Since I came out of the closet I’ve noticed a weird transition in how I’m treated by the world (particularly by straight men). Of course there are the obvious things we all go through, i.e. the growing acceptance from family and friends, but one thing is repeatedly bled into nearly all my experiences: the treatment I receive from straight guys.
I like to consider myself a fairly mysterious dude in that most people don’t know I’m gay right off the bat. The greatest benefit of that is being able to see the difference in how people treat me once they realize I am. The before and after is totally obvious and, quite frankly, unnerving. Straight men start treating me as if I’ve stepped into a vulnerable state of mind, inspiring them to treat me like a damsel in distress.
There’s a difference between being polite and being somewhat emasculating. I don’t mind if people open doors for me when they’re first in line, I don’t mind when guys keep an air of censorship during a conversation; but for strangers to notice my tight shirt, tailored pants, and instantly treat me like I was a vulnerable person that needs care is a whole other story. I can’t tell you how many times straight men have started treated me like a women, and I know I’m not alone.
Sometimes it’s great, but other times I can’t help but laugh. Holding the elevator, pulling out a chair, giving up their seat or filtering their words might be interpreted to mean a multitude of things, but in my experience it’s been flatly obvious the delivery of dialogue before and after they realized I was gay. Is being gay seen as weak or defenseless in the eyes of straight men? I know for a fact it’s not, which makes wonder why so many treat us different once they realize we play for the other team. The last thing any man (gay or straight) wants is to be emasculated. Orientation has nothing to do with gender.
My mother made sure I had an education in chivalry. Anyone who identifies as a woman will receive the treatment my family taught me to give. While I offer the same kind of treatment to a man, I have to admit it’s a tad bit blurred when it comes to straight men and gay men. There’s an invisible line of social placement they give towards us that either leaves a weird taste in my mouth or makes my homosexuality a topic of discussion. Either way, it’s clearly noticeable (and felt) by me.
Tolerance and acceptance doesn’t mean altering every bit of normalcy with how I identify myself. There have been plenty of times when I’ve treated guys a bit more delicately than others, but it mostly has to do with their sensitivity – not their orientation. My orientation is the last thing I think of when I wake up in the morning, so why is it that straight men feel the need to remind me of it whenever an opportunity presents itself? I realize I’m raising a question seldom thought of by most gay people, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s some truth to it.