Social Question

DominicX's avatar

What do you think of the term "straight acting" in reference to a gay person?

Asked by DominicX (28762points) March 2nd, 2010

Yes, I know the whole spiel about how labels don’t matter and all that, but this label in particular bugs the hell out of me.

I recently came across something from a gay guy who insisted on calling himself “straight acting” because he matches “societal expectations of straight people.”

Whenever I hear this term, I want to punch somebody. First of all, it implies that are universal personality traits common to all straight people and all gay people and that is just false. What most people mean when they say “straight acting” is “masculine”, correct? So why can’t people just use that term?

Secondly, it makes it seem as if what you are doing is an act rather than your true nature and that you are deliberately avoiding being “gay acting”. Also, it seems that even within the gay community, being “straight acting” is something to praise because you’re not one of those “Oh my God, here they come floatin around” gay guys, more the fix up your house gay guys.

Would you ever describe someone that way?

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20 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

I think it refers to a discredited stereotype. Not all effeminate men are gay, and certainly not all gay men are effeminate.

lilikoi's avatar

I can think of a few ways that “acting straight” can go beyond just masculinity or not have anything to do with manliness at all. I think it is possible that he feels that his true nature is pretty “straight” relative to societal norms. The media has stereotyped gays just like it stereotypes everything else. He’s probably just trying to say that gay people don’t always fit into the media mold, and he doesn’t.

dpworkin's avatar

These sound like his own private issues. I’m sure it’s not news to you that some gay people internalize the abuse they have endured and experience it as self-loathing. It’s sad and difficult, and he seems to have found a defense that works for him. Too bad he seems to need it.

kevbo's avatar

I use it, and I learned about the term from a documentary on “straight acting” guys on a rodeo circuit or something. Anyway, the documentarian guy was gay, so I assumed it was a kosher term. I think it’s also used in the film “Outrage”, but I could be mistaken.

I agree with @lilikoi that it is possible that it falls a degree beyond “masculine gay.” I think of guys who carry on a hetero lifestyle (including being married, for example) with the exception of having discreet sex with men. I also think it implies an element of closetedness.

Yeah… this movie.

DominicX's avatar

It just seems to be that being straight is not an “act”. If a person is truly “straight acting”, they are attracted to the opposite sex, because that’s what being straight is about. To me, calling yourself straight acting when you’re not straight is implying that there are certain qualities that straight people have that you emulate. But it’s taking a generalization and turning it into a supposed proper term.

@kevbo

I find a problem with the concept of a “hetero lifestyle”. To me, that means that you enter into a heterosexual relationship and maybe even have sex with women. I’ve met some gay people who claim that they live a “straight lifestyle” because they don’t have gay sex. Well, that’s not a straight lifestyle, that’s just a celibate lifestyle. The whole concept of a “gay lifestyle” is flawed in my opinion. “Gay” is a sexual orientation, that’s it. Sure there are stereotypes that society has unfortunately attached to it, but if you are gay, you are attracted to the same sex and that’s all it means to me.

tinyfaery's avatar

I agree with everything you said, Dominic.

kevbo's avatar

Yeah, I see your point. It’s not something I think about all that often, it’s just what I gleaned from media focused on gay issues.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think it’s stupid.

fireinthepriory's avatar

This guy who insisted on being called “straight acting” was missing the biggest “societal expectation of straight people” for a man – that is, having sex with WOMEN. That’s the definition of straight, so it’s the expectation people have when you say you’re straight. To me, acting straight is having sex with people of the opposite sex/gender. Acting gay is having sex with someone of your same sex/gender. Doing it doesn’t even necessarily mean that you ARE it, hence the word “acting” thrown in there.

You’re right, the thing he should have said was that he was acting masculine. I know a few very masculine gay men who’d be offended if someone called them “straight acting.” They’re not trying to act straight, in fact they’re not acting at all! They’re being who they are, and bless ‘em for doing so.

wtfrickinfrack's avatar

@DominicX totally agree ;)

It’s so obnoxious when people try to put you in a box. I’m a lesbian. That means I like to have sex with women – not necessarily that I like to go camping, have short hair, or that I’m an activist of some sort. Let people be who they are for crying out loud! Sheesh!

Disc2021's avatar

You’re right but I think you’re over-thinking it. There is just an overall stigma against boys that act like girls and a gay man would typically use such a term to evade that along with his own insecurities. It neither bugs me nor doesn’t bug me – people just say it and that’s just the way they are. People say a lot of silly things, eh?

I dont think a masculine guy deserves anymore praise than a feminine guy. However, I think guys within the gay community feel like they’re finding a rare gem when they find a more masculine gay man. It’s really just a matter of preference – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any preferences (and I think most people would be too). Although the gay community can be quite rude, judgmental and superficial when it comes to this level, I really dont think it’s anything personal. Overall, I’d say LGBT as a whole has a pretty egalitarian-thinking mind.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I find the term “straight acting” to be insulting. It implies that there is something inherently wrong with being “gay acting,” whatever the hell that might mean.

JessicaisinLove's avatar

When you live in a gay friendly area it can be easy to forget or not realize that
in America there are many areas which are just the opposite.
Places that are a personal threat to a gay persons safety for no other reason than the fact they are gay. A person keeping their gayness under wraps in certain situations is common sense. In my opinion.

DominicX's avatar

@JessicaisinLove

Yes, but I was speaking more of the term “straight acting” itself as a general descriptor of your entire sexuality as opposed to referring to covering up certain gay tendencies to avoid being harassed or harmed.

Supacase's avatar

“Straight acting” to me is actively leading others to believe you are attracted to the opposite sex.

I know that isn’t how the people you are talking about mean it, though, so I doubt my input helps.

davidbetterman's avatar

“Straight acting” refers to covering up certain gay tendencies to avoid being harassed or harmed.
It is not a description of sexuality.

DominicX's avatar

@davidbetterman

Well, that’s not the way the guy in question was using it.

mponochie's avatar

This can be related to people of different ethnic groups saying that they are acting liking another. A black person who has great command of the English language might often hear they act white, whereas a person of who is into the hip hop cultural might hear they are acting black. It is rare and frankly frightening to me to hear a person refer to themselves in such a way is it infers that they have issue with who they are. If you don’t fall into a stereotype of what is perceived about you that’s fine but to want to refer to yourself in a way that is not you is a kin to self hatred and I can honestly see why this would disturb you.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Wow, calling a gay person “straight acting” is like calling a black person an “oreo.” It is stupid and unnecessary. It’s as if gay men don’t have a right to act like a non-stereotypical gay man. “What? Your pants are loose, your voice is deep and you don’t own anything pink? You’re out of the club!” Totally ridiculous.

This reminds me of a very good friend of mine who is gay. You can tell he’s gay but not because of anything stereotypical. He just has some unnameable thing that makes it apparent that he’s gay. However, he is very masculine and I know masculine men, I’m a girl ;) but not in the “normal” straight way. He just is.

On a similar note: I agree that calling someone’s sexuality a “lifestyle” is ridiculous. It’s true that there are some lifestyles of which being a certain sexuality is a huge part, but those lifestyles developed around certain personality traits as well as the shared “stigma” of having an alternative sexuality.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@Dominic——Doesn’t it just mean that a naturally effeminate gay guy or naturally butchy lesbian covering up by trying to stick to the stereotype of men as being masculine and women as feminine? It’s the same thing when Asians use the term “banana” to refer to a fellow Asian as being yellow on the outside, but white on the inside. The white part is just a stereotype, and not all Asians are yellow. Some are very pale white. The term banana is just a convenient descripter.

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