Monday, September 11, 2006

My Take On Androgynous Gays

The story is coming soon, but first:

I recently came across this question on an obviously straight man's personal political blog. The post had started out about Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, but went on to conclude:

"This opens up a whole lot of chicken or egg questions. Clearly, the average lesbian is less visually attractive than the average heterosexual woman, but is that because lesbians work less at being attractive because they don't have to compete on looks as much because women are less picky about their mate's looks? Or do lesbians not want to try to make themselves look attractive because that's a feminine thing to do and they tend to be more masculine in persona? Or are lesbians, on average, simply less feminine looking because of hormonal differences? Or are they just less attractive looking overall, rather than specifically less feminine-looking, and find they can attract a better mate in the lesbian market than in the heterosexual market?"

Notice the photo the blogger had up as an example of Mary Cheney's unattractive looks. If you care to google her though, you will find that the man had to sift through two pages of very feminine and attractive photos of Ms. Cheney to find this one. Now that's what I call objective evidence!

Regardless of the biased shown by Mr. iSteve, I find his confusion to be an interesting topic. I have been asked, most likely because of my less than heterosexual (more than heterosexual?) leanings, this very question. Why are gay men girly and lesbians butch?

Well, the obvious answer is; they aren't. It's an overwhelmingly generalized stereotype that doesn't apply to EVERY homosexual. But let's let that go for now. There are Jack McFarlands and Carson Kressleys and even Austin Scarletts out there, just as there are KD Langs and Martina Navratilovas. So why, you may ask, is it that a tiny little piece of identity should have such an impact on a person's appearance and mannerisms? Let's assume for the moment that the two are in fact linked, and that a straight Austin Scarlett wouldn't wear ruffly shirts and eye make-up.

The best explanation I can come up with regarding masculine lesbians, and one that certainly has applied to me in my own life, is that being feminine is a hassle. To put it pretty bluntly, smooth legs and flowing hair can be a bitch to keep up with. And other women understand that. So if I don't need make up and long done up hair to attract a man, which lesbians don't generally care about, then why not just cut the hair short and skip the mascara? I know plenty of 100% straight women who often threaten to just shave their heads on bad hair days. And honestly, how hard would it be for any woman to give up shaving her legs,
or at least go longer between shaving, if a man wouldn't complain about it? Not that all 'butch' lesbians have hairy legs, or that all women with hairy legs are lesbians, but some do and are, and that's one reason for it.

Now, as for the flaming gays out there, I can only speculate. Sadly, American patriarchal society is more tolerant of that which arouses men than that which threatens or confuses them, so lesbian chic is a reality. I can only begin to imagine how it must feel to realize that you will never, no matter how macho you try to be, fit the mold the world expects you to. After all, no matter how strong, how successful, how much of a "man's man" you may succeed in becoming, as long as your spouse has a penis it just isn't going to work in a lot of people's eyes. I imagine it must be frightening to wonder how many of the men in your life will distrust or abandon you. But I also suspect it may be more than a little freeing. When you accept that you simply cannot be macho, the pressure to try to be, I would assume, disappears, and with it the taboos against a lot of other things. I mean, after you drop a bomb like "Dad, I'm gay," how bad can it be to announce later "Dad, I style hair," or "Dad, I'm a decorator,"?

I may have married a (wonderful) man, but I can still remember what it was like to come out of the closet. I lost friends, I was threatened, I was scared. But also, being a bonafide "freak" gave me the courage to be myself. All of the ways I felt strange and different before that moment, my taste in music or books or clothes, paled in comparison to what I had just made known. I was lucky, though. I was a girl. The boys at my school eventually discovered how much it could boost their reputations if only they could be the ones to "change" me. I got asked out by a lot of football players that year. And once the girls realized that they could easily take me in any fight, they kind of liked the idea of a girl who wouldn't compete with them for guys. The year I came out turned out to be the best year of high school for me. Of course, all it took was one really hot guy to make me question myself all over again, and come to the conclusion that I didn't need to be gay, or straight, or anywhere in between. I didn't have to fall in love with people based on their gender. I had a freedom not many people have; gender didn't matter to me. Manly or girly, male or female, none of that turned me off. I was free to fall in love with someone based on who they were inside, and I never took that for granted. I have been with hairy legged women and men who wore panties, prissy femmy women and sweaty working men.
And I have learned that it takes a lot more courage to be yourself in spite of pre-assigned gender roles than it does to shave things and fix things and wear things just because you're expected to.

I have a lot of respect for Mary Cheney, and for her father. Sure, I still detest Dick's political views, hunting skills, and just about everything he stands for on a professional level. But in a career field where conservative public opinions can make or break a man, he hasn't denounced or turned his back on his daughter. And out of that tiny glimmer of respect, I will refrain from making the obvious "Growing up with Dick Cheney as a male role model, gee I wonder why she's gay" comment.

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