How Feminism Made Me A Better Gay Man

“Gender, sex and sexuality. What’s the difference?”

That’s how my first Women’s Studies class started during my freshman year of college, around four years ago. I sat there, baffled, not knowing where to begin. When looking around at all my fellow classmates, who like I, did not know the answer, I noticed that I was one of only two other males in the room of forty people. My professor finally answered her own question stating, “Sex is who you do, Gender is how you do it, and Sexuality is who you’re doing it with.” This sparked the next four years of my feminist education.

As I get ready for graduation, I keep thinking back to this moment and about how feminism has made me a better person, and ultimately a better gay man. Beyond all of the affirming peace circles, talks about sex, and poems by recently deceased feminist Adrienne Rich, I learned the power of being around women and what women can teach all of us.

Gay men spend their whole lives trying to figure out their relationships with women; some will date women, some will have sex with them, but many will only love them. When talking to people about when I knew I was gay, I usually say there wasn’t a specific moment. I had always known I was attracted to men. What I struggled with was whether or not I liked women. Feminism is about seeing women as equal — however, feminism showed me that it takes more than liking someone to see them as equal. You have to fight next to them.

As a gay man, I am a man, who has much power and privilege in the world (e.g: patriarchy), but being gay complicates that identity. Gay men are seen as less than in many people’s eyes. To bigots, you are seen as being “like” a woman or wanting to be a women, which gay men will internalize and see as negative. Feminism looks at this thought and says, “What the f-ck is wrong with being a women?” This part of feminism was, and is to this day, empowering, and I needed to hear that message as an 18-year-old gay man.

Sitting in classes where I was a gender minority was jarring. Between all the sports teams, gyms and jobs I had in the past, I had never been around large groups of women before. I immediately became hyper-aware of any comments that were degrading towards women. The class opened my eyes to my own comments in regards to how certain gay men performed their “gayness” (the “flamers” that many attack in the community for being “too gay”). These comments were particularly problematic. They only further divide us rather than unite us. Feminism showed me that critiquing or making jokes about gay men for certain feminine qualities was essentially critiquing women — it was a form of sexism that hurt more people than it made laugh.

As I went through school and learned more about feminism I started having a hard time connecting with old friends and even family. Feminism made me hyper-sensitive to everything. It made me see the world with lots of jagged edges that were not supportive of me, as a person, but I simultaneously started asking a lot of questions that led me to be more aware and become more politically engaged in the fight for equal rights, gay or straight.

Feminists are stereotyped as “the fun killers,” or “the lesbians” – both of which I am not. All feminism wants is for you and me to be equal. However, for you and me to be equal we may have to give up some things we like too much. I know that doesn’t sound fun; You probably won’t see any of the boys over at LOGO’s The A List trying this out any time soon. But you should begin to think about how your wants may intrude on other people’s needs. Thinking outside myself and beginning to consider myself a feminist is how I became a better gay man.

Famous feminist Gloria Steinem once said, “Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”

We are all responsible for making that pie. Even if we can’t eat it, someone else can, and we can enjoy the smell and the company. TC mark

image – GrandeDuc

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  • http://www.facebook.com/t.jason.ham Jason Ham

    –> This man <– quite liked this article. Good lesson on why all human beings should be invested in equality. It sounds obvious now, but for whatever reason this was not always the case for me. And shame on me for that. So here's to hoping this article gets read by people that still need to hear this.

  • http://twitter.com/ayecaleb Caleb Ray

    This was a fantastic read (I especially loved the Steinem pie metaphor.) I’m in the same boat, that first WGS class really opened my eyes. You think going in you’re this open minded individual, you soon find out that you’re really not quite as open minded as previously thought. Feminism helped me become a better person, and now I try to open everyones eyes on why feminism is a great attribute to have. More people would benefit from a WGS class.

  • Bealtaine

    Good article! we’re studying Rich in school at the moment and this article gave me a whole other slant to think about :D

  • Georgia

    How beautifully eloquent and moving, as a newly born feminist, I salute you for your woman equalizing pride (in all its glorious forms). Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    I never really thought about it, until you mentioned it, but the stereotypical “flamer: too gay for gays” persona isn’t really feminine either. It seems to be more male and strictly a male creation. I wonder if it stems from men trying to play women in theater and the transvestite/crossdressing showmen. I guess this comes to your point; it’s a man’s cartoonish accentuation of what he views as feminine qualities.

    For example I’ve never heard a woman talk like or carry themselves like Richard Simmons.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurel.salvo Laurel Salvo

    As a lesbian who has a lot of best friends that are gay men, it was totally refreshing to read this piece. I feel like where I live and go out currently (Philly’s gay scene), the gay men there are anything but feminists and act almost chauvinistic towards lesbians. If I go out dancing with my best gay male friend at one of the more gay male clubs, I get nasty looks but if gay men come to a more lesbian themed club they aren’t received in such a way at all. I wish more GAY men saw women and were trying to meditate on the subject of feminism and championing for women too. Minorities should stick together whether they bridge the gender, sexuality, or sexual identity gap.  Great article!!! Thanks for this.

  • A male

    but the thing is, is that WE CAN ALL EAT THE NEW PIE! feminism isnt just about woman, it balloons out to equality for all people. with total equality, a man who identifies as heterosexual can listen to madonna and enjoy the opera without being thought of as different or abnormal or “gay”. 

    i believe if men see that it is beneficial to them as well they will be more accepting of feminism. otherwise many men will still see it as a threat to mens power. (aka wtf is happening right now?, forcing woman to be baby makers!!!! (fyi madonnoa says f that in her “give me all your luvin'” song/video)
    anyway perhaps men still will see it as a threat to their power regardless, but i do think it is an important step. 

    EVERYONE BENEFITS

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think that anything like “total equality” exists.  Nature doesn’t really allow for equality.

  • http://twitter.com/pcraig3 MisterPaulCraig

    I both like and dislike the pie methapor.  It’s a good leveraging of a popular metaphor, but it’s also redolent of stay-at-home-moms who make delicious pies while the husband’s out working as a manly man. 

    Actual pies, however, I roundly enjoy.

    • Anonymous

      It’s hard to pick up on tone but this post is much funnier if you are being ironic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EvynnTyler Oli E. Tyler

    This was a very insightful article, and I’m happy to have read. I identify very much with this experience, and have always found the general disdain with which effeminate men are treated to be offensive not only to those men, but also to women. It is really refreshing to see that this perspective is spreading. Cheers to an excellent article! I wish more people shared your point of view.

  • Scott Mai

    This article made me a better gay man. Thanks I will be sharing.

  • Anonymous

    edit

  • Mistarizla

    What does this say about transgenders wanting to be identified as men?

    Nothing, and you know why? This article was about something else completely, but I wanted to comment on this article because it was interesting…

    Good day sir!

  • Ardalan

    Enjoyed the article.

    Regarding this sentence “critiquing or making jokes about gay men for certain feminine qualities was essentially critiquing women”, I’ve seen a lot of flamboyant gay men who literally “try” to act like a girl – these gays are just trying to stand out in a crowd and seek as much attention as possible. If I critique these types of gay men, it doesn’t mean I’m critiquing women – I just have a problem with them trying too hard to be different. What’s wrong with just being who you are?!

    • http://twitter.com/garcj372 Jon Garcia

      Would we critique women who go out of their way to act like men in nearly the same way? Or all those men who go out of their way to be athletic and hyper masculine? Why do they try so hard?  Oh the countless men I could name at the top of my head in my Hispanic family who go out of their way to prove their masculinity. Can’t they be who they are? All gender is a put-on. Without genitals to speak of, all we have is our performance of it.  

  • beekers03

    ” Feminism showed me that it takes more than liking someone to see them as equal. You have to fight next to them.”

    Loved this article; thanks for writing it!

  • Deiu

    Most of my life I identified myself as a bisexual. Ever since I was 4 or 5 years old, I knew I liked girls too, and in my innocence it was as natural as dew in the morning spring. Ever since I self-educated myself about feminism, rape culture, slut shaming, mysoginy, I see so many flaws in everyone that sorrounds me. They have no idea what a great impact their jokes and their words have on everything and everyone around. They are feeding this sick society of today, I can’t stand aside when hate and mysoginy is blooming in front of me, and I’m afraid I’ll end up alone..

    Although this thought doesn’t scare as much as before. I like being selective, I like hanging out with people with good principles and education and logic. I hope I don’t sound like a snob, I’m really not.. I just wish I could do so much more to help, but I’m really, really small.. You touched my very soul with this. I love this to the point of making a baby with it. I will never forget you.. You have no idea..

  • Topazsnowdrop

    very interesting topic thank you for your article. i have a male friend who is attracted to same gender but also in love with women. is he already a gay?

  • http://kmenas.tumblr.com Kassiani

    Absolutely lovely

  • http://theravenwine.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/feminism-womens-studies-and-education/ Feminism, Women’s Studies and Education | theravenwine

    […] that one cannot be used in place of another. Nevertheless Women’s Studies to me is life-changing, eye-opening and so vital for a holistic […]

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