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June 25, 2007 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Why are gay people so flamboyant?

Maybe I'm just ignorant, but it's definitely a trend that rises beyond my scope of comprehension.

I just spent the weekend as a volunteer medic for the SF Pride events, and it's a phenomenon that only really struck me when seen in its mass sprawl. It's something distinctively relegated to the gay community, in my experiences.

I guess I'm just curious as to why gay culture seems to be defined and celebrated by flamboyance, extravagance, and eccentricity.

In short, why do gay people act the way they do? Is it hormonal, adaptive-reactive, socially-constructed, etc.?
posted by Mach3avelli to Human Relations (97 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Really hope you're not trolling.

Gay people at a pride event tend to act differently than we do the rest of the year. Have you ever been to San Francisco's Carnival? You wouldn't wonder if all West Indians act the way they might at Carnival, right? They don't go around the rest of the year dressed in feather head-dresses and beads.

It's a celebration thing. This weekend is our version of the High Holy Days, and we dress and act accordingly.
posted by rtha at 7:31 PM on June 25, 2007


I'm not saying your question is invalid but SF Pride is hardly representative of all gay people. Its like attending Carnaval in Rio and then asking why all Brazilians are...well, you get the picture.
posted by vacapinta at 7:32 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Observation bias.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:32 PM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


b1tr0t wins. For every flamboyant gay person you see, there are a few "normal" gay people you don't notice.
posted by Loto at 7:36 PM on June 25, 2007


One more thing: walk around the Castro sometime (not during Pride). You will see lots of (obviously) gay people. You will also see many people who are not obviously gay.

Now walk around the Financial District. You will still see lots of gay people - but you may not know it.

Context is important; we may act one way at "home", and another at work (don't you?). Or maybe we act the same way in both places. You just can't tell.
posted by rtha at 7:36 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've asked this question a few times before in various circles and you quickly learn to not ask it again. You'll get 101 answers telling you that it's bias, that you're stirring, or that you're just being mean and building up a stereotype. Fact is, yeah, it does seem to some of us that the percentage of "flamboyant" gay people is somewhat higher than in the general population.. but you're not allowed to ask about it, so just chalk it up to a quirk of life.
posted by wackybrit at 7:37 PM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


Yeah, geez, you're totally not getting a representative sample at *any* pride event, maybe even especially SF's. It's a party, it's a time to act goofy and flamboyant and all.
posted by the dief at 7:37 PM on June 25, 2007


No, not trolling.

And I should have clarified: it's not the costumed, naked, or painted types, but just the general culture. It just happened to dawn on me over the weekend.

As in, why are many gay men so hyperfeminized and women hypermasculine? Or maybe the better terms are hyperunmasculine and hyperunfeminine.
posted by Mach3avelli at 7:37 PM on June 25, 2007


Yeah. You go to a huge flamboyant event and wonder why its participants are so flamboyant?

If you want to feel like a total sissy la-la cupcake in comparison to some unabashed homosexuals, I could recommend a few bars for you to check out. You'd better not give them any sass.
posted by hermitosis at 7:37 PM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


That's like asking why Christians wear stupid green and red outfits in December.

1. that's the only time/way you can identify them as a member of that particular group (i.e. you know they're gay people because you're AT Pride)
2. It's a crazy overbroad generalization that anyone more familiar with the culture would know was crazy and overbroad.
3. It's party time for their people.

So the answer is "because you don't really know what you're talking about" though I'm sure there are other more sensitive answers that talk about the culture of repression and a formerly seriously oppressed group being able to now be out in public and wanting to do that in the most in your face way possible as a celebration of how far they've come.

Another answer is that you don't know that the non-flamboyant people are gay.
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on June 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


Probably because they've had to live with prejudice and stereotyping their entire lives. This tends to make people fearless and unafraid to enjoy themselves.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:39 PM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


A story: I moved to Maine after college. The first time I went to the grocery store, I got out of the car in the parking lot and thought "Holy shit! Maine is full of dykes!" because there were all these women in jeans and boots, many with short hair, loading groceries into pick-up trucks and muddy SUVs.

They weren't dykes. They were women living in a rural area, doing the grocery shopping on a slushy, wintery day. I just saw what I wanted to see.

There are many butch women who are straight, but you may not notice them. There are not as many "nelly" straight men, because our culture punishes that transgression much more severely.

We had a discussion about this around here recently, but I can't find the link.
posted by rtha at 7:43 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here it is.
posted by rtha at 7:47 PM on June 25, 2007


I hope you're not trolling too, but assuming your question is based in simple ignorance, please allow me an answer:

After centuries of perpetual discrimination, harrassment and torment, any "people" who sense a genuine bit of relief from oppressive attitudes often embrace the fullness of their identity with unusual passion.

I don't think that it's any coincidence that fairly strident aspects of "black" culture became wildly popular shortly after the Civil Rights movement in America started showing benefits to the African-American community. Some of these things seem a bit odd or dated or perhaps a bit extreme today - the Black Panthers, wearking dashikis or spotting huge afros - and many seem ordinary or expected when they were once unusual (look, for instance, at how the once whitest-of-soul-labels, Motown, suddenly began letting its composers and musicians deal in social protest . . . it's hard to imagine, but once even Marvin Gaye's legendary "What's Going On" was denied release by Berry Gordy, the label owner!) When allowed, somewhat suddenly by historical standards, to express oneself so openly, many extreme examples of such expression become popular.

I don't think this is any different from how many secularized European Jews began to deeply investigate Jewish religious and cultural roots after the Holocaust, or how my own people, the Bosnian Muslims (highly secularized) tended towards more conservative religious beliefs after the war in Bosnia. After a period of oppression, it's not unusual to "celebrate" liberation by embracing something fairly intensely.

The stereotyping of homosexuals has always been geared towards a supposed adherence to all kinds of "strange" sexual behavior, flamboyance, clichéd hand mannerisms aspects of speech and whatnot, so when homosexuality became more publically allowable, I'm not surprised its public displays (like a gay pride parade) would over-emphasize these characteristics. That's a typical sort of human reaction.

So this behavior isn't really relegated to the gay community, in my opinion.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:54 PM on June 25, 2007 [17 favorites]


As in, why are many gay men so hyperfeminized and women hypermasculine? Or maybe the better terms are hyperunmasculine and hyperunfeminine.

Identifying as a homosexual gives you the opportunity to discover or create a sexual identity and social persona based on whatever you are or decide to be. From an early age, in hiding, you reach out into the world around you and absorb influences: who you love, who you want to love you, what you want to do to them, what you want them to do to you. You look to examples in culture and the media of who you want or wish you could be. Once you have come to terms with the breaking of taboos, you begin to break them wherever you need to, and you become less self-conscious about maintaining a facade for other people's benefit or comfort. We (as a "culture" of outcasts) have allowed ourselves liberty to play and experiment without taking ourselves too seriously.

It's a process of self-invention that most straight people aren't quite as compelled to undergo; it's a crucible of miscellaneous factors from which you hope to emerge whole. And it's hit or miss. Some of the people you see never developed emotionally past a certain stage. Some are chameleons and masters at deception. Some are unconsciously imitating their greatest influences and role models, who may happen to be female. Some identify as "genderqueer". Who can say? Show me a gaggle of ten prissy queens and I'll show you nine incredibly tragic individual stories with similar themes but incredibly varying details. And like others have said, meanwhile you'll be passed left and right by men that are flying under your radar.

In other words, we are whatever we decide to be, except in the cases where we simply can't help what we are. And if you saw us at a holiday dinner with family instead of on the sidewalk in a parade, you'd realize why so many people are afraid of us: because we vanish from view at will, resurface whenever it's safe, and pour more effort than almost anyone else in achieving sexual self-knowledge and satisfaction, which will always be subversive and will never go out of fashion.
posted by hermitosis at 7:56 PM on June 25, 2007 [17 favorites]


Of course, I should add the jessamyn is entirely right as well - plenty of folks are homosexual without it being readily demonstrated by manner of dress or behavior.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:56 PM on June 25, 2007


Fag hag here. It's not a taboo question to me, honey.

I think there is some validity to an observation that American gay men are "flamboyant" when compared with American straight men. This is a result of gender socialization, which is a system largely centered on performance designed to attract a specific set of partners. Ergo, "feminine" behavior: flashy dress, fast and familiar speech is performed by those wishing to alert "masculine" types to their availability. It's no irony that there's also a crummy trend in gay culture to valorize "straight acting" guys as desirable.

However, when i make this argument, one reply I get is that women aren't "flamboyant" like gay men are, but I disagree. We're just naturalized to the powder and plumage, and it's not always trotted out in full force. Gay men, trannies, any people who've by sweat and tears sculpted their own gendered identity niche are apt to deploy gender performance... shall we say... more whole-heartedly. I am a FABULOUS example, btw. It's called "owning it."

So, to create another parallel, when you go to a college town on Halloween, do you come away convinced that all women are sluts? They sure tend to dress trashy, don't they?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:00 PM on June 25, 2007 [7 favorites]


Protective coloration.
posted by pessoa at 8:00 PM on June 25, 2007


i say it's anger, and i'm speaking as a gay man.
posted by brandz at 8:02 PM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


People tend to emulate the people they hang out with/identify with, so that they'll fit in. Tell me, Mach3avelli, why are YOU so flamboyantly straight?
posted by muddgirl at 8:08 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tell me, Mach3avelli, why are YOU so flamboyantly straight?

I'm not, really. I'd consider myself pretty androgynous.
posted by Mach3avelli at 8:18 PM on June 25, 2007


Like any good parade/celebration, Gay Pride is a huge See and Be Seen event. Anyone in a quiet, contemplative frame of mind is not going to be there, nor would you notice them if they were. So you're not being exposed to the entire cross section of day to day behavior. It's like going to Burning Man and wondering why everyone is acting so... flamboyant.

If they ever have a Dorky Chick Parade, I'd definitely be there being as flamboyantly dorky as possible.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:22 PM on June 25, 2007


Let's rephrase this question to "Why do all people in class A have characteristic B?"

There are two answers to this question.

1. They don't. All people in class A do not all have characteristic B. If you're observing that every single A always does B, then you're probably not observing As as well as you think you are. Example: San Francisco Pride as a baseline for observing The Universal Gay.

B. They do, sometimes, because what you're observing is a culture at work. Wikipedia lists some ways of understanding culture.

Therefore, your real question is: "Why, in the specific subset of gay culture that I am observing, does gay culture celebrate flamboyance, extravagance, and eccentricity?" In your second post, you also seem to be asking, "Why do some gay men have stereotypically feminine qualites, and why do some lesbians have stereotypically masculine qualities?"

These are major questions, and there aren't going to be simple answers. There are whole fields of study devoted to trying to understand why groups of humans act the way they do. Why do hippies love patchouli? Why do Jews love Chinese food? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Here are some topics you might want to research:

- Gay world history, gay history in the US, and specifically in San Francisco
- Theories of sexuality and gender, often grouped under "gender studies" or "queer studies"

An anthropologist or sociologist might be able to recommend some specific texts.
posted by lemuria at 8:22 PM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Another answer is that you don't know that the non-flamboyant people are gay.

That's really the answer, Mach3avelli. Think about it. You don't notice the many, many gay people who aren't whatever you call "flamboyant." Because they're not, you know, "flamboyant."

The fact that you asked this question is a signal that you don't know a whole helluva lot about lesbian and gay issues. Not meant as an insult, just noting that you might want to back off a bit from judgment and spend a little bit more time listening and learning about things related to queer life. If, that is, you really care about this stuff.
posted by mediareport at 8:34 PM on June 25, 2007


Here's the thing... not all flamboyant or effeminate men are gay.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:35 PM on June 25, 2007


You might also find these two AskMe threads worth reading.
posted by mediareport at 8:39 PM on June 25, 2007


The modern green carnation?
posted by Falconetti at 8:53 PM on June 25, 2007


That's really the answer, Mach3avelli. Think about it. You don't notice the many, many gay people who aren't whatever you call "flamboyant." Because they're not, you know, "flamboyant."

The fact that you asked this question is a signal that you don't know a whole helluva lot about lesbian and gay issues. Not meant as an insult, just noting that you might want to back off a bit from judgment and spend a little bit more time listening and learning about things related to queer life. If, that is, you really care about this stuff.


Maybe I should be more clear, because I feel this is going in the wrong direction, but I should emphasize that I'm speaking in general terms. Of course there's plenty of non-flamboyant gay people, even the majority. What I'm getting at is the relative behavior in comparison to other minority groups.
posted by Mach3avelli at 8:56 PM on June 25, 2007


I also hate to see this pile-on. Perhaps a better question might be: How did "flamboyancy" come to be associated with the gay community?

i suspect the answer has less to do with something innate and more with stereotyping. Remember the association between fat people and being "jolly"? I dont know how that came about but it seems likely that it was because the only way an overweight person could get work in film was by being a comedic foil. There's an analogy there.
posted by vacapinta at 9:06 PM on June 25, 2007


if you're talking primarily about where people fall in terms of various perceived masculine/feminine behaviors, i think it has something to do with this: the average person basically has what's considered to be a normal package of gender-related traits-- that is, they do many different things in the way considered to be normal for their gender. and then there are people who, for whatever reason, didn't seem to get the standard package to one degree or another. some of these people have visibly gender deviant behaviors but are straight, while others are gay (have non gender-normative sexual behaviors or desires). many have both non-normative sexual orientations and other types of behaviors. for example, a butch lesbian may have the sexual desires, clothing preferences and many other behavioral characteristics more common to a man. why? this is hotly debated, but answers seem to generally range between "she is wired that way" (ie. basically a male brain in a female body) and "something unusual happened to her psychology as a young person" (ie. for whatever reason she imprinted a more "masculine" than "feminine" role for herself. of course, this is all complicated by some atypical gender behaviors being considered more deviant than others. for example, it's obviously way easier for a woman to get away with wearing pants all the time than a man with dresses. in terms of extremely deviant expressions, i agree with the above comments that people who are openly gay have often already stretched and sometimes broken the boundaries of what's considered socially acceptable for them, so it may be easier and/or more important for them to express in the way that they want to than, for example, a straight man who wants to wear skirts (to put that another way, gays are already somewhat marginalized as well as part of their own culture with different values, so they may have less to lose and more to gain by expressing other types of gender deviance than straight people with similar inclinations)

consider the similarity of the question "why do so many women like to wear dresses and makeup?" of course some women like to wear dresses but not makeup, while some women like to wear makeup but not dresses (and of course, some don't like either). however, it's pretty safe to say that in most cases these behaviors are both part of a gendered social role that they were either born with/and or got stuck with somehow along the way.
posted by lgyre at 9:09 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


rereading your comment, i noticed that you specifically said "hypermasculinized" and "hyperfeminized". guess i should add that when you're trying to get into a gender role that is not considered your own, where you may be fighting against people's assumptions and/or your own body to be perceived the way you want, you may go overboard in certain ways to balance out other factors that are harder to control.
posted by lgyre at 9:12 PM on June 25, 2007


Previously, there was the gay voice question, and there have been a few posts about gaydar.

I think people who value their identity can react very negatively to any incursion from the outside - the identity is sacred, in some sense, and even naming aspects of it seems harmful. Meanwhile, others see the inherent generalization as bigoted, especially if they have issues with that particular aspect (and especially if there is some truth in it?). Hence the not very helpful reaction in this thread, and the gay voice one.

Who knows, maybe your observations are just a figment of your imagination - what an imagination!
posted by Chuckles at 9:14 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


From that wikipedia page - Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures:
Not all members of a particular sexual minority participate in, or are aware of, the subculture that may be associated with that minority. In addition to simply not knowing that the culture exists, non-participants may be geographically or socially isolated, they may feel stigmatized by the subculture, they may simply dislike it (feeling it is outdated, corrupted, or does not align with their personal taste or style), or they may prefer to affiliate with some other culture or subculture.
posted by Chuckles at 9:17 PM on June 25, 2007


Lots of guys would act that way, except that they're insecure and afraid that people would think they were gay. Gay guys don't have that problem, so they just act the way they want to. See, logic.
posted by nanojath at 9:20 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm straight, but I set off gaydars all the time, because my behaviour is gender ambigious. My husband is the same.

I know quite a few gays; some of them are amazingly sterotypically gay; others (mostly the secure, happy ones) have SOs whose gender is the same as theirs, and that's really as far as it goes.

From what I can tell, it seems to stem from security in their identity: the more they feel that they are threatened, the gayer they act. Especially, it seems, if they are single.
posted by ysabet at 9:54 PM on June 25, 2007




Perhaps a better question might be: How did "flamboyancy" come to be associated with the gay community?

Ambrosia Voyeur has done a lovely job of explaining this: Because flamboyancy has become associated with women, where it serves as a marker of lower status (i.e., women aren't serious but decorative) and of sexual availability (in that flirting, giggling, daring dress, and feminized gestures signal that a woman is available for the choosing). Masculinity gets defined as "not that" -- not decorative but serious, not sexually available but sexually predatory.

What marks men as feminine in this society? Generally, it's a bunch of traits that society believes makes a guy unattractive to women -- being skinny, bad at sports, into clothes and appearance... in other words, acting like a woman is supposed to make you unattractive to women.

Guess which men don't really care whether they're attractive to women?

Gay guys get an out in the whole rigid gender binary thing, which means they more easily get to pick and choose which aspects of which gender roles they want to take on. Straight people can certainly do it too, but there are big penalties for subverting the system -- penalties many gay men are already paying for their sexuality, which can instill a bit more daring in playing further at the edges.

I don't mean to totally ignore gay women in the above; just seemed easier and more relevant to focus on men here.
posted by occhiblu at 10:19 PM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


This is a pretty awesome post about pride celebrations in particular. They wish we were invisible. We're not. Let's dance.
posted by barometer at 10:25 PM on June 25, 2007


In addition to selection bias, you may wish to read up on code switching.
posted by anildash at 10:33 PM on June 25, 2007


I have been thinking more about your question and I think it may be helpful to tease out exactly what you mean by "flamboyance". Here are some possible meanings that I think you might have had in mind for this word.

1. "Gayness." I think this definition is what many commenters are assuming that you meant. Your question, therefore, came off as "Why are gays at gay pride so GAY?" to these responders, which is why this definition is not such a fruitful path.

2. Effeminacy (in men). You could look to gender theory, drag culture and psychobiology to learn about this.

3. Theatricality. You may want to look into theories of gender performativity.

4. Hedonism, which I guess would be something you could read philosophy about, or just check out a bathhouse while high on poppers.

If any of these aspects of flamboyance particularly interest you, you may have better luck researching these particular traits of gay culture.
posted by lemuria at 10:42 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's an easy answer to this question. I'd rephrase the question, however, as "why do the most visible manifestation of gay culture favor 'flamboyant' behavior?" And even then, I don't think there's an easy answer.

To what degree are gay people playing to mainstream expectations in attempt to be accepted rather than persecuted? What's the relationship between gay sexuality and gender? Do gay people adopt the traits of the opposite gender in an attempt to attract non-gay people as potential sex partners? Do they adopt those behaviors because they have certain genes that people of the opposite gender have? Is it just a form a theatre, a way of getting noticed?

I have no answers to these questions. I do know that I'm a rather "straight-acting" bi guy, and that one of my dearest friends is incredibly flamboyant gay guy. I'm pretty sure I act in a way that's more or less natural for me, and that he acts in a way that's more or less natural for him. Why one type of behavior is "natural" for me and why another type of behavior is "natural" for him is beyond me, but I'm convinced that both are equally natural, determined by factors beyond our awareness or control.
posted by treepour at 10:44 PM on June 25, 2007


The fact that you asked this question is a signal that you don't know a whole helluva lot about lesbian and gay issues. Not meant as an insult, just noting that you might want to back off a bit from judgment and spend a little bit more time listening and learning about things related to queer life. If, that is, you really care about this stuff.
posted by mediareport


It's not judging to make an observation and ask why. And the fact that he's curious and asking the questions allows you to correct his ignorance.

You're basically telling him to learn more about the gay community but don't ask questions when asking questions is the quickest way to learn about anything. That's more ignorant than anything he asked.
posted by justgary at 10:48 PM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


As in, why are many gay men so hyperfeminized and women hypermasculine? Or maybe the better terms are hyperunmasculine and hyperunfeminine.

So did you see the men in the leather contingent? Or the Bare Chest Calendar float? Those are some seriously hypermasculinized men!

Agreeing with occhiblu that gender roles and gender appearance are different in many parts of the gay community, with a lot more play along the edges in both directions. There's more room within queer communities to be hypermasculine OR hyperfeminine. Often the role closest to societal expectations becomes somewhat invisible (the curse of being a femme lesbian) while attention is focused on those at odds with societal expectations (the flamboyant gay man, e.g.).

And thanks for volunteering at the parade!
posted by gingerbeer at 10:58 PM on June 25, 2007


So did you see the men in the leather contingent? Or the Bare Chest Calendar float? Those are some seriously hypermasculinized men!

It's true. I've never felt so small.
posted by Mach3avelli at 11:08 PM on June 25, 2007


Not all gay men are flamboyant but 99.9% of flamboyant men (including those that exhibit gay speech or hand mannerisms) are gay and in the most exaggerated cases are called "screaming queens".

Why? It is advertising for being gay or for a particular gay role just like a peacock's tail feathers are advertising.

Two guys I know that had mannerisms but said they weren't gay ("I have a girlfriend - it is because I work in the arts") wound up getting boyfriends after age 35.

Flamboyant is fairly obvious. But beware of characterizing non-macho (perhaps sissy) behavior as gay. Years ago I was invited to lunch by a serious Christian group of about a dozen (no church but heavy Bible reading). Since my son was at the age where kids watch Barney the Purple Dinosaur I was asked my opinion of the show. I found the show irritating and part of my off the top of my head response was that "the little boys seem gay and the little girls are chubby." Then I looked around the table and the men were of the slight emotional type while the women were hefty.

Given that I didn't hang out with them again I have no idea of that group's sexual dynamic though I have since been chagrined by my characterization of the Barney cast.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:18 PM on June 25, 2007


Another thought: Think of rabidly heterosexual rituals, like a football game or a wedding. Big honkin' parties of hugely exaggerated stereotypically straight traits, in which men's masculinity and prowess is played up to absurd proportions and women are relegated to the decorative supportive role as they cheer on the players or the sexually chosen role as they glide down the aisle proclaiming their virginity.

And aspects of each of these filters into daily life as well, as I've mentioned.

As a culture, in general, we all enact our sexuality and gender roles in big public (often obnoxious) ways. It's just that we're so accustomed to seeing the hetero rituals that they no longer register, while the gay equivalents seem somehow unusual -- hence, "flamboyant."
posted by occhiblu at 12:54 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The fact that you asked this question is a signal that you don't know a whole helluva lot about lesbian and gay issues. Not meant as an insult, just noting that you might want to back off a bit from judgment and spend a little bit more time listening and learning about things related to queer life. posted by mediareport

I don't buy the implication in this thread that gay people are in a better position to answer this question than non-gay people. I'm British and would have no particular confidence in the superior ability of British people either to accurately identify, or to explain, characteristics prevalent among the British.

(Also: "observation bias", despite its 100-times-daily appearance on AskMe, is never an answer to a question, only a displacement of a question. The point is, why is there observation bias? Could it, for example, be due to social stereotyping, and if so, what are your reasons for believing that this social stereotyping has been internalised by Mach3avelli, but not by some gay people?)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:47 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why are gay people so flamboyant? I just spent the weekend as a volunteer medic for the SF Pride events...
Why are gay people so angry? I just saw an ACT-UP protest in Times Square demonstrating about "Don't Ask, don't tell"...

Why are gay people so athletic and in-shape? I just watched the Gay Games and watched coverage of Aspen Gay Ski Week and MLB's Gay Baseball Days on LOGO-TV...

Why are gay people so into travel and outdoor adventure? I just saw a group of gay scuba divers disembark from the Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas docked in Puerto Vallarta...

Why are gay people so much in charge of Hollywood -- besides the Jews?

...etc., etc., etc.
posted by ericb at 2:06 AM on June 26, 2007


I just read a few comments and I got tired from reading the rest of the thread. Someone asks a honest question, and he gets flamed, and never get his question answered. I'd say this probably happens in 95% of all the forums out there. My reply is directly for the original posting.

It just happens that way. I don't know what makes some so "flamboyant," but I do know some straight girls who are equally hyper. Some of them are to have fun, some of them seem to be a bit pretencious. I can't stand the later.

I also know other gays and lesbians who are not flamboyant. Funny enough, they are so silent that nobody notices them and it may make people think that all gays are flamboyant. Hence, unfortunately, a stereotype. A stereotype people will need to realise that is false.

So I'd say it's nothing to ponder too much about. Some are, some aren't. You wonder why some are. Wonder why some aren't!
posted by remi at 2:50 AM on June 26, 2007


I should emphasize that I'm speaking in general terms.

Right, that's the problem with your initial question, "why do gay people act the way they do?" Reframing it to explore the historic associations of effeminacy and outrageousness within some gay subcultures makes more sense. There are lots of good answers above; it's a deliberate in-your-face rejection of normative gender roles, it's an assertion of fun and life in the face of inequality, hate and oppression, it's an outlet after a childhood spent hiding, etc. You're also seeing it in an enclave where it's been allowed to flower for decades.

I'd also disagree that "it's something distinctively relegated to the gay community." Many, if not most, subcultures have exaggerated expressions of certain characteristics.

(justgary, the initial observation is a judgment that is an overgeneralization; I thought it was worth pointing that out. I apologize if my statement seemed harsh, though; it wasn't intended as an insult.)
posted by mediareport at 4:59 AM on June 26, 2007


I apologize if my statement seemed harsh

I mean, I apologize for my harsh statement.

posted by mediareport at 5:00 AM on June 26, 2007


I have the impression that mach3avelli is asking in good faith, and I don't think it's necessarily a de facto slam to ask "why are women/men/gays/lesbians/blacks/caucasions/muslims/jews/christians/ ... etc.", like this.

It's wildly unrealistic to believe that the majority of people with little exposure to any given race, faith or lifestyle doesn't think in terms of misconceptions based on the loudest, flashiest, most shocking and totally media-licious examples of the subgroup that is foreign to them.

There are some fabulous, good, very terrific answers here.
posted by taz at 5:18 AM on June 26, 2007


In all seriousness, speaking as a secure gay man: A lot of us (but by no means the majority) are flamboyant because it's easier than having a personality.

Also, an incisive (but likely NSFW: one ass picture) look at gay hypermasculinity.
posted by kittyprecious at 5:21 AM on June 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Most lesbians I am aware of are androgynous women like me: no make-up, short hair, minimal jewelry, pants and shirts, WNBA fans, etc. We're as unflamboyant as can be. Still, we're dykes.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:24 AM on June 26, 2007


agreeing with taz-- I have learned something from this thread, specifically in reference to sexuality and gender identity-based cultures and gender performativity, despite the unwieldy way in which the OP phrased the question.

Thanks to the commenters that made an attempt to answer the question, instead of saying something along the lines of "you are ignorant and you ought to educate yourself." The point is that the poster is trying to educate themself, and it's far more helpful to gently guide a questioner towards what might be a better-informed (though related) question, and answer that, than shut them down out-of-hand.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:30 AM on June 26, 2007


i understand your question, but what you're really doing is just scratching the surface. The real answer in my opinion has to do oppositional culture, also called subculture. I'd like to link to wikipedia but their entry sucks.
Basically what you're observing is a surface level feature of this subculture. Just to disagree, this is not the same as christians at christmas or brazilians at carnival. This is more like asking why black people talk differently than white people.
The fact is, what you're alluding to is really the tip of an iceberg--an iceberg that has to do with a group of people being oppressed and then, basically feeling bonded in opposition to that oppression, forming a culture of their own. One that they can recognize and that others, outside the community can recognize as well. The only way to understand it is to think historically--think about all the denial and self-hatred that has been inflicted on gay people, and the way flamboyancy and the stuff you're talking about, is the ultimate opposite (at least in its origins) of self denial or self hatred.
I don't think anyone can exactly tell you why it is the way it is, but these are the things to think about.
posted by alkupe at 5:52 AM on June 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


You asked why more gay men than straight men have feminine characteristics, and why more lesbians than straight women have masculine characteristics.

I'm just assuming you're correct in that observation (since many people have already beat you about the head for stereotyping). Ponder this: gay men don't have to put on a masculine act to attract women. Lesbians don't have to act feminine to attract a man. Both gays and lesbians are already outside the "norm," so they are not as bound by the gender paradigms that affect all of us. They have a wider range of gender expression available to them, with fewer social consequences if they stray beyond the norm.

Also, if I wanted to attract a woman (I'm female), in order to be "noticeably lesbian" I might adopt some stereotypical characteristics, since one doesn't generally ANNOUNCE their orientation (though you're in SF, so...). It's subtle advertising, especially amongst gay men, because in many places they can ill afford to be totally out.
posted by desjardins at 5:57 AM on June 26, 2007


By the way, you see this kind of genderfucking all the time in the straight FemDom (BDSM) community.
posted by desjardins at 6:02 AM on June 26, 2007


Fuck off.

Intellectual sloth prevails. The feeling's mutual.

Thanks to those using more spirited tact to make a point and those gutsy enough to take a stab at an answer.
posted by Mach3avelli at 6:47 AM on June 26, 2007


You're basically telling him to learn more about the gay community but don't ask questions when asking questions is the quickest way to learn about anything.

No, he's telling him to listen to the answers he gets rather than dismissing them and insisting on his original (mistaken) point.

I have the impression that mach3avelli is asking in good faith

I did too, at first. But each time he added a comment to the thread that impression dissipated a little more.

That said, this is an excellent thread and I'm glad he started it, even if his question may have been less a genuine request for information than "gays are flamboyant and hyperfeminine, amirite?"

I know gays who do not act in the least flamboyant and straight people who do (and occasionally get mistaken for gay). It's a complicated world.
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on June 26, 2007


So my partner and I went out to Houston's Saturday night Pride Parade, but we didn't quite make it. He's disabled, has trouble walking sometimes, and we ended up perching on barstools at the Ripcord until the parade broke up and all the leathermen walked back for libations.

I was wearing my leather vest, big boots, some other accessories. Flamboyant? I haven't worn this stuff in months. Probably not since this time last year! You'll see me usually at my suburban Wal-Mart or Walgreens in shorts, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap. I might look like your Dad most of the time, not your Daddy. But I appreciate the chance to show my "true colors" once in awhile.

Thinking about: What I'm getting at is the relative behavior in comparison to other minority groups.

I'm don't think this is valid, anymore than you can characterize African-Americans or Mexican-Americans by what you see in movies, TV, festivals, news, whatever. Have you seen Norbit or Madea? It's a segment of a culture, but only one strand of the identity.

We had a flat tire on the way home, sitting on a freeway shoulder at 3am. Such a handsome tow-truck man came along to help up with, didn't even charge a penny to change the tire. A happy, happy Pride...
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:11 AM on June 26, 2007


The real answer in my opinion has to do oppositional culture, also called subculture.

Part of the answer, perhaps.

I have a friend. When their son was ten years old, he wanted a bride's dress for his Christmas present. Being good gay-friendly liberals, they bought it for him. Similarly, when he wanted to take his Barbie dolls in for Show and Tell, they were happy to go along with that.

Today, he's a twenty-five year old draq queen. I'm pretty sure that if you asked him, he'd tell you that his desire for a wedding dress when he was ten had nothing to do with oppositional culture, and everything to do with his being a big flaming Mary.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:19 AM on June 26, 2007


Why are gay people so flamboyant? Because we're fabulous? Why are straight people so boring? Actually, why am I so boring? I try to be more flamboyant and fabulous from time to time but it's a lot of effort.
posted by Nelson at 7:23 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Considering that you previously asked about a chick who wanted you to take a dump on her, and your handle is Mach3avelli, pardon some of us for not taking you as seriously as you might intend. I came here from Something Awful, and if this had happened there, you probably would have been banned already. When I read your original question, I still think you can't possibly be serious.

But I love what Robert Angelo said.
posted by zebra3 at 7:28 AM on June 26, 2007


Perhaps your question, Mach3avelli, is in part rooted in the proposition that homosexuals constitute a biologically distinct third (and fourth) sex.
posted by J-Train at 7:35 AM on June 26, 2007


I knew a gay male some years ago who mostly identified as a drag queen - s/he spent most of his time as his female persona and went by a female name at the time - had no interest in actually undergoing sex change therapy or operation, but lived in the west village and just spent life in drag most of the time. The last few years he's kinda chilled out and now lives most of the time as his natural male persona, goes by his male name and doesn't really dress up except perhaps on a special occasion. I mention this because when he was "ruby" he was very flamboyant, but when he was "roger" he was pretty relaxed and easy-going. Part of why he had decided he didn't really need to be "ruby" as often was how much energy it took to put on the show (even if he wasn't actually singing somewhere, just going out as "ruby" meant a lot of prepping & performing).

You could interpret this as evidence of social construction, as clearly he didn't need to be the drag queen version of himself all the time, and I think what Ambrosia & occhiblu said above about attracting male attention is pertinent here. He could strut out with his feathers spread when necessary. You could also interpret this as some kind of inherent trait, though, that he had that kind of extra theatrical energy to start with.

I do think that the fact that 'flamboyance' has been actively despised among straight men in recentish times has meant it has been better hidden or reformed in most straight communities, so it's more obvious in gay communities. I feel like it's less taboo in straight culture now, and perhaps a less necessary marker for gay culture, so it'll be interesting to see if there's any shift in the percentages over the next couple decades. I think there are more straight effeminate men around, but I don't know if they're exactly flamboyant. I guess there was eddie izzard for a minute :).
posted by mdn at 7:37 AM on June 26, 2007


In Travels with Charlie, John Steinbeck wrote of the Coopers, the sole, highly respected, black family in his hometown of Salinas, "Because they were not hurt or insulted, they were not defensive or combative. Because their dignity was intact, they had no need to be overbearing, and because the Cooper boys had never heard they were inferior, their minds could grow to their true limits."

Sometimes that passage, and more so others in that book, verge on blaming the victim for untoward behavior. But it can be read as expressing the simple truth that prejudice can produce exaggerated results.

Oh, and observation bias. That's part of it too. And some other stuff, already described above. Really, this thread has all bases pretty much covered. I just wanted to show off that I'd read a book, I guess.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:38 AM on June 26, 2007


A straight man who makes a living as a most flamboyant, fabulous drag performer -- Dame Edna (née Barry Humphries).
posted by ericb at 7:46 AM on June 26, 2007


Part of why he had decided he didn't really need to be "ruby" as often was how much energy it took to put on the show (even if he wasn't actually singing somewhere, just going out as "ruby" meant a lot of prepping & performing).

One of our good friends is a bartender/barback. He is a t-shirt/jeans guy, and actually changes into his "work clothes" at the bar. When you reach a certain age and state of health, it really can take too much energy to spend too much of your time making a spectacle of yourself, even when you're spectacular. Been there, done that, twenty years ago. Now I want to take a nap. :-)
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:47 AM on June 26, 2007


All right, you already have a bajillion answers. But perhaps I can offer one other little bit of insight, in response to this question: "As in, why are many gay men so hyperfeminized and women hypermasculine?"

I think part of the answer lies in the idea that one of the most "masculine" traits is to be attracted to women, and one of the most identifiably "femenine" traits is to be attracted to men. When you find this trait in someone who is of the gender opposite from what you expect, you see the males as less masculine and the females as less femenine.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:07 AM on June 26, 2007


Well, here's another angle to come along with analogies being made...so comparisons have been made to carnival in Brazil. Well, you can trace back that dance and nakedness in their culture.

So how about the anthology of the celebration of gay pride? How did it come about being celebrated in its extravagance, etc.? And moreso than say a Hispanic or Black pride march?
posted by Mach3avelli at 8:17 AM on June 26, 2007


PeterMcDermott--
point taken. Clearly there may be biological ("natural") forces at work. However, I would argue that we'll never understand them.
I guess there are 2 seperate questions:
1. why do gay people have a different culture from the mainstream?
2. why does gay culture look the way it does?

I think I was more attempting to answer #1.
Still, thinking about your example, I think that you can still see the reaction against mainstream culture (and gender roles), even at age 10. After all, you only remember this incident because it was a transgression against the norm.
posted by alkupe at 8:43 AM on June 26, 2007


Since I do the same kind of work as you do (I'm an EMT and NFPA Cert'd Rescue Tech and have been for 15 years), I thought I'd chime in as well.

I agree with most of the posters that said most likely you are not seeing the gays that are flying under your radar. When I've come out down the station, the most common response is "I'd never believe you were gay. You're kidding right."

Just so you think I'm not the anomaly, I usually get asked "does it feel strange to be the only gay guy in the profession/area/region?" Truth is, there are roughly 10 other guys in our department that are gay (I'm the only out one) and many more that I've met through my connections with other departments. Most times the guys never suspect a thing and think "I'm the only one."(One bar in the area is sort of the "home" to emergency services crowd. I've met EMS/Fire/Police there and sometimes even I have trouble believing some of the guys are gay they are so masculine.

There is a recent story in the Advocate about a military (one guy is USAF and his partner is USMC) and they talk about the different same-sex couples they would talk to at Camp Lejeune. I dare say these guys aren't hyperunmasculine.

I believe that our expressions of our personality fall all over the "flamboyance" continuum and wherever they fall is fine. Some of it can be put on (I can be a flamboyant queen at Pride for sure) and some of it is natural.

I really believe that you are seeing observation bias. This is really the equivalent of how you never notice a car until you buy it. Then suddenly it seems like everyone is driving one.
posted by GBSJ at 8:47 AM on June 26, 2007


So how about the anthology of the celebration of gay pride? How did it come about being celebrated in its extravagance, etc

Pride came about after the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Essentially up until that time cops were raiding gay bars with great frequency. They'd arrest folks and put their names in the newspapers. There was a lot of brutality. I'm condensing, you may want to Google Stonewall.

In 1969, after a raid at the Stonewall Inn in NYC, folks fought back in a large group for the first time. A year after that the first parade was held as an anniversary of the riots and they've continued ever since -- often as a celebration of rights, but also of recognizing the ongoing struggle (i.e. gay marriage). Celebrations often = extravagance, so you'll see that. You'll also see a lot of corporations, churches and smaller groups walking slowly wearing matching t-shirts... not terribly flamboyant. That's what it's like in Boston, at least.
posted by jdl at 9:10 AM on June 26, 2007


More about Stonewall from Wikipedia. Generally we hear, repeat, and accept the story of Sylvia Rivera that drag queens and transgenders were the ones who fought back against the cops. Very early 1970s pride celebrations after that were sometimes led by self-described "radicals" (Gay Liberation Front, for example) who were, shall we say, "in your face." For some, baring one's boobs or walking around in a harness and chains or showing off a gender-fuck drag was as much a political statement as a sexual or fashion expression.

Later the celebrations passed to community groups such as Heritage of Pride or Christopher Street West, but the tradition continues. We give these people credit because they paved the way, and we party, dance, and yes, show off in their honor.

More concretely: When I lived in San Diego, I was told that the local parade on Broadway downtown in the 1970s was organized in part by the leading drag queens, Nicole and Queen Eddie, and that the folks one might consider "not flamboyant" were afraid to attend. Later, the parade grew bigger and there were floats, in many cases sponsored by bars and dance clubs. As you might imagine, the bars and clubs tried to outdo each other in attracting attention, and yes, sex and sexiness sells. I'm not sure that straight parades have a similar dynamic, since their early incarnations may not have been sponsored by (lets say) showgirls and singles bars.

You might note the presence of GLBT religious groups and parent/family groups in the parades, too. I don't think Bishop Robinson would be marching in a thong :-) much less the members of MCC, Dignity, Integrity, and all the PFLAG moms.

At some point, large corporate commercial sponsors came into the mix, groups like Phillip Morris and American Airlines, you regional HMOs, your local cable company, god knows who else... If these people have sexy semi-naked floats or displays, I think it's not much different from the way they have sports-team cheerleaders and Hooters girls appearing at store grand openings or spokes-models at car shows.
posted by Robert Angelo at 9:55 AM on June 26, 2007


How did it come about being celebrated in its extravagance, etc.? And moreso than say a Hispanic or Black pride march?

A couple of weeks ago -- NYC 50th Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade -- with Ricky Martin as 'King of the Parade' -- a most staid and non-extravagant event!
posted by ericb at 10:50 AM on June 26, 2007


Oops -- proper link for 'Day Parade.'
posted by ericb at 10:51 AM on June 26, 2007


Great thread.

When I've been by myself in the middle of big, unfocused crowds of straight men in their prime, with few women present, I've sometimes had a sense of simmering violence just under the surface. I think it's from a combination of voice tones and edged aggressive laughter which give rise to a kind of collective low growl, and threatening abrupt motions in my peripheral vision which only just fail to mature into pitched battle. After a while, it tends to make my skin crawl, and it can be very exhausting.

I've never felt this from any group of gay men, however large. Maybe physical fighting and intimidation are less common modes of competition among gay men, and maybe 'flamboyance' has something to do with this.

If so, bring it on.
posted by jamjam at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2007


Your question and subsequent comments don't seem all that trollish to me. But instead of getting pissed about some people's trollish assumptions, try understanding why they'd react that way. You'd probably get a lot of "stereotyping!" and "racist!" reactions too if you asked, say, the NAACP why all those black teenagers are so thuggy.

Is it hormonal, adaptive-reactive, socially-constructed, etc.?

I can't offer any research, but only my opinion and a bit of personal experience. I'd say that in some cases it's personality, and in others it's a social reaction. I've known some guys who have a low-grade flamboyance 24/7, both in large social situations and in smaller more intimate settings (like hanging out one-on-one, or with a few friends). For them, I think it's just their personality. I've known other guys who raging queens and lay it on really thick in public and large social situations, but who are "normal" in more private settings. In their cases, I'd say it's some form of social reaction, be it a reactionary subculture thing, showboating or whatever.

Personal anecdote time...

Looking back, I was a bit of a Mary when I was really little. Playing with Barbies with neighbourhood girls, playing dress-up (and make-up), lovvvvving Jem (I also had an insane Transformers collection, thankyouverymuch). That gradually got swept under my personality rug in elementary and high school.

During Cegep and during the summers between school years, I started hanging out with a few local young gay guys and sometimes visiting people I'd known for a while through a gay youth IRC chatroom. It was around that time, and shortly before I came out, that friends who had known me during high school started noticing my personality/mannerisms (and, apparently, my speech) changing. While I don't think I was or am fabulously flamboyant, they weren't all that surprised when I came out. Only a couple of the guys I had met at that time were raging queens, so I don't think the changes my friends noticed had much to do social parroting. And I wasn't any kind of activist, so it wasn't a form of consciously sticking it to the Man.

So, all that was to make this point: for those who have a bit of a effeminate/flamboyant side to their personality, part of the coming out process is becoming comfortable with that and easing up on the self-monitoring. I think the easing up of that self-monitoring is part of why you see "more" of that flamboyance.
posted by CKmtl at 11:04 AM on June 26, 2007


Heavage -- "Cleavage for boys is all the rage" and not confined to flamboyant gays!
posted by ericb at 11:50 AM on June 26, 2007


for those who have a bit of a effeminate/flamboyant side to their personality, part of the coming out process is becoming comfortable with that and easing up on the self-monitoring. I think the easing up of that self-monitoring is part of why you see "more" of that flamboyance.

It's interesting that CKmtl ended with this point -- I think it's interesting that many of us are acting like "straight" mannerisms are the norm, and "gay" mannerisms are the reaction against that norm. It could just as easily be interpreted the other way, that most boys like pretty things and dressing up in mom's clothes and being cute and yay, sparkles!, and that the gender-role process beats it out of boys as they grow up so that they don't get beaten up on the playground.

In other words, gay men are more likely displaying a richer, fuller range of self-expression than straight men -- it's straight men who have lost flamboyance, not gay men who have added it.
posted by occhiblu at 12:01 PM on June 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


"In other words, gay men are more likely displaying a richer, fuller range of self-expression than straight men -- it's straight men who have lost flamboyance, not gay men who have added it."

occhiblu's just said the thing that's been kicking around incoherently in my brain for several hours.

There are non-Western cultures where it's the (presumably heterosexual) men who wear makeup, put feathers in their hair, etc. In fact, in an awful lot of non-human animals, it's the males that are the flashy ones, and the flash is to attract the typically drabber females. Arguably, flamboyant men could be the default, not the deviation.
posted by rtha at 12:22 PM on June 26, 2007


rtha, look at European fashions from a few centuries ago for another example. Wealthy men in the 1700s enjoyed clothing adorned with silk and gold embroidery, they wore silk stockings with their high-heeled shoes, and sported elaborately coiffed wigs. (Women's clothing was similarly ornate, of course.) By today's standards, those French gentlemen hanging around Versailles would be outrageously flamboyant, yet they would probably have considered themselves the height of masculine good looks.

It seems quite plausible to me that the "default" for humans is to be as flashy as possible, and society/fashion occasionally puts the damper on this.
posted by Quietgal at 1:01 PM on June 26, 2007


look at European fashions from a few centuries ago for another example

Dandy.

And today -- Dandyism.net and Lord Whimsy.
posted by ericb at 1:11 PM on June 26, 2007


I realized that the above answers don't address the central question which is why some gay men who want to advertise that they are (possible a subtype of) gay, do so by acting flamboyant.

It comes from the stage - traditionally a hotbed of homosexuality and "immorality". On the stage an actor has to exaggerate physical motions, voice, and even appearance (via costumes and makeup), so that people in the back of the audience can notice them.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:39 PM on June 26, 2007


Quietgal - totally.
posted by rtha at 2:51 PM on June 26, 2007


In other words, gay men are more likely displaying a richer, fuller range of self-expression than straight men -- it's straight men who have lost flamboyance, not gay men who have added it.

I suspect this is very true.
posted by languagehat at 3:29 PM on June 26, 2007


gay men are more likely displaying a richer, fuller range of self-expression than straight men

I want this to be true, but at the same time there's an awful lot of conformism within the gay community. The screaming queen is a recognizable type (like leathermen, twinks, bears, etc.; we* are obsessed with categories) and a lot of gays--after being shut out of so much--just want to belong to something. It's the same reason you can walk around any gayborhood and see literally dozens of men wearing those ugly overpriced Hollister shirts.

*Not me personally, and not y'all of course...let's call it the "famous we."
posted by kittyprecious at 6:30 PM on June 26, 2007


(like leathermen, twinks, bears, etc.; we* are obsessed with categories)

Kinda like -- emo kids, cheerleaders, jocks, preppies, nerds, punks, rockers, mean girls, ravers, born-agains, metalheads, hip-hoppers, gangsters, goths, stoners, cool kids, losers. Amirite? Kthxby.
posted by ericb at 6:55 PM on June 26, 2007


I want this to be true, but at the same time there's an awful lot of conformism within the gay community.

I'm not claiming that the urge to conform is eliminated by being gay, just that there are a wider range of models to which to conform.
posted by occhiblu at 7:54 PM on June 26, 2007


Kinda like -- emo kids, cheerleaders, jocks, preppies, nerds, punks, rockers, mean girls, ravers, born-agains, metalheads, hip-hoppers, gangsters, goths, stoners, cool kids, losers. Amirite? Kthxby.

Rudeness is unnecessary.

Also, you've reinforced my point: there's a much narrower range of options for gays to choose from, and we tend to identify with them much more strongly--not to mention that many continue to do so throughout adulthood, long after those high school stereotypes fade away.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:04 PM on June 26, 2007


I think ericb was a little snarky there, but I disagree that it reinforces your point: gay people can be (and are) emo kids, cheerleaders, jocks, preppies, nerds, punks, rockers, mean girls, ravers, born-agains, metalheads, hip-hoppers, gangsters, goths, stoners, cool kids, losers. While trying to be a gay goth bear is probably...challenging, I'd bet you that someone out there is doing it.
posted by rtha at 9:47 PM on June 26, 2007


In other words, gay men are more likely displaying a richer, fuller range of self-expression than straight men -- it's straight men who have lost flamboyance, not gay men who have added it.

This does sound like a correct assessment.

*dances with invisible feather boa*

ps I am taking back the heterosexual~*~flamboyancy~*~
posted by exlotuseater at 4:46 AM on June 27, 2007


we are obsessed with categories

Obsessed is a bit strong, I think. Most people label each other and label themselves, too, but they also recognize that they can partake of multiple group identities without having to choose just one. Think of it as sort of a Venn diagram with those overlapping circles: I'm in a gay circle. I'm in a leather circle. I'm in a middle-aged circle. I'm in an Air Force brat circle. I'm in a tech circle. I'm in a dog-lover circle. I'm in a cat-lover circle. I'm in a suburban circle. I'm in a Texan circle. And so on.

None of these circles, in itself, defines who I am. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

To me, the choices I have as a gay man are, in fact, wider, not narrower than those of the straight men. Coming out and being forced by necessity to go through the process of having to examine my life and my identity -- as opposed to simply accepting the presupposed social norm -- freed me. I can consider many more options, and I can come and go as I wish or as needed between different social roles as I see fit.

YMMV, it may be different for younger people growing up now or in different places than I did.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:37 AM on June 27, 2007


think ericb was a little snarky there, but I disagree that it reinforces your point...

Bingo. It's human nature to categorize and not the sole province of gays.
posted by ericb at 11:08 AM on June 27, 2007


Flamboyance makes you noticed. A lot of people at Pride events want to get laid. Getting noticed by someone who will want to have sex with you is the first step.

Why are black people so flamboyant with their bling?
posted by klangklangston at 11:49 AM on June 27, 2007


Related.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:32 PM on June 27, 2007


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