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Supreme

We need to talk about ‘gaycism’

BRIEF HISTORIES - Don Jaucian - The Philippine Star

Along with age, location, and a brief bio, the most common thing on a Grindr profile is a declaration that says “No chubs, no effems.” It is a preferential manifesto that may or may not mask a deeper kind of hatred or prejudice, despite the fact that gay men are using the app to select potential sexual partners, or if you’re that romantic, a long-term partner. There are all sorts of baggage that come with this bias: body image issues, the role of media in projecting types of prejudices, and the traditions that have raised generations of gay men, especially in the Philippines.

A recently-published article in The Guardian points out that this ‘tyranny of buffness’ harks back to a post-WWII era “crisis of masculinity” and the rise of women’s social power, to the 1980s, when HIV struck and looking weak and sickly was one warning sign of having the illness. It was an uphill battle to change the perception of gay men as “sissies,” hence the rejection of this ideation and the drive of gay men to prove their own masculinity.

Simon Copland wrote, in the aforementioned Guardian article, about oppression within the gay community, “It is natural then that many continue to react against this, whether it is through joining gay rugby teams (which I have done myself), calling ourselves “straight acting” or doing everything we can to build muscle. Yet we have now overcorrected to the extreme. In rejecting these stereotypes, we are no longer just rejecting the homophobia that comes with them, but also those in our community who are still connected to them.”

Now that gay dating apps have become more explicit in perpetuating “straight-acting” as superior, what with all the headless torsos fronting their muscular body types, it becomes a worrying situation. I asked three gay men from different backgrounds about their experiences regarding this stereotyping and rejection.

Where do you think this internal homophobia is coming from?

Jansen (28, project manager): Internalized homophobia is influenced by one’s environment. Nobody is born afraid of homosexuals. That fear is taught by society, by the church, by the family. When you grow up around people who tell you that being gay is wrong, you believe them because you trust them and you don’t know any better. It’s only when you start realizing that you, yourself, are the object of their hate that it becomes terrifying.

Dan (28, software engineer): It goes way before our generation, by a heteronormative society that puts a prime on masculinity. If there is a premium on masculine gay men, who would want to be with someone of the lesser gender?

Victor (35, NGO worker): We have been bombarded with just one type of gay man: the flamboyant, campy gay comic relief. Should a gay character be featured in a dramatic role, it is often in the context of the society’s bullying due to one’s limp wrist or kembot, or worse, family’s disownment. I suppose this has been etched in the minds of impressionable young gay boys that being gay is “bad”, not necessarily weakness.

When does it cross the line between a matter of personal preference and just plain discrimination?

Dan: If you dismiss someone the minute [you see] he’s not buff, while you have not considered his personality, I think you’ve clearly made a discriminating act there.

Vic: It’s like filtering gay men based on assumed prejudices/stereotypes like, “Oh I won’t date Ilocanos because they’re “kuripot” or “I won’t date Japanese guys because they have small anatomies and pound like jackhammers”.

JANSEN: It all boils down to respect. You can tell them that you like what you like, they don’t fit the bill, and that you’re sorry. You can’t force yourself to like what you don’t like, but that doesn’t give you the license to parade your aversion or disgust. If you go and start making fun of someone or toying with them over an app, that’s a form of abuse, and you’re probably an a**hole with a superiority complex.

Have you ever encountered such discrimination? How did you deal with it?

JANSEN: I have. I’ve always been a heavy kid, and I never quite outgrew it. I’ve been teased for being both too soft and too fat growing up, that I’ve learned to just deal with the verbal abuse and move on. And to this day, I apply that. If people don’t want to get to know you because you’re fat, you’re better off without them. Good riddance.

DAN: I experienced this a lot as a teenager. Though I was not feminine, it was hard to find and meet people since I was scrawny. It really made me feel insecure and I dealt with it by going with the flow. I took weight training as one of my PE classes back in UP, and since then I’ve been consistently going to the gym. The feedback on gay hookup sites (and recently, apps) is incredible! But it kinda leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I feel I am now part of the group that perpetuates this culture of self-hate.

VICTOR: A more recent Grindr interaction was more direct to the point and “harsh”. I got a message that said, “You look very hot and you seem very smart. But I checked your Instagram and you seem very gay. Sayang.” It’s like, why am I “sayang”? I’m quite used to this narrow-mindedness in the gay community and may have been guilty of it a couple of times years back. I just move on because I really wouldn’t want to spend a single second with someone so stupid.

Do you think Grindr and other gay dating apps reinforce this “masc”-championing attitude?

DAN: I believe it’s the users that reinforce discrimination. The Grindr logo is a mask. You bring your own mask in a masquerade. And I don’t think Grindr has set a specific direction on what mask to wear.

JANSEN: Grindr is Grindr. It’s a tool. It’s designed in a way that allows gay men to find other gay men that fit their preferences. If I were an app developer working with a huge database—in this case, a database of gay men—adding filtering capabilities is logical. You want to help your customers find what they’re looking for with ease. So no, I don’t think Grindr reinforces discrimination. The people who use it do.

VICTOR: These apps are merely wands and we are the magicians. We can use it for black magic or be the Glinda the Good Witch and be an equal opportunity dater. I applaud Grindr [though,] for trying to feature gay issues once in a while through their takeover ads, but probably only three people click on those and read them because men there just want to hook up.

Why do you think this discrimination persists in the gay community despite the insistence of political correctness of this generation?

JANSEN: The political correctness of this generation is a joke. Everybody’s so afraid of offending everybody; everybody’s so gung-ho in pointing out other people’s offenses. It’s all lip service, though. I don’t see much follow-through beyond the Internet.

Discrimination persists because people exist. We have clashing beliefs, different upbringings, different preferences. If you put all those things together, you get thousands of gay men who will just not get along. It’s only natural for people to think they’re better than others because they’ve been brought up that way. It’s what they believe is true.

DAN: The gay community should walk the talk. [This kind of thinking] exists because a lot of us are still self-hating. Despite the fact we’ve been educated that the rainbow is diverse, we’re still showing the public that the ideal is still the buff mestizo. We say, “Hey, it’s okay to be gay, as long as you’re not a heel-wearing queer.” It’s okay to be gay so long as you don't have a high-pitched voice.” This is sad but it is the reality a lot of gay men face when trying to find a partner or a hookup at least.

VICTOR: We’re very clique-ish, what and with the whole segmentation of the community into bears, twinks, otters, and whatever else is being invented by that Davey Wavey. It’s like battle lines are being drawn and we are asked to pick a side. We also have the Gay Card as an excuse. Like, we can criticize and hate each other because we are part of the same community. And I see this all the time, catty gay men murmuring as you walk by, judging you from your man bun to New Balance sneakers. The weird thing I realize though is despite the divide, we unite in defending each other against external homophobia.

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Tweet the author @donutjaucian.

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