Current gay pop-culture it-boy Russell Tovey recently had some interesting things to say about growing up gay and turning out the way he did: “I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path.” Apparently, the father of Tovey refused his young son’s request to attend a performing arts school; now, Tovey is thankful for his father’s insistence; whereas, Tovey believes that the school of his choice would have turned him into a less masculine man.
And, this isn’t the first time the masculine vs feminine war within the gay community has spilled out from the gayborhood into the public consciousness: soccer star Robbie Rogers’ assertion that he wanted only a “very masculine” actor to play him in a perspective movie about his life; when Neil Patrick Harris was on Broadway playing the transgender Hedwig he said of taking on this role: “I’ve lived my whole life being attracted by masculinity - it's why I like guys. I’m not a super effete person, and I have to turn into that, and in doing so it brings up a lot of homophobic insecurities within myself;” then, butch gay actor Tuc Watkins criticized the depiction of homosexuals on “Modern Family” as perpetuating an effete 80s stereotypes.
Why the bitchiness? First of all, peace and tranquility are never found in the gay world of over testosterone saturation: it’s always agitated and restless; there is a consistent pervasive air of hunting and devouring; everything seeps sex – I learned quickly as an 18 year old new to San Francisco, that something as innocuous as a prolonged look or an innocent smile can turn into a heated sexual encounter with someone you never met before. In that context, in the homosexual male mind, there is always a persistent push and pull between the image of masculinity and its reality. From its modern inception, gay males have worshiped the hyper-masculine persona – epitomized by the 1970s drawings from artist Tom of Finland. Through the horror of AIDS, today, only gay porn has kept that dream alive. Across the board, actual living breathing gay men fail to equal these unrealistic phantasms of masculine perfection. Those that fall way short are rather negatively referred to as “fems” or more oftentimes as “bottoms.” To the more masculine types – they must be both passive and subservient; for, in masculinity – they see their ultimate salvation.
Gay men both adore and fear the masculine ideal. They dream of literally rising to the heavens – attaining and or becoming the embodiment of physical perfection; and, they will do almost anything to make it – hence, the tragic propensity for recipients of anal sex to bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic; in choosing to seek out the elusive masculine through sex, they forfeit their own lives. Those that survive, especially as they near middle age and everything either begins to deflate or sag – a palpable and all-pervasive bitterness, verging on hatred, sets in; although, currently, I see this also appearing in the younger generation, a premature swerve towards anger and resentment, caused by the modern phenomena of internet porn-inspired teens who have out-sexed their predecessors. Inevitably, the inability to create a personal peace through sex leaves everyone frustrated and feeling semi-cheated; and, all that’s left is sadness and regret; it’s a horrible reversal of fortune – everything that draws them to the gay lifestyle – a promise of happiness beyond the sadness that was childhood, comes back and they find themselves that same bullied little boy all over again.