Tag Archives: straight acting

The bad touch

I have always known it, but I feel it even more when I’m not there – London spoils me. When I spend time anywhere else, I’m struck not only by the obvious things that signal me as a pouting metropolitan man-baby – unavailability of cocktail onions for a Gibson martini, H&M selling the same three checked shirts and nothing else, for example – but things I never really think about at home. Like, oh I don’t know, touching my boyfriend, for example.

There is something about being in other places that makes me feel even more self-conscious. Even when I go back to Yorkshire for Christmas, alone, I feel much more vulnerable going to the shop at 4 in the afternoon than I do swaying through Soho, desperately trying to remember what an Uber is at 1am.

I know rabid privilege hounds would jump on this to say “whiny gay man discovers life is different outside his comfy London bubble SHOCKER” or something, but that’s the thing about bubbles – it only takes one prick. Continue reading The bad touch

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10 reasons being a Gay Best Friend sucks

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone. It seems we have reached the end of an era.

According to today’s Sunday Times’ Style magazine barometer of what’s hot and what’s o-v-a-h, the GBF (Gay Best Friend) is done, replaced by the BMF –  Best Man Friend.

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I’ll assume they mean that the BMF is a straight man. Straight men are “men” and gay men are “gay”. I think that’s how it works.

Anyway, ignoring that every so slightly acidic twist of the heteronormative knife, here’s why I’m glad my services as a GBF will no longer be required. Quite frankly, it’s been an exhausting couple of decades and I will be glad of the rest.

1. Shopping
I like shopping, don’t get me wrong. But I like shopping for myself. The great thing about being a gay man is that my boyfriend is also a man so we both wear men’s clothes. (If you’re a man and you don’t, that’s cool too – please don’t @ me.) This means we can actually shop properly – assess what looks good, appreciate each other’s sartorial decisions, get true clothes envy etc.

Being a GBF, however, means that you have to go shopping with a woman and I have to confess, I haven’t really enjoyed that since I was dragged around the shops by my mother as a child, clutching a packet of Opal Fruits.

I don’t wear dresses or bras or high heels so while I can tell you you look “nice”, if you insist, I don’t really know what accessories would go with them or what colour you should wear or whether a flesh-coloured bra is appropriate under that T-shirt.

I know Gok Wan has done a sterling job of convincing women that gay men care about your clothes, ladies, but guess what? We don’t. All we care about is when we go out together, we all look good and that you’re not going to moan you bought the wrong top all night. Continue reading 10 reasons being a Gay Best Friend sucks

The Reluctant Mean Girl

Midweek. Another bar. Another pint with a stranger. I sit and wonder where I’ll be in five hours. Will I be back in my flat ignoring the ironing or will I be tangled in Egyptian cotton and kisses with tonight’s contestant?  You just never know.

“And you wore pink!”
I nod at his polo shirt, knowingly. “Perfect shirt for tonight!”

My date tonight bristles with efficiency. He was on time, buying drinks and sitting opposite me with a rictus grin on his face, in his pristine baby pink polo, before I knew what was happening.

“It seems weird going on a date on a Wednesday, no?” he says.

“Wednesdays are perfect, I think,” I reply. “And you wore pink!” I nod at his polo shirt, knowingly. “Perfect shirt for tonight!”

He narrows his eyes. “I don’t follow.”

“Oh, errr,” I stumble awkwardly. “It’s from Mean Girls. They say ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’. Yes?”

His face is blanker than a blank thing on a blank day in a town called Blankton.

I probe further: “Do you know Mean Girls?”

He leans back in his chair and his face changes to a look of bemusement tinged with disgust and a dash of weariness.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he sighs.

“I mean…” he shakes his head dismissively. “I just wouldn’t even want to watch Mean Girls. I’m not into trashy movies.”

I gulp, feeling dumb and shallow.

“It’s a film. Written by Tina Fey. Lindsay Lohan was in it? It’s quite old.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. I mean…” he shakes his head dismissively. “I just wouldn’t even want to watch it. I’m not into trashy movies.”

I shrug. “It’s not trashy, really. It’s quite a clever, knowing kind of comedy. Not as good as Heathers, but in the same ballpark.”

“I don’t really like the kind of films that gay men usually like,” he replies.

Oh, I see! BINGO! We have the new gay stereotype – the gay man who refuses to conform to a stereotype! How lucky for me to have snared this rarest of beasts. And barely halfway through our first drink.

I could just let this go, or I could take a tin-opener to that can of worms he’s waving in front of me.

I have two options. I could just let this go, or I could take a tin-opener to that can of worms he’s waving in front of me. Egyptian cotton, or home alone? I imagine the pristine sheets. Lovely. Then I think of him in them, beckoning me to a world where sex means never watching a popular movie again. Decision made.

“I don’t like it because I’m gay, you total snob. I like it because it’s funny.”

“Yeah, right,” he replies, folding his arms. A drawbridge goes up with great speed. “But you think it’s a  funny film because of the bitchy dialogue and the pretty, evil girls being all ‘fabulous’, right? It’s just a bit… obvious.” He unfolds his arms for a brief second and waves them dramatically in the air.

“So you have seen it, then?” I smirk.

“Uh.” A pause so long you could actually use it to nip off to watch Mean Girls. And then: “I might have done actually.”

I’m back in my own kitchen – alone – within the hour.

Stats: 5’10”, 31, mousy brown/brown, Devon
Pre-date rating: 7/10
Post-date rating: 3.5/10
Date in one sentence: Gay guy thinks pretending popular culture isn’t a thing makes him less gay.

A truncated version of this post originally appeared in the monthly dating column I used to do in Gay Times magazine. I now answer GT readers’ dilemmas and dole out relationship advice. Take a look at the Gay Times website to see when the next issue is out.

Beware the flirtatious straight man – six types to look out for

When you are growing up a future gay, you learn very quickly that your relationships with straight men are never going to be anything other than complex.

Whether you’re trying to explain to your dad for the eightieth time that you’re not going to kick that football back at him no matter how many times it flies over your head, or enduring the weekly terror of “Backs against the wall, lads” in the showers after PE, it can be difficult to make yourself understood. So alike, but oceans apart.

Many a time I have spent a puzzling fifteen minutes in a kitchen full of vodka bottles, while a straight guy slinks around me like smoke from Marlene Dietrich’s fiftieth cigarette of the evening.

In less enlightened times, when I was much younger and even more socially awkward, I clearly remember almost dreading being introduced to straight men in case they mocked me or disliked me, preferring instead to make a beeline for their girlfriends, sisters or mothers. There’s also the added misery of emotionally crippling crushes on these men, the ultimate in the unobtainable, or not daring to catch someone’s eye in the gym changing rooms – the PE anxiety nightmare does not end with your last GCSE – in case they thought you were checking out their pecker. Almost never, boys. Almost never.

But now, everyone has chilled out a bit – at least in my little bubble of existence, anyway – and I can’t even imagine ever feeling that way again. I have straight male friends and gay male friends and obviously loads of ladies and everybody is getting married – it’s just like Peter’s Friends or This Life, but everybody’s got a crick in their neck from using their smartphones day in, day out and we’re all tweeting our breakfasts instead of calling each other.

In fact, things seem to have gone so far the other way that there’s now a new kind of straight man you’ll meet: the one who openly flirts with you.

Oh, he’s always been there, of course – the invention of ecstasy and house music has seen to it that the lines are blurrier than ever when it comes to when you can and can’t put your heads on each other’s shoulders.

Many a time I’ve spent a puzzling 15 minutes in a kitchen full of vodka bottles while a straight guy slinks around me, like smoke from Marlene Dietrich’s fiftieth cigarette of the evening.

But as more boys move away from a fear of gay men toward a mild curiosity, it’s all too easy to misinterpret it and get carried away. You mustn’t get ahead of yourself. And if it’s annoying, tell them so. But first let’s meet these young bucks with all this attention to lavish and eyes so wide.

Mr Bored
Some straight men flirt with you just because they are bored. They would flirt with anyone or anything. Watch them around someone’s mother or grandmother, they’re just the same – extra attentive, slightly suggestive, but never enough to cause offence. They have moved on to you because a) you are there and b) well, see a).

It isn’t sexual; he is not going to whisper in your ear that he wants to try something ‘new’. He’s just terribly bored and wants something to do until the football is on/his girlfriend notices him again. Once she does – and she will, their girlfriends are always watching what you’re up to – he’ll go back to being his formal old bro self. He might even clench his buttocks in discomfort if you’re lucky.

Mr Tell Me I’m Pretty
We all like to feel attractive and, although many of us feign shyness or modesty, we like to be told we are too. Obviously we can’t go around willy-nilly telling people they’re hot, because that’s massively inappropriate and, again, you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of somebody’s better half. So, if we’re feeling attractive and want someone to appraise us, even silently, we move the flirtatiousness up a notch. And straight boys do this too.

I have a good female friend whose then-boyfriend would walk into the kitchen like he was trying to pick me up – sometimes in just his boxers. He wasn’t gay, or remotely interested in trying it out, but wanted to be found attractive. He couldn’t understand why, as a gay man, I wasn’t salivating over what was before me like a cartoon dog drooling at the sausages in a butcher’s window. Of course, I rewarded this behaviour by playing dumb and pretending not to notice until he gave up and put some clothes on.

Mr What If
The most seriously flirtatious straight man of all is Mr What If. He treats you like he’s researching a huge scientific study. Thanks to advances in gay sex scenes on TV, nobody really asks “Who plays the man and who is the woman?” any more, but most of his questions make you start to wonder whether he’s merely factually curious or, um, physically so.

“Have you ever kissed a straight guy?” Ah, tantalising stuff, but he doesn’t want to bone you, I’m afraid. He may be toying with the idea, of course, but all he’s really doing is trying to get you to think all this interest is in you, and not what you do when behind closed doors. Instead, he’ll go home, stream some ‘adult videos’ and dream about doing it all to a lady instead.

The Waiter
Customer service. What does it mean to you? A smile, a thank you, a general air of interest in you being alive. That’s about it, usually. But sometimes when you go to a restaurant as a gay man, usually when there’s more than one of you, something odd seems to happen to some straight waiters.

Perhaps sensing that you’re a sucker for a firm jawline, he’ll do all he can to make sure that pink pound he has heard so much about will be jangling in his own pocket once you leave.

Out for dinner with my other half recently, we were left exhausted by the lascivious attention of the waiter in the Cheap Monday jeans. Nothing was too much trouble, including midriff-exposing yawns, Sid James-style winks, innuendo-packed retorts and more lip-licking than I have ever seen outside of an ice cream parlour. On the way home, we considered buying pregnancy tests. Just in case.

Mr Drunk
He’s just drunk. Tell him to fuck off.

Mr Right-On
This guy is pretty harmless – he just wants to atone for all the sins of previous generations of straight boys who made you feel uncomfortable or did a fake lisping voice whenever they said your name. He’ll be tactile, friendly, maybe even say the odd salacious comment, but ultimately, he’s just trying to show you that not all straight men think you are on a mission to bum every single last one of them. If there is beer involved, he may even end the conversation with a big hug, a tear in his eye and “I’m really glad to have met you”.

He is the best reminder that while being gently flirted with by a straight men doesn’t mean you’re super-hot and they’re going to run off with you, it’s kind of nice that it’s happening at all – it shows just how far we have all come.

Just don’t get into a taxi alone with any of them.

Image: James Franco on Instagram

Five condescending compliments nobody should really want to hear

Think you’re being nice with your throwaway accolades? Think again, baby cakes. Call me over-sensitive (if you dare), but I could really do without some of these more patronising praises.

Hot ginge
When I was first born, my mother looked at me in the overbearing light of the hospital ward and thought she detected a hint of ginger in my hair. It wouldn’t be totally unsurprising – two of her siblings are redheads.

“Shit,” she thought.

Not because red hair is unattractive, but because ginger people are the focus of teasing and bullying at school and beyond. Plus they burn very easily in the sun and my mother is a sun-worshipper in excelsis. In the end, it was just the lights playing gingery tricks, and I spent my childhood blond before turning to mousey, then brown and now ‘salt and pepper’ or whatever the hell this current shade is.

So I’ll never know the ‘thrill’ of being defined as a ‘hot ginge’, but if I were ever called it, I would have to seriously think about putting something nasty in my detractor’s tea.

People who say ‘hot ginge’ think they’re being funny or ‘ironic’ but they’re insulting and stupid. Their throwaway ‘compliment’ suggests it is somewhat unusual for a redhead to be attractive, fetishising them into nothing more than a sexual curiosity.

It’s no better than the old chants of ‘Fanta Pubes’ we’d hear on the school bus. What, I’m ginger but you still think I’m attractive? I am so honoured. Thank you!

DILF
The male version of the horrible frat boy platitude “Mum I’d Like To Fuck” pretends it is meant in good spirits. It appeals to our inner vanity: somebody wants to have sex with us! How thrilling! My dried up husk of a body will has the ability to arouse.

And yet it is a promise made with crossed fingers, a kiss on the cheek while winking at somebody standing behind you.

‘DILF’ tells you that despite your greying hair, nascent jowls and crinkly eyes the shade of faded denim, you’re still a ‘honey’. This young person, who has yet to stare down in horror and desperation at their swelling belly and seriously debate whether it’s time to go up a size in their underwear, is validating you by saying “Hey, you’re an old dog but I’d still teach you a new trick or two”.

The compliment is utterly false, by the way. Make an experienced, efficient move on this pullet and you’ll get only wild-eyed panic and an awkward laugh. Sure, they would do you, but they don’t need to – they’re still young with infinite smooth-skinned options available to them.

If you’re secretly pleased at being branded a DILF then good for you, but you’re essentially saying you’re happy to be a fetish. You’re a Bournemouth bondage weekend in chinos. Hallelujah.

You look good for your age
Don’t even start. Anyone who enjoys this compliment is prostituting their dignity in exchange for a cheap thrill. What does a 40-year-old look like anyway?

“You look good for your age” says that despite being an ancient, animated cadaver in actual years, you are somehow managing to deceive everyone well enough to pretend you’re younger. You’re well preserved, in other words. Great, you’re a jar of pickled onions.

I don’t look good ‘for my age’; I just look good. Fucking good.

I’d never get away with wearing that
Translation: You’re dressed like a twat. I wouldn’t have the balls to ‘rock’ that look because I like having friends and not being stared at in pubs. But, yeah, you go girl.

Be suspicious of anyone who says you look “amazing” when you’re officially ‘not sure’ about your outfit. Check for side-eye.

You’d never guess you were gay
Well, this is exciting. Somehow my compulsion never to leave the house without a butt plug swinging from one end and a man’s tongue jammed in the other has gone unnoticed. I have snuck under the radar and fully assimilated.

People say things like this to you because they imagine gay people don’t want to be identified as gay. In a way, they’re right: it’s just shagging after all. But this compliment isn’t presented in a way that says “I just see you as a person, not defined by your sexuality” – it is saying you don’t fit the gay stereotype, or their idea of one. And they feel they should congratulate you.

If you’re a gay guy and get this backhanded bouquet, it usually means you’re not screamingly camp, which of course would be social death because being a bit of a nancy boy is the very worst thing in the world. Never mind that Soho and its global equivalents are chock-full of this kind of guy – the true gay man ideal is to be just like a straight guy.

Lesbians who get this are usually assured they’re not man-hating bull-dykes in dungarees. “Oh my gosh you wear lipstick and high heels and aren’t burning your underwear on Greenham Common! Well done you!”

I know men who would be secretly thrilled to be told people can’t tell they’re gay and I feel a little bit sorry for them. When it has been said to me – and it has, quite often, GO ME – I usually reply with a glib “Give me five minutes with your boyfriend and you’d soon be able to tell, believe me”.

Saying you can’t guess my sexuality by looking at me isn’t a compliment – you’re trying to reassure me that I’m just like everybody else. But I already knew that.

What’s your least favourite backhanded compliment? Tweet me or whatever.

Sorry, ‘straight-acting’ boys, but gay stereotypes exist despite you… get over it

If you asked the average man on the street whether he could tell the difference between a gay man and a straight man, he’d probably say yes, citing a number of reasons such as differing fashion or music tastes, cultural references and mannerisms. He may even suggest that gay men behave in a more feminine manner. And, on hearing that, many gay men would be very offended. But why? Well, put simply, if you can still spot the gayness, they’ve been caught out. All that carefully executed ‘straight acting’ has come to naught.

Gay men don’t like it when their masculinity comes into question. Not all gays are effeminate, of course, but a lot are, and much of the homo world doesn’t like admitting it. We are not fond of reminders of the bad old days, you see. Once upon a time we wanted to be accepted for who we were; now we just want people to think we’re straight.

Up until the 1990s, the UK’s exposure to gay men in popular culture was largely restricted to overly-camp ‘whoopsie’ types of guys. They lived with their mothers and minced around, rolling their eyes and utterly sexless. It wasn’t a particularly flattering view, and gay commentators and tastemakers never tire of pointing out how unjust these stereotypes were on dire, nostalgic clip-compilation programmes. As a reaction to this, there began a slow trickle of movies and TV shows depicting what it meant to be a ‘modern gay’.

Queer as Folk, penned by the future saviour of Doctor Who Russell T Davies, kicked things off, and the standard seemed to be set for the next decade or so. It wasn’t unusual to see male gay characters playing football and hanging out with the boys drinking beer, most of them struggling to come to terms with how their sexuality could fit in with their life, and occasionally falling in love with their straight best friends.

Straight acting, then, moved into the mainstream. Just as the real straight guys were making doe eyes at David Beckham, discovering moisturiser and fake tan and getting in touch with their metrosexual side, the gays started to ‘man up’ and become more macho – or at least their version of it. The difference between straight and gay became increasingly difficult to spot.

One very well-known British TV actor, and beacon for the new generation of straightish gays, has openly spoken at his disappointment at the only gay role models available to him seemed feminine, bitchy and limp-wristed, that nobody seemed like him – an ordinary, straight-acting lad.

A couple of years ago, I sat in front of this very actor on an aeroplane. His ‘straight-acting’ posturing in interviews is just that – a great big act. He was just as caustic, gossipy and salacious as a lot of those gay stereotypes he’d previously decried.

The new gay ideal isn’t just to be accepted as an ‘openly gay’ man. We must now strive for further acceptance by being indistinguishable from our heterosexual equivalents. Rather than carve out our own identity, we ape theirs. Now, the new gay norm is the ‘straight-actor’ with the ultimate compliment being someone not spotting your sexuality. The ‘fems’ or ‘queeny’ guys are dismissed as outdated stereotypes firmly on the descent, but it’s a myth – they’re still everywhere, no matter how much their much butcher brothers choose to deny them.

ITV’s  commissioning of Vicious, a new sitcom featuring a dramatic, caustic  gay couple in their twilight years, has received a rather predictable reaction. Gay men desperate not to be pigeonholed have criticised the portrayal of the two lead characters as grotesque, camp stereotypes, even though played by well-respected (and gay) actors Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. “This isn’t us!” they cry. “These are not my people!”

The characters do verge on the grotesque, of course, but they are caricatures, cartoons. They’re not aiming to represent the gay community (such as it is). It isn’t pretending to hold a microscope up to homosexuality. And men like that do exist. One could almost be forgiven for thinking some of the sensitive souls taking to social media to sound the ‘gay stereotype klaxon’ have actually recognised a few traits in the characters that they themselves have been known to display. Even the butchest of gay boys has a flounce every now and again.

Leaving aside the weaknesses of the script and supporting characterisation, what few have focused on is the great thing that Vicious is a sitcom with not just gay, but gay and elderly central characters. Yes, gay men get old! It may not be the step forward into total assimilation everybody thinks they’re looking for, but it’s a step for somebody out there, somewhere.

From what I have seen on the many dating profiles or social networking sites I scour, gay men don’t want to have sex with other gay men at all – they’re just interested in straights, or at least someone who can give a good enough rendition of one, despite the very deed of having sex with another man being the least straight thing you could possibly do. They’re at pains to point out how un-gay they are in an effort to attract more men. The word ‘masculine’ is bandied about so much that it loses all meaning.

Perhaps we secretly miss the homophobia of days gone by, and are more than happy to perpetuate it among ourselves, or maybe it’s all those years of being ostracised which make the gay man strive to fit in.

Whether we’re carefully arranging ourselves into ‘tribes’ or behaving in a more traditionally masculine way to avoid ‘standing out’, we just want to belong, even if it means we have to alienate or deny the existence of everyone else along the way. And we’d rather you didn’t point out the futility or unfairness of it all while we’re doing it, thank you very much. We already know.

This post was adapted from a blog which originally appeared in The Huffington Post.