by AHMED EMİN ÇOBANOĞLU
The gay community proclaims itself as an open-minded, safe space in which gay and queer men are free to be their true selves, but this sadly is not the truth. In fact, there is a hierarchy within the community on top of which masculine, muscular jocks stand and under which twinks (very slim-bodied gay man) and queens (very feminine gay man) are crushed. This very heteronormative order of the community is the result of internalized homophobia (also called gay man’s homophobia) which is a cognitive desinence arising from the internalization or the absorption of the anti-LGBT stigma where a LGBT person has negative thoughts about themselves, others and about being LGBT whilst believing that LGBT people are of equal worth and should be treated the same as others. (Rimes paraphrased) The stereotypical portrayal of feminine gay men as overly feminine and flamboyant beings on TV exacerbates fem-shaming within the gay community as it makes heterosexual people, most of whom only know gay men from the tv shows they watch, assume that all gay men are overly flamboyant beings whose sole purpose is either to make people laugh or to offend them. This wrong assumption leads to homophobic utterances and mocking of gay men’s femininity which leads to internalized homophobia in the gay teenager.
Due to relentless stereotypical portrayal of gay men as effeminate on TV and on media, homosexuality is seen as feminine therefore coming out is the feminisation of oneself. This loss of masculinity is tried to be compensated through disassociating from the gay community and utilising non-genuine masculinity. This phenomenon was discussed in an article in Them -a queer magazine- written by John Paul Brammer, a New York based gay writer, who upon coming out in college felt the need to distance himself from the gay community through refusing or rebuking popular aspects of the community like the pride parade. Upon coming out to his straight male friend group, Brammer confessed to hating pride parades though he had not even been to one. Brammer thinks of a particular event that might have made him think as if he needed to rebuke the pride parade openly in which a classmate -whilst on a high school field trip to Washington, DC- said “Somebody ought to kill those f*ggots” upon seeing the rainbow flags raised in preparation for the pride parade. Now, years later, having reflected on his attitudes and his internalised homophobia, Brammer admits that perhaps he tried to distance himself from ‘the gays’ to escape homophobia because he thought at the time, as he puts it: “Sure, I’m gay. But I am not like the gay people you [homophobic people] hate, those who bring it on themselves by being so flamboyant.” (“Why Some Gay Men Hate Pride Parades- And Ourselves”). To disassociate the shame and inferiority that he attached to being gay prompted by the homophobic utterances he was engulfed in throughout his adolescence -just like most gay man- we can say that he, Brammer, made a distinction between a f*g and a gay. A f*g was deserving of people’s hate because of his femininity and flamboyance whereas a gay was not deserving of hate because he was a mere normal guy who just happened to be homosexual.
The other very prominent aspect of internalized homophobia is femme shaming, which is shaming of feminine gay men by masculine and normal gay men, which is yet another tool gay men use to disassociate the shame they attach to being gay. Matt Bernstein, a Jewish American gay man with over 660k Instagram followers who uses his platform to advocate for queer rights, discussed this phenomenon in a YouTube video. In the video Bernstein reacts to a Tiktok video in which a white, masculine gay guy -who looks like every other gay gym bro– upon stating that he was gay, belittled a Starbucks drive-through worker by imitating his feminine voice and mocking even rebuking his severe and apparent gayness. Bernstein upon watching the Tiktok video, discussed why this gay man might have felt the need to mock this feminine gay man by saying; “He [the masculine gay guy] is gay, and we can assume he has felt at some point like a freak… It is really easy to take the shame that you have built up inside of yourself as a queer person and deflect it on to someone else that you think is little bit weirder than or little bit less acceptable than you.” (Bernstein). Taking this video into account, we can say that some gay men try to escape homophobia by participating in it themselves and by deciding who deserves it and who does not.
Taking everything into account, we can say that the stereotypical portrayal of gay men as overly feminine and flamboyant -especially if these qualities are overexaggerated for comedic purposes- exacerbates femme shaming as it perpetuates and prompts the idea that all gay men are severely feminine and flamboyant. This perpetuation leads to internalized homophobia in the gay man who uses the same discriminative language towards gay man that fit the stereotype to lift himself up and to disassociate the shame he attaches to being gay. It is an awfully vicious cycle that is very hard to break off from as the first step of breaking off is realising that this is wrong which proves especially hard since most masculine gay men with internalised homophobia and femme shaming surround themselves with likeminded people; therefore, their views are seldom challenged.
Bernstein, Matt “internalized homophobia SUCKS” YouTube. Uploaded by Matt Bernstein, 19 October 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tasPGGPR4Ww&t=166s accessed 12 April 2021.
Brammer, John P. “Why Some Gay Men Hate Pride Parades — And Ourselves” Them, 7 June 2018. https://www.them.us/story/why-some-gay-men-hate-pride-parades accessed 16 April 2021.
Rimes, Katherine “Through the Rainbow Lens: a film exploring mental health issues affecting the LGBT+ community.” YouTube. Uploaded by King’s College London, 11 April 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVbx1O8bi8c&t=1698s accessed 27 March 2021.