understand. But when I was in the closet, I also looked down upon those so-called “flamboyant” gay men. I wasn’t attracted to them, and I thought they were cartoonish.
That was wrong, and my hurtful stance stemmed from a few different places. Part of me was jealous that they were out of the closet and I wasn’t. Part of it comes from the fact that society stereotypes people like that as “less than” a more masculine man.
But all of that is complete bullshit.
Too many gay men—especially those in the sports community—pride themselves on their masculinity. They brag about their ability to blend in and not be suspected of being gay. You see it on dating sites (“No fems”) and even in some coming out stories on Outsports. Being proud of who you are is fine, but implying that others are somehow lesser because they aren’t like you cuts at the very heart of who we are as the LGBT community.
Also, if you’ve spent most of your life trying to hide in the closet, how do you even really know yourself?
Before I came out, I was terrified of turning into that stereotype. So when I finally came out, I started playing hockey to prove that I was just like straight people. But that was off-base as well. Thankfully, I chose to play with the Madison Gay Hockey Association—and they taught me to be better than that.
I’ve been out of the closet for 18 months. I’ve had my first real relationship with a man (along with my first breakup), I’ve made some great gay friends and some great straight friends. I’m finally starting to get a full picture of who I really am. And when I look back at everything I’ve done since I came out, the closeted Tony who looked down upon “flamboyant” men would not like me very much.
I’ve had so-called “masculine” men dismiss me because I like Lady Gaga and I own some pink shirts. And some so-called “flamboyant” men dismiss me because I’ve gone to six sporting events in the past month.
But the fact that any gay man looks down upon another man for who they are is unacceptable. All gay men have felt prejudice and hatred from homophobes—why should we have to deal with it in our own community?
I’m not asking for “masculine” men to go out and date the “feminine” men. You don’t have to be attracted to every type of man, but to dismiss them as friends before you even get to know someone based on their appearance is a dangerous thing to do.
I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy here—that I’m telling people what to do while at the same time telling them not to tell people what to do, but sometimes things like this require a little hypocrisy.
If you act more masculine than other gay men, that’s fine. But we also need to be careful about how we express that. We don’t want to belittle others in our community, nor do we want to change ourselves to try to fit in with the heteronormative culture of sports.
Today, I wore a bright pink shirt to work. Yesterday, I wore my Pittsburgh Penguins shirt.
That doesn’t make me any better or any worse than any of you. The one thing we all have in common is that we’re all different—so let’s stop trying to hide those differences.
And if that makes other people angry, then that’s their problem.
Actually no—it’s not their problem, it’s their loss.