femme shaming and fighting back against gay-on-gay prejudice
If effeminacy is performed, then surely masculinity is too?
A few weeks ago on Channel 4's hit series First Dates a young man called Daniel met a young queen called Pablo. Daniel wore a black sequin jacket with light wash denim; Pablo (and the nation) thought he was on to a winner. Half way through the date Daniel told Pablo he couldn't imagine dating a man who wore high heels; apparently it's not natural and "not normal". Pablo's face dropped, he likes wearing a hoof and so immediately ordered the bill and ended the date.
Desperate for some (social media) attention Daniel, a self-proclaimed reality TV personality issued an apology via his Facebook page. Daniel thought First Dates had edited the footage to make him look bad. He goes on to proclaim he wouldn't be able to get it up for a drag queen, and for the record Daniel believes gay men pretend to be camp, but like all good bigots he's got camp friends.
This comes in the same week a man fainted in a Broadway theatre at the sight of a topless Russell Tovey. Russell, like all good I-could-play-a-straight-bloke actors also has beef with us femmes. In an interview with The Guardian last year Tovey said, "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." - what a loss to the nation that would have been.
Lets entertain Russell and Daniel's rhetoric that effeminacy is somehow performed -- then surely this means their beloved masculinity is also a performed action? My limp wrist, higher intonation and penchant for an ASOS blouse is not, contrary to popular belief a received action, I'm just being the person I feel I am. Granted when I'm wearing eight inches of foundation and covering myself in confetti perhaps this is a heightened version of my femme identity, but there's an argument here that this is only deemed outré because of the rules of gender our aforementioned attention seekers adhere to and enforce; perhaps we often try to be louder because we want to be heard. To paraphrase a Stonewall campaign slogan -- some people are camp, get over it.
I'm angry that queens like me, who are effeminate and/or camp, those of us who sit outside the gender binaries, are demonised, desexualised and often unwillingly fetishised by homogenous, homonormative culture. I'm angry my actions, walk, intonation and even personality are considered pantomime, whereas butch straight acting maleness is celebrated and accepted.
My heterosexual friends are always shocked when I tell them how rife femme, fat and Asian phobia is within the gay community - it's no secret hook up profiles prolifically display 'No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians'. When tackled, these white headless, buff torsos shrug their carefully sculptured shoulders and grunt "preference". When my Grandparents came to this country in the 50s, pubs and lodging houses displayed signs that read No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs - adorning one's Grindr profile with a similar pomposity is still considered acceptable in gay culture.
So when does a preference become prejudice? I don't particularly like white boys who are dead behind the eyes and shave their armpits, but I don't pollute our spaces with my so-called preference. I'm always perplexed at the audacity of these men who feel we must be influenced by their partialities, that because I am not what you want I am written off as some sort of Ken/Barbie doll hybrid with nothing between my legs.
It's easy for gay men to say this phobia is just a side effect of app culture, but it's not. It leaks into our communities and affects the mental health of others.
Before this sounds like a rant that I'm not pretty or thin enough, I'm OK with the fact you might not like me because I'm fat. I've been pushed, kicked and spat at by enough queens to know that gays fear my flab but writing off a whole continent as 'preferential' is outright racist.
The naff colouration between femme and inferior or second class is queer patriarchy in action.Femme shaming is misogyny in Abercrombie & Fitch clothing. Unfortunately the gays have adopted and revamped a patriarchal system in exchange for their straight friends having poppers.
I'd like to remind the gays that queer visibility and pink politics were often pushed forward by those of us who couldn't hide in plain sight - how easily they (and Hollywood) forget the Stonewall riots were actually started by a group of non-white, queer femmes.
Living amongst this phobic territory does have its side effects. I find Daniel and those who follow his mantra extremely unattractive and therefore incredibly ugly. The gays fill me with gay shame and anger, not because of their point of view but their complete complacency and unequivocal ignorance to recognize the detrimental affects their preverbal man spreading has across queer culture. Unfortunately this has led me to be the shameful owner of a niche form of homophobia towards Masc 4 Masc Mary's. I'm aware that not every blokey gay is a twat but unfortunately the uniform means the good ones are often undistinguishable.
So campers, it's time we kicked back, made our voices louder and told the likes of Daniel that his mantra is not welcome in our community. I'm starting a radical queerminist militia; Femmes for Femmes - who wants to sign up? Straight acting, misogynists need not apply.