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The Thin Line Between Gay and Straight, According to Someone Who’s Crossed It.


What is identity? Or rather can we define our identity pursuant to our sexual inclinations? In this rivetting essay award winning journalist Mikey Rox asks some provocative questions- what is it to be gay, is it the gaiety, the parading about town, the costumes, the dancing to Abba or at the end of the day the act of sex itself? Furthermore how does this identity paradigm parallel to straight culture? And has gay culture gone over the top? We trust that you will be provoked one way or another. Scallywag the Editor.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are distinct differences between straight and gay.

For instance, the terms “trick,” “bear” and “bottom” have entirely different definitions for us than our hetero counterparts. Pride is not a feeling but rather a festival. Bars can no longer be generalized as recreational establishments; there are straight bars and there are gay bars. The same goes for marriage – these days, it’s either traditional or nontraditional. Everything we do is different, in fact. And if you’re uninformed, well, we’ve got that covered, too. Simply pick up a big, queer dictionary – $19.95 at Barnes and Noble – and you’re all set.

Lucky for us, we’re willing to manipulate our lives to placate gay culture. But that’s not without a substantial time investment. You didn’t actually think we’re intuitively tuned into this “alternative lifestyle,” did you?

Thus, we study. We study hard, too. Because it’s these definitions – decided upon sometime in the 1970s in the back of a big rig on Avenue A, I’m convinced – that we think define us as individuals. But there’s a downside to all that blind ambition. In our quest to find our place in the world – and consumed by trying to please everyone else – we’ve neglected the most important part of being gay: Ourselves.

Still, we wonder why mainstream society has a hard time figuring us out. Perhaps it’s because we’re so wrapped up in drag races, lube wrestling competitions and gay bingo that many of us have lost our identities – the essence of what makes us unique. We’ve become so involved with pillaging pieces of others’ personas, that, many times, we lose sight of who we are inside.

But I could be wrong. Maybe we know exactly who we are. If that’s the case, though, I think we’re in one hell of a heap of trouble. Outward appearances aside – it’s our presentations of self that creates the way in which we’re viewed by the world at large.

And the world at large ain’t smilin’ down on us.

All things considered, there must be more to this separation between cultures than how we speak, walk or dress. The majority of the voting American public can’t be holding a grudge against us for aspects so petty. So I searched for reasons why there are such perverse feelings towards homosexuality. And just when I thought I’d exhausted my leads, I stumbled upon the answer. He was performing fellatio on a second-floor patio – surrounded by an audience – at a leather bar in Baltimore.



  1. I tend to agree with the author’s observations. Most of the gay bars I’ve been to can only be described as tasteless, with porn, public nudity and crassness the norm. These bars are considered “hip” and “mainstream” in my large city, home to one of the largest gay populations in the United States. The only straight equivalent I can think of are strip joints.

    The author states that there is a time and place for certain things, and that one should not do things one would be extremely embarrassed about with family. Perhaps the lack of the ability to have legally recognized marriages, replete with children and families, leads to a lack of self-regulating behavior seen in mostly straight establishments? In straight bars and hangouts, many pervasive social norms serve as a restraint on extreme behavior. It’s perhaps a stretch, but gays are less beholden to certain rules of decorum normally found in straight establishments.

    In any case many would accuse the author of being stuck to “heteronormative” dichotomies. I just say he’s just calling out things for what they are, utterly tasteless.

  2. Addendum to the comment by Larry Jones, this article is dripping with a “victim-blaming” attitude. For lack of time, energy, but hardly of passion, I’ll single out a few key points in this article that prove its heterobias (Yes, gay people can be heterobias too). First, while I completely agree with taking responsibility for one’s self, it’s impossible to intelligently demarcate between the actions and reactions of an ENTIRE community and the predefining attitudes that same community receives from the society in (and against) which it finds and defines itself. How can you expect an entire community of people who are told, directly or not, since the time they are born, that at the very core of who they are, for their very substance, they are repugnant and vile, to act and react (or define themselves) in a “socially acceptable” way? If I feel like a freak, I’m going to act like a freak (Especially when the standards I’m being told to follow are set forth by the people calling me a freak in the first place).

    Second, the assumption in this article is that the norms and values held by mainstream heteronormative culture are not only cemented in our society, but are what all people (even if their communities are purposely excluded from those norms and values; i.e. I can’t be a “good gay” when a legally sanctioned, monogamous relationship between myself and my partner doesn’t exist to begin with) should aspire toward. Now, I wouldn’t go so far to say that public sex should be condoned but all of the norms, values, and assumptions of heteronormative ( and in many ways heterosexist ) society are exclusive to a particular community of people (straight, very often white, people), are neither natural nor permanent in any sense of either of those words, and should definitely not be held on the pedestal this author is clearly placing them upon.

    And lastly, our bodies and minds, as gay males (which this article clearly focuses on) are different than the bodies and minds of heterosexual males and females whose relationships have been socially and legally sanctioned and condoned since the beginning of written history.

    Oh, and, directed toward both straight and gay men alike: The continual reproduction of a binary between “masculine” and “effeminate” men is inaccurate (gender is a spectrum) and sexist (there is nothing wrong with being effeminate, whether the person displaying such traits is male, female, or both).
    What is our society’s sick obsession with traditional masculinity? It has its place, but it’s honestly not that great and definitely should not be the bar by which all males live.

    I could go into my annoyance with the particular assumption that monogamous, binary partnerships are the best or only way for a society to function but I doubt by now anyone is still reading.


  3. This article is filled with false dichotomies like ‘gay’ & ‘straight’ culture. Fact is, the vast majority of gay people do not participate in any ‘gay’ culture and are almost indistinguishable from their mainstream tax paying straight breathren. “Mainstream society’ feels threatened by what they perceive as the bizarre-qualities of the more stereo-typical gay men who profess to speak for all gay people and they feel threatened by any same-sex attraction in themselves. The above article is hardly provocative in any way.

  4. I do see one issue – social conservatives who are good people have a problem with nakedness in the streets, eg they hear aboiut it re priide parades. Guys in leather thongs come to mind. Its just enough to set off the alarm bellls.

    Prejudice doesn’t die – it gets self suppressed over time in good people, but its still there waiting to be infllamed. Just look at all the hate toward Pr. Obama from the repub party – whose base is the people who bullwarked slavery and gave us the KKK and segregation. And its working.

    AS my neighbor said to me – everyone should behave as gentlemen and ladies in public.

  5. well. there really isnt a “gay” or “straight” culture. i suppose what the ignorant refer to as “gay” is the Sex and the City depiction of a section of a community that acts a particular way or the “straight” stereotype depicted in Entourage. Neither is really accurate or even reflects a majority of either “culture”. Truth is, in the mainstream and where you work there arent many differences other than who one chooses to think about when they masterbate.

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