In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader has a problem: he doesn’t feel gay enough.
While gay men, especially, have become notorious for over-policing gender performance and identity and in turn only celebrating masculinity and being ‘straight’ this reader feels the opposite.
And while this is a dangerous game of stereotypes, at the core of his question is something we all can relate to.
If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!
I was inspired to write this by your “Not Like Other Gays, A Cool Gay” column. I often find myself feeling like I’m not like other gays. But for me, this is a mark of shame rather than of pride.
I see all the confident, attractive, and fabulous gays around me and just feel inadequate and jealous. I think, “How could I be like them?” My self-loathing isn’t because I’m gay, it’s because (among many other reasons) I’m not gay enough.
I want to be part of the scene, but I don’t know how to be. I don’t blame gay culture, I blame myself for being mediocre, and I’m just trying to be better. Any advice?
I wish I could answer your letter, Wannabe. But unfortunately I am a very busy, very Instagrammable homosexual with a slew of exclusive invite-only events to attend and I simply don’t have the space in my Elite Queer schedule to fit you in.
Kidding. I am not in possession of what the children of social media commonly refer to as, “a life.”
Since I’m free, let’s talk about a feeling we’ve all likely experienced at one point or another if we are masochistic enough to attempt socializing in gay group settings: What if I’m not cool enough to be gay?
As you know, I’m not a fan of people who dismiss “the gay scene” out of hand as if we are all monolithic sex zombies who only care about harvesting penis and cackling at niche Drag Race references (that describes me, but it doesn’t describe all of us).
On the other hand, I’m not going to lie to you, Wannabe. Many people in the gay community suck, and I don’t mean in the good way. It’s not because they are gay, or because they are butch or femme. It’s because they are terrible. It’s purely incidental that their terribleness intersects with gayness. They are terrible, and they are gay, in that order. We don’t need to pretend “the gay scene” is thoroughly amazing and if we don’t fit into it, then there must be something wrong with us.
There are gay guys, for example, who achieve a certain number of Instagram followers and then refuse to associate with people who don’t look flashy enough in their stories. They suck. There are gay guys who think that because they painted their nails and wore a crop top once they invented queerness and are now the appointed gatekeepers of who is and who isn’t “gay enough.” They suck. There are gay guys who mistake cattiness for wittiness and who think they’re being charming when they’re really just insulting people. They suck.
There are gay guys who are living out their high school fantasy of being a mean girl, meticulously curating their clique and gossiping about anyone with a pulse who had the misfortune of crossing paths with them. They, and it brings me no pleasure to report this, suck.
There are gay guys who get off on excluding people, Wannabe. Just like in every community. Hurt people hurt people, as I believe Sylvia Plath or Britney Spears once said. And we have a lot of hurt in our community.
My policy is to always give people a chance. If someone is rude to me, then I thank La Virgencita that they exposed themselves and I keep it moving. I just don’t have the time. Their acceptance or rejection of me, provided I’ve done nothing wrong, is a reflection of them, not me. That goes for people in and out of the community.
But now I have to question your metrics. What, to you, would qualify as “gay enough?” Is it watching the right shows? Making the right references? Being accepted by the right people? Hanging out in the right crowds? Being invited to the right parties?
Because, bad news: If your motive for doing any of the above is to be more liked, then you’re playing a losing game.
You could certainly mimic the aesthetics. You could dress like the Cool Gays. You could talk like the Cool Gays. You could do all sorts of surface-level things to achieve a rough approximation of your vision of a Cool Gay. If that’s you, then sis, by all means buy yourself a thwoorp fan and a shirt that says “DADDY” on it and you’re halfway there. Save up for a harness. Borrow something from my Nasty Pig collection.
But is that you? Or is that just your projection of a person you think you should be because you’re not satisfied with who you are and your low self-esteem is telling you if you could just be more like that guy then everything would be so much better?
There is no essential way to be gay, Wannabe. There is no one way we present, no set list of things we like. In my friend group, there’s a wide variety of interests and expressions of self-presentation. Friendship shouldn’t be based on whether or not someone is anything “enough.” You are already “enough,” whether you know it or not.
My advice to you is to shift your perspective. Worry about accepting yourself before worrying about acceptance from other people. Engage in the things you love, be open about that love, wear it on your sleeve (or on your crop top), and let the rest fall into place.