The Fags and Their Hags
A gay friend told me that he often feels most comfortable around women of color because they have the capacity to understand his experience almost intuitively by virtue of navigating our society both as a person of color and as a woman. I do not mean to insinuate that women are never problematic, close minded, or hateful but often being a member of a marginalized and/or oppressed group can offer a point of reference when trying to understand the struggles of others. What really stuck out to me about his comment was that he finished by noting that often gay men do not or cannot return this sense of allyship. At first I did not know how to respond but nonetheless, something about it rang true. I could feel his words echo in gay pop culture and current events. While every group can and should always strive to do better in terms of solidarity this particular topic is important to me because women have played an integral role in our gay community. What do I want? I want us to do better.
My initial reaction to his words was: “Oh that's probably just the white gays who are causing this problem”. White gays are to blame for much of what is amiss in gay culture; however, I’ve reconsidered this position. For example, there is a relatively popular meme circulating at the moment that reads “white girls imitating gay men imitating black women”. From my personal experience, the gays that claim to internally be a “strong independent black woman that don’t need to man” (queue cringy neck roll) are usually white gays. What particularly comes to mind is Rupaul's sentiments on (trans)women’s participation in Drag Race. While many a think piece has addressed this issue our inability to solve the problem baffles me because trans women have always been a cornerstone of drag culture. And who are the gay icons that our queens rely on so heavily for inspiration? Who do they imitate? Women. I mention this because it reflects the complicated relationship between women and gay men. I am proud to say many queens have spoken out against this notion of drag being boys-only but there are still enough who disagree that excluding women is a problem.I wonder: How can we profit off of a group of people and then in multiple instances fail to support them?
Another way the issue of gay men not properly supporting women manifests is the popular complaint about women at gay bars. Of course, coming to a gay club to observe queers as an oddity is not always appropriate but I personally find a lot of pride in the fact that women can feel so safe in gay spaces as well. Whenever I hear an argument against women in gay spaces it feels as if there is no recognition for the challenges and even dangers women face on a regular basis. Yes, blackout bachelorettes at a gay bar are a nightmare but not because they are women but because literally everyone is a nightmare when they black out. And maybe this rhetoric would not be so concerning if when there are protests against trans murders gay men would show up in the numbers that they do for a pride festival. (I realize that last part went from zero to one hundred real quick but it’s worth pointing out in the hopes that moving forward our community will be more invested in solidarity)
Lastly,I would like to touch on the issue of gay men touching women's bodies inappropriately because “their gayness somehow negates sexual harassment”. This is again an example of gay men failing to understand a different perspective.
Most of these issues have traces of toxic masculinity: the sense of entitlement, the desire to create a boy's club, taking without thought of reciprocation. We need to examine our masculinity complexes to make sure that we are not repeating or echoing the shortcomings of straight culture. Basically, I would say not falling prey to our own male privilege seems to be at the root of what can spoil bonds between us and those affiliated with our community.
It is easy to point out what is lacking or what is disappointing in pop culture, mainstream culture, and social norms but this is only in hopes that we can do better. Whether it be a race issue or a gender one, the relationship between gay men and women has shaped many of our lives, including mine. We owe it to ourselves and others to make sure this alliance is the best it can be. A queer female friend told me her platonic love relationships with gay friends has been the most reliable and emotionally satisfying, I only hope that this can be true for more women in the future.