Synchroblog #2- Femmephobia

Hello dear readers : ) welcome back to the second exciting edition of synchroblog!  The idea for this post was the outgrowth of a conversation I had with my best friend a couple months ago. Landon and I met and had our friendship forged in surviving GFU together, and I am so excited to do this post with him. While the topic may not be as obviously connected to what I normally write about (spirituality as a gay Christian) it still feels incredibly important to me.  Landon and I will both be responding to the question, “How have I been personally affected by femmephobia”, and between the two of us the idea is that we will cover the topic more completely than could be done alone.  I won’t claim to present any cutting edge information in this piece, I am not a gender theorist, and this will be more personal than academic.  Here is the link to go see what Landon has to say!

“Femmephobia- the fear or hatred of all people who are perceived as feminine. Directly resulting in the oppression of anyone whose gender presentation is in any way classified as being on the female-end of the gender binary due to their fashion sense, behavior, or mannerisms.”

I’ve participated in a few different studies recently that were focusing on collecting information on gay men of color, and I’ve encountered a question repeated a couple times that always makes me pause for a moment.

“If you had the chance to become completely heterosexual, would you?”

That question caught me off guard, because for many years it was a question that only floated around the back of my mind, never one I had to vocalize or tell anyone else about.  If I had a magic wand when I was 13 years old and could have made myself straight, I absolutely would have without a second of hesitation

Its hard for me to try to remember the exact point where the answer 180’d into a no…maybe around 18 I am guessing.  I know that it was after the point where I started to feel connected to the larger LGBTQ community.  Certainly the answer changed after I started learning more about our history and our heroes.  Most days when I think about it, I feel very proud to have the privilege of being a part of this community.

I say that, to explain why setting to the task of writing this blog, even though I know it is important, feels hard.  I have experienced femmephobia to be an enormous problem amongst cis gay men…a problem that lives in the dark, and that I am not at all proud of.  It feels kinda risky to start “airing dirty laundry” of the community, before we have reached adequate places of social and political respect.  It feels easier to engage in activism, march in parades, and sip champagne at fundraisers as a “united front”.

When I start thinking this way, my testimony of integrity creeps its way into my mind.  I have to be able to own that I can still feel proud of belonging to a very imperfect community.  Additionally, it feels like amazingly low integrity to kick this can down the road for the generation after me to fix, and if I live to old age I would feel ashamed to say to young queer people that I didn’t speak out about it.   The time to deal with femmephobia is now, not after the next state has gay marriage, but right now.

I have noticed a lot of left leaning people haaaate hearing that they might not be on the cutting edge, and it is pretty hard for an oppressed group (in this instance, cis gay men) to hear that they themselves might be actively oppressing. 

Whaaaat?!? I am being oppressive?! But I am (gay, a woman, an ally, a person of color, ect.) **beep boop** Does…Not…Compute!!! **explosion**

Well dear readers, we are gonna go there ; ) buckle up.  

My gender presentation and identity began being policed before I was even able to speak. My favorite quick example of this being this lovely picture frame.

Yeeep thats me!

What are a couple things we can notice in this picture? 

Well, first and foremost, the “boy” word is to be a critical part of my identity.

Colors that are suitable for me are mostly blue and green, with some red orange and yellow. 

And sports…sports are going to be something that I will need to enjoy. 

Skipping forward 23 years, spoiler alerts.

I do actually identify as a boy, a boy who likes boys! Isn’t that peculiar?

I like enjoy pink and purple…actually pretty fond of rainbows too!

I haaaaaate sports…I was terrible at them, I am not competitive, I have a low tolerance for pain, I cry at the drop of a hat, and I am afraid of spherical objects being thrown or kicked towards my body.

I can say that now and laugh about it…but when I take myself back to being a kid, I can remember how much shame I felt for not liking sports.  I didn’t understand why I was being made to go out and play sports when I would have rather been drawing, and I could sense the disappointment from adults in my performance.  I was just told that it was a matter of finding the right one, or that I was supposed to try harder, it made no sense to the adults that I just sincerely didn’t like sports.  When I would cry I was told to “man up!” and that “boys don’t cry”.

I remember in middle school, whenever someone wanted to make fun of a gay person, they would prance around with a limp wrist, and fall into a very flamboyant voice with a fake lisp.  I noted that I would have to be careful not to do any of those things.  With my naturally higher pitched voice not doing me any favors, I made an intentional effort to change my mannerisms.

In high school when I started to come out, I experienced a sense of shame in the reverse.  Gay men were supposed to be confident and witty, have fashion sense, and have a majority of female friends. 

Most of my friends were straight men, I lacked confidence and was an awkward conversationalist, and had no sense of fashion.  I thought it was cruel that my nature made me a terrible gay man.  

Today I still feel like a person somewhat in-between, who doesn’t fit perfectly inside of any of my identities, but I am much more comfortable about it.  Even though lots of my queer friends constantly “take away my gay card”!

I am comfortable singing along to my favorite musicals…by myself of course!

I am comfortable starting a fire and fitting everything I need to survive a weekend on the trail into a backpack. 

I am comfortable admitting that I love collecting pocket knives (and omigosh I was able to go to BLADE trade show in Atlanta this year and meet my fav knife designers and omigosh it was amazing and…I’ll just stop there for now).

Some of what I consider my biggest strengths now, my sensitivity and desire to care and listen to people, are likely considered to be more feminine traits.

I’m kinda a weird duck, but I have friends now who like me just being me.  

Shortly after starting to look around online gay dating websites or apps, I noticed some distressing things that guys kept listing in “interested in” sections.

“Str8 acting only


No femmes, queens, flamers”

“I’m gay, which means I like MEN, not women

This is femmephobia, and this is cis gay males making “passing as straight” a high valued trait.  Now I am no ships counselor, but I get the sense that a lot of these guys would also probably be self loathing gay people.

Now I’ve heard people defend this practice, saying that preference and prejudice are not the same thing.  I am inclined to agree, but I also think the line between the two is incredibly small.  Obviously people can’t change who they are attracted to or what traits they are attracted to, but I am nervous about categorically dismissing people as unattractive.  I feel like it limits your ability to encounter someone who may be wonderful for you, but who doesn’t fit the list that you have predetermined to be attractive. 

And even if I grant that not being attracted to femininity is a valid preference (of which I am unconvinced), the way that it is being communicated is wrong.  It is unscientific, and I don’t have a suggestion on a “right” way to do it, but reading that stuff listed above just makes me feel….icky. Icky and sad.  This “preference” has for some reason been elevated by gay males to the point where it can be immediately listed without consequence.    

I now have a great feeling of pity for the men who are putting these kinds of things out for the world, but it certainly hurt my confidence.  I suspect I am not the only one either, and here are some questions I noticed would start to run through my head.

Am I masculine enough to talk to these guys? Should I change my behavior again to be attractive? 
No one should feel the need to ask themselves those questions.  

And let there be no mistake, that I am not speaking out as an enlightened person who doesn’t struggle with this at all.  For example, my first boyfriend did drag show performances, and I was very self conscious about that at first.  Clearly there is stuff regarding expressions of masculinity and femininity that I still need to work on.

We can shame each other, and make what is a “bad image” amongst ourselves the enemy, when the real “enemy” is heteronormativity and cisnormativity. I fear that the truth is that we have been, on the whole, silent as new form of oppression festered and solidified itself within the community.  We have substituted out heteronormative complimentariansim for homonormative complimentariansim.  One that locks us in to playing roles that are extremely dishonest to the person we were created to be.  One that does nothing to weaken the patriarchal system we were all born into.  

Seeking out a political “path of least resistance” is not necessarily a bad thing, but sidelining more feminine members of our community in the process is.  

Naturally more masculine gay men, ending this is in your best interest too.

Children shouldn’t be asking if they are behaving masculine enough or feminine enough, they should be asking if they are behaving honest enough; are they being true to the person they are? 

Like I said before, I am a person who still struggles with this, and don’t I don’t pretend to have a solution, but I hope this can be more of an open conversation.  A conversation that is had from the podiums as leaders in our community speak, inside our spaces, and between friends. 

The promise that our community has, is that there is beautify and life and fulfillment to be found outside of the binaries that have been policed in the past.  My goal is that the femmephobia that affected me growing up, will not affect the next generation of gay men who grow up. 


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