What this is about
The culture of acting as though you are straight when you are not.
‘Straight acting’ is a term some gay men use to describe how they see themselves or what they are looking for in a partner. They want to be seen as a man rather than as a gay man. It is, of course, their right to choose their own identity and how they wish to be described. Gay men are just as likely as straight men to want to appear all things manly.
Interviews of 622 gay men by Sánchez FJ, Westefeld JS, Liu WM, and Vilain E in 2010 found that:
masculinity is an important construct for many gay men;
many gay men desire romantic partners who appear masculine;
on average the gay men in the survey wished to be more masculine than they perceived themselves to be; and
gay men who place an importance on masculinity, who have trouble being affectionate with other men, and who are immersed in school/work activities may feel negatively about being gay.
There may be valid reasons why any gay man might wish to be described in this way.
Their personal circumstances may include significant risks which may incur problems for them if their sexuality became known, for example affecting their home, home life, career and personal security.
Another reason given by gay men for preferring to be straight acting is that they feel uncomfortable with “camp”.
Their choices should be respected without question.
But there is also a danger that their use of the term is in response to internalised homophobia because they feel ashamed, inferior or guilty about their sexuality. If their personal situation is fully secure, then there should be no need to perceive themselves in any particular way other than as their normal natural selves.
Others see the desire for entirely masculine partners as a fetish.
Some activists feel frustrated at the ‘straight acting’ section of our community because they prefer gay men to be fully ‘out’ – they say there is safety in numbers and by coming out and accepting themselves the gay men will find their self image will improve and they will be more successful and happy in their careers and lives.
It has to be said that for every out at work gay man who is happy and successful in their career there is another who is not. The experience at work has improved but is not as good as we would like it to be yet and luck plays a big part. In an ideal world of proper equality at work, luck would not be required.
Straight acting is therefore a valid choice for those who choose it in the circumstances in which they find themselves, and they are entitled to support and respect.
Activists have come to understand that the problem of a negative self-image is an individual problem for some people and that they need loving support from us, while we continue to work towards changing the perceptions of gay men held by some elements of society.
Proof read and links checked 31 March 2013