The point of the rainbow should be that all colors are welcome
I was recently asked this question by someone who genuinely loves and cares about me but perceives that my behavior, social media commentary and the subjects I publicly obsess over all seem to be gay and gay-focused.
The contrarian in me wanted to flip my hair, bat my eyelashes and twirl while asking, “Whatever do you mean?” to force them to articulate the stereotypes on which they were judging me. I didn’t. Because it’s a fair question, from a certain point of view. And I actually do it on purpose.
The real answer to the question is, “Well, it shouldn’t matter.” That’s why I do it. There is no such thing as “too gay” or “not gay enough,” despite what straight people — and more importantly, many within the LGBT community — seem to think at times when judging us or each other. I am extremely fortunate to live in a community in a city where I can feel safe and comfortable to be as gay as I want. I camp up and play into gay stereotypes because I can; not every member of our community is so lucky.
If I’m being honest, I often push my public gay persona (especially across social media) far beyond my typical behavior in person. In a one-on-one conversation, 50 yards of taffeta don’t actually fly out of my mouth. I don’t own a lip gloss, and I don’t have a thing for Cher, Madonna or even (gasp!) Barbra.
But what if I did? At times I am likely to get caught singing “Defying Gravity” entirely too loudly in the car with the windows rolled down, and in a group of more than five with Beyoncé playing in a bar, I will make a weird, angry dance face and try in vain to pop my non-existent booty. Sometimes, I check just enough boxes for an accurate assumption of gay to be made, and other times I fill all the boxes with so much glitter and rainbows the gayness is just impossible to ignore.
Because I can. Because it was an incredibly long journey to grow through the misconceptions I was taught about what it means to “be a man” and masculinity being a prize above all others. Because the point of the rainbow should be that all colors are welcome. Whether you are a lumberjack sports bar enthusiast or the pranciest of makeup queens, gay should only ever mean what you want it to mean.
Most of the stereotypes that lead an outsider to assume someone is gay are based in an archaic model where the only known homosexuals were those who couldn’t “pass.” The queers. Those who were light in the loafers. The most obvious among us have always been on the frontlines because they have no choice but to be proud because based on a series of massive generalizations, the rest of us can see it.
The problem with these assumptions today is that they’re insulting to everyone. Looking at someone’s behavior or interests and making a decision about what kind of sex they like should be deemed ludicrous at this point. It’s insulting to suggest you can’t be gay and masculine, and it’s equally insulting to suggest that you can’t be feminine — or just interested in traditionally feminine hobbies, careers or subjects — and be straight. Neither should be better or worse.They should just be.
For me, living publicly, and sometimes flamboyantly, gay is one of the small things I can do to be part of publicly challenging the idea that any of the stereotypes used to make the gay assumption are negative. For those who are concerned they might “come off gay” or seem “too gay” or live in a part of our country where it could be dangerous to be so — seeing the examples of those of us who are loudly, proudly and exuberantly gay, according to all of the stereotypical boxes — can serve as an example that any point on the spectrum should be awesome and accepted, even if that isn’t the case where they are.
Yes, sometimes, I’m super gay. I talk about being gay, I talk about things I care about based on my perspective and experience as a gay man, and I care greatly about gay issues and gay politics. Some of the other “gay” things I like, well they really aren’t that gay if you stop using ridiculous metrics like my love for musical theater, pop music and Speedos as a basis for seeing sexuality in so many things that have absolutely nothing to do with it. (Even though you happen to be right in my case.)
So no, I don’t have to be that gay. But I choose to be because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of it. So why on earth not?
Former Dallasite Emerson Collins is an actor, producer and blogger based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @ActuallyEmerson and find him on Facebook at EmersonCollinsOfficial.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 14, 2014.