Really, HuffPo? I Don't Like Effeminate Gay Men?
by Dan Savage
on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 11:56 AM
HuffPo posted a piece by "queer activist" Richard Lyon this morning. In it Lyon dismissed me as a "self-declared" gay pundit and then accused me of questioning "the desirability of a close alliance between" gay people and trans people on "repeated occasions." There was no link to anything I'd written questioning the alliance between gay and trans communities, no link to a YouTube clip where I said something like that, there was, you know, no proof that I had ever said something like that. Because it was a lie. Or, more charitably, it was a mistake. HuffPo has corrected Lyon's piece. (Although Lyon still accuses me of being "involved" in "continuing controversions and conflicts with the transgender community." My "conflict" isn't with the "transgender community," it's with a small number of self-described trans activists—most of whom are not trans, all of whom are full of shit.)
While I've had dustups with these "self-declared" trans activists—about word choice, about advice I'd given—I wholeheartedly support the political alliance between gay and trans people. I support trans people. Because we're all gender non-conforming sexual minorities, right? I also happen to agree with my fellow gay, white, cis-gendered pal Gabriel Rotello: a growing body of evidence points to gay being a a point on the trans spectrum. Science!
But here's what was most maddening about self-described "queer activist" Richard Lyon's piece:
From an effort to counter the notion that all gay men are effeminate, they have moved toward the position that all gay men should present an image of red-blooded American masculinity. The drive toward becoming respectable leaves no room for the presence of gay men who are less than fully and thoroughly butch.... The point of this is that not all boys are cut out to be the personification of masculinity. I was a kid who started life as an identified sissy and grew up to be a gay man who still hates sports and likes to cook. By and large, it is the kids who look and/or act different who are most likely to be targets of bullying.
Lyon, who writes that he was "a kid who started life as an identified sissy and grew up to be a gay man who still hates sports and likes to cook," is decrying the marginalization of effeminate gay men by more masculine, gender-conforming gay men. And Lyon accuses me of being one of the gay voices out there condemning gay men who don't "conform to the masculinity specification" and "fail to measure up on the butch index."
Here I am coming to the defense of sissies in a piece I did for "This American Life" way back in 1996. I happen like effeminate men and I've always defended effeminate men in my column and on my podcast. And not just their humanity and right to exist, Richard, but their sexual agency and sexual desirability. There aren't a lot of high-profile gay writers out there—excuse me, "self-described gay pundits" (not that I've ever described myself that way)—who've defended sissies as sex objects. Except me: I happen think swishy gay men are hot and I've never been shy about saying so. (My husband hates team sports and likes to cook and wears flashy clothes and dyes his hair.) And I've gotten tons of grief over the years from insecure gay men—some a whole lot less butch than they imagined themselves to be—who are openly hostile to effeminate gay men. I've always slapped those guys down. (Most seemed to think that if we all acted a little straighter the haters would hate us less. Not true.) So to be cited as part of the problem in a piece about gender non-conformity among gay men and the oppression of sissies just added insult to injury.