‘Get OUT Of My Way.’
I looked over my drink, grasped in my hand in the darkened and loud club, the air filled with blasting music, a horde of assorted people of any and all genders and sexualities enjoying themselves and dancing the night away.
Glancing up, the holder of the voice that so incisively dictated to myself and my friends standing by the bar to part way after having just got ourselves a drink and surveying the club we had just arrived up, had already stormed away, a flash of a colourful shirt in the otherwise dim and yet intoxicating intimate space.
A cisgender and what I may perhaps wrongly assume gay man, replete with a full and even beard, wearing a colourful shirt, nose held high in what would classically be referred to as a display of arrogance. His tone also belied a cutting sense of belittlement and self-importance. Almost as though his desire to be away from my group of friends and I were far above our enjoyment of this space. We were an impediment, a speed bump to this person’s enjoyment of his night, simply due to our position relative to the bar.
And then, my heart sank and I shrank down.
I couldn’t help but start thinking on this. I know it’s only a minor case, but why was it necessary for this young, and again what I assume is a Gay or at least Gay-allied individual to say this to a group of people? Especially so with regards to context. The event was proudly Queer-centric and known for being open and accommodating for all, regardless of gender-identification or sexuality. It struck me as strange and puzzling, and it felt starkly out-of-place, and a bit mean. It felt so contradictory to what this event stood for, and all my past experiences with this event and others like it: promoting acceptance and love in a safe space for all. As though yet again, the archetype of the mean Gay man had singularly and effortlessly placed a hierarchy upon this space and dictated this to others through his behaviour.
I don’t know if this guy was having a bad night. Perhaps he was having a rough night; perhaps he was quarreling with friends or a loved one. Perhaps he had one too many drinks. I don’t know. What I found disconcerting was the tone of this person’s voice, the derision and dismissal and frustration that was loaded in this simple statement as well as body language. It’s obvious to all who know me that I am a creature of analysis and deconstruction. I live to take apart, find and derive meaning in all things. Everything to me has an explanation and context. For me, every phrase, every word selected as well as body language and mannerism has inherent, visible meaning within it.
‘Get out of my way’
I don’t think I have ever in my life said this to anyone, whether in a club. bar or event, or anywhere else really. Even at peak hour trying to get home or to work at a train station, I’ve never told anyone to get out of my way. Usually, in an intimate environment like a club night, I offer up a meek ‘excuse me’, and a nod of the head. Even if I’ve had too much to drink and am barely able to stand. Like my mum used to say, being polite doesn’t cost a thing. Should I have stood up to this about him saying this to my friends and I? Should I have simply asked him why he needed to say that to us?
I kept reflecting on this small event the day after. I kept returning to the fact that this behavior really did come back to the trope of the ‘Mean Gay’. As a community, it can be so easy for us to judge, tear down and reject each other based on appearance, sexuality, ethnicity, or even social identifiers ie where we grew up, what we do for work etc. It’s harder to see the value in others. It’s even harder it seems for some to treat others within this a modicum of respect. When someone says something like ‘Get out of my way’ to me, it can have the effect of making me feel about a centimetre tall. I know I’m far too sensitive. But this is not something that I expect in a place and event like the one I attended. It harkened back to the behavior of the young gay men I recall associating with and wanting to be like, over a decade ago when I was desperate to be a part of a circle of Gay men.
For some reason back then, as a young 20-something Gay man it seemed quite normal to throw shade and criticise and act superior. And not always in a jovial sense. It seemed like a sign of intelligence as well as control, and not to mention the norm in terms of social behaviour. Maybe this was due to most of us being rather poor; many of us were students and some of us just skirting above abject poverty. I never really got into this whole mindset, as I was always far too fragile for this world of Arq-attending twinks and their ability for non-stop partying and non-stop judgment. But this kind of mean-gay attitude appeared to be the norm for the time and place it felt. The context seemed right for the time for this kind of cutting, rebuke-filled demeanor. I recall a lot of judgement, criticism and bitchiness taking place. And yes, I took part mainly in the desperate bid to be a part of a friendship circle, but I know it was also directed at me. It was a world of who fucked who, who was hot, who had the biggest dick, who was going to what party and who cheated on who. For some, it appears that this mindset has stuck.
What makes the Gay man take on this attitude and persona then? For some, it seems as though this kind of attitude is the normality of their social circles. The irony that this behavior can be so prevalent within the community, yet we as a community face criticism and abuse from outside of it is compelling. Is this kind of attitude a sign of the mobile, app-fuelled, insta-perfect Grindr culture and time we now find ourselves in? I certainly hope not. It seems for many Gay men that it is the reality of life to simply throw shade at other Gay men. Perhaps this is in order to curry favour within their friendship group and to gain social standing and stature. It worries me to think this.
I asked the Twittersphere and close friends what their thoughts were, and the overwhelming response was that many people had endured this kind of ‘Mean Gay’ behavior. One person best summed it up that:
‘Unfortunately some Gays behave like they’re on the set of Mean Girls or Drag Race
Which is telling as Drag Race is a cultural and money-making juggernaut. It would seem that a knock-off effect of this show has been for Gay men to raise the stakes as it were in their cutting wit. Another described that:
‘They also have this image that being gay is an ok pass to be mean without realising what they say could hurt’.
I’m extremely fortunate to be in a very diverse friendship circle. A friendship circle that consists of Gay men, Gay women, bi of both sexes as well as other LGBTIQ groupings or identifiers. I recall a friend once remarking whilst we were on holidays with many members of this group that it was of paramount importance for Gay men to have some female, trans, queer Gay friends or even acquaintances. That we as Gay men cannot cloister ourselves solely with other Gay men, as that trope of bitchy mean Gay man seems to come out of this lack of exposure. This in hindsight has changed much in my own behavior to others, as being in contact and exposed to other people who lead different lives than I has meant that I am hopefully a more empathetic and open person that is less judgemental, and doesn’t need to use being mean or bitchy as social currency, as in this group, being wantonly bitchy or mean will get called on.
To me, I look to those who go against this disparaging attitude and demeanor, and see them as the role models and the future of our community. It’s time to stop being the mean gay, and be more thoughtful and aware of others and the effect we can have as people to others.