How am I Gay? Let Me Count the Ways.

Here’s a few thoughts on the meaning of “gay” and how I sometimes encounter the word in my life.

I was on YouTube the other day, watching a some clever homegrown production and a couple of the commenters left one liners that said something like, “this is so fucking gay.” I know, I know, you may be shocked to find such crude attacks in YouTube comments, where each post is a miniature School of Philosophers.

My first thought was to respond with “how is that an insult?” because they clearly meant it as such. I can probably predict their witty rejoinder: “Dude, you’re so fucking gay.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d hear that, though this mostly comes to me second-hand, through Jana. Girlfriends occasionally ask her if she worries about the possibly of my coming out of the closet some day.

And thanks to xJane, I might have an answer. She recently tweeted, “DH [Dear Hubby] & I have decided that he’s gay, he just likes pussy and I’m lesbian but like cock.” So maybe that’s me. I’m gay, but I’m sexually attracted to women.

I’ve steeped long enough in that wonderful blended tea of gender theory to arrive at the conclusion that gender is way more mutable than most people believe, but not so long that I don’t believe there’s at least some tiny amount of biological determinism. This gives me a lot of wiggle room, and wiggle I do.  It’s boring to do the straight shuffle when you can sashay down the promenade of life!

Anyhow, so how am I gay?

I’m ok with some physical expression of affection with my male friends, as long as the other guy is comfortable with it. Men are capable of giving the best hugs.

I’d rather spend time with most women or sensitive, verbal men than strong, silent, typically masculine men.

Some of my guy friends and I flirt with each other.

I care a lot about my physical appearance. I can name colors like chartreuse, peacock and kelly green. I liked The Devil Wears Prada. I sometimes wear shirts with flowers on them and women’s jeans. I notice when female coworkers get haircuts and comment on how it enhances their features or works with the shape of their face.

I have no problem with cross-dressing and wearing make-up to a costume event.

I fight for gay rights. This shouldn’t set the Gaydar a beepin’ (any more than fighting for Civil Rights made a white woman black), but I’m sure that it does for some folks.

I’m not saying that any of these things should be labeled “gay,” but they often are in our society, and if this is enough to make someone gay, then maybe I’m gay as far as these characteristics go.

How am I not gay? I’m not sexually attracted to my same gender. I imagine that this is a pretty big one. And I’m comfortable enough with my sexuality that if I were attracted to men, believe me, I would be open about it. I even tried watching some gay porn once, just to see if it would make any impact on me. It didn’t.

I thought about why I’m even writing this. If I’m comfortable and secure, do I even need to write this? Should I follow Keanu Reeves’ “no comment” line whenever someone asks him about his gender preference? In the end, I decided that I want to be as open about this subject as I am about most other things. It’s another topic full of nuance and shades of grey, like most of the other subjects xJane and I blog about here.

I’m not without secrets, but I have very few surprises. Anyone who reads Mind on Fire can get a pretty good picture about who I am without having to read anything between the lines.

Oh, and to anyone who comments that this post is “totally gay” I say, Thank you.


  1. I’m of the mind that gender expression has little to nothing to do with sexual orientation -that is wouldn’t weren’t it for the effect of socialisation and stereotypes in our society.

    Every person (male, female, gay, straight) is a combination of “masculine” and “feminine” traits. The gender that has been assigned to a specific trait is totally arbitrary, and we can see that across cultures what is “masculine” in one culture is the epitome of “femininity” in another. Believing that liking fashion is “feminine” and therefore “gay”, is just the random happenstance of our society.

    So while I identify as gay, my gender expression is a thorough mix of “feminine” and “masculine” attributes – I love to cook, bake, keep a clean house (when I have the energy), decorate, and I love to go camping, ride horses, and be outdoors. That I’m attracted to men has nothing to do with my hobbies and interests.

    It think it is sad that some of Jana’s friends (or anyone) think that you can’t really be straight and be who you are. That there are clearly delineated categories of people, gay & straight, masculine & feminine, and if you transgress the rules of your sex then you must be gay. It has a lot to do with people thinking that “sex” and “gender” are exactly the same thing.

  2. John

    Craig, thanks for making clear the distinction between sexual orientation and gender expression. Maybe one of the reasons I get along well with feminists and queers is precisely because they are more aware of the problems that come with viewing sexuality in such binary terms.

    Also, I’m sorry that our spamcatcher is acting up–but thank you for pointing it out each time! We’ll larn the darn thing and keep it from censoring you! 🙂

  3. Sometimes I feel like telling people I’m gay, but I also sleep with men (rather than just saying I’m bi) because (and it might just be the community I live in here) when people hear I’m bisexual, they tend to think I prefer men but will take a woman, or I only do stuff with women to turn a guy on. The truth of the matter is, though, I love women, though I am attracted to both women and men. So I may sometimes have some no-strings-attached hookups with a guy I trust, but my heart has never been involved with a man. And the love of my life was a woman.

    That’s my big gay rant.

    Oh and the porn thing–girl on girl porn doesn’t do anything for me (neither does porn in general, actually.) So you may actually be one of those secret gays who isn’t turned on by porn!!!

  4. I like to use the term “Flaming-straight”. I occasionally describe myself as such, and have been called this as well.

    In Japan, isn’t this fairly normal guy behavior?

  5. G

    Me too…
    But I am not nearly as open/accepting/comfortable with it as you are.
    I was pretty terrified, as a youth that I was lesbian; I was different than most the hetero girls around me, seemed it could be a possibility. The fear perhaps centered around the reasons you address in your previous post to parents who cut off their children.

    But even now in adulthood, while accepting and supporting of gay rights, I have found myself multiple times intentionally shying away from situations and individuals where my sexuality may come into question.
    hm, not really the direction of your post… just something on my mind.

    thanks for sharing.

  6. John

    AYW, hopefully gender and sexual identity will be handled much like how typical Euro-Americans treat their ethnic mixes: as something that might identify them (I’m part Irish and part Armenian and I’m experimenting with women but mostly into men), but No Big Deal from society’s perspective.

    Hehe, I’m definitely turned on by (some) straight porn.

    Thanks, Kevin–and it’s already online!

    JoeR: I like the flaming straight label! I’m not sure about the Japanese behavior though–there’s definitely some business machismo for the 40 and 50 something generation, and the lines have always been blurry in some demographics (entertainment industry), but I think younger folks are much more open and tolerant. But you touched on a great point, and that’s that “masculine” in the US is definitely different from what’s masculine in Japan (wearing silk butt cloths with lots of fringes can be very masculine in Japan!). Long ways to go before reality reflects yaoi, though! 😛

  7. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been hit on by lesbians—most of the time, I’m completely oblivious until after the fact…I told my mother-in-law about how, while checking in with my cousins for the transvestite cabaret that one had reserved seating for, the (gay) gentleman looked only at me whenever he spoke. Her (my mother-in-law’s) response that I “scan as other”.

    Meanwhile, DH has been called by his straight friends “the gayest straight man” they know—not sure how that was meant, but I think he defied them by accepting it as a complement. I’m far more attracted to the [traditional, american] feminine aspects in him than the [traditional, american] masculine aspects—and I think it’s the same for him toward me.

    I do have to say, though, that I try not to lay claim to a label that I can’t understand fully, lest I end up like this…but at the same time try to let both gays and straights know that I’m not what they might think I am. And I enjoy the confusion when people try to figure me out.

    G—you are one of the hottest women I’ve ever met and I aspire to look like you, even slightly. Whatever part of the gender spectrum you fall on, I’m both attracted to you and want to be you.

    Similarly, John, you’re one of my best girlfriends—as far as “traditional, american” male-female relationships go, ours is far from either.

    Someone above raised the issue that other cultures find different things “masculine”—in college, I had a very good friend who I often described as being “French” rather than “gay”, as most people assumed him to be…

    …sry this is so disjointed & stream of consciousness…back to my hole, now

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone identify me as lesbian, but when I was bald during my cancer treatments I was often mistaken as a boy and this was very hard on me. As a result I went out of my way to wear makeup, and I also wore a wig and obviously-girly clothes. I’ feel very female and I wanted to wear the clothing that identifies me that way to others. Although I do love that I have the social freedom to wear pants, skirts, makeup or whatever manner of clothes appeal to me on a particular day (and wish men had social sanction to do so, too).

    I’ve generally been attracted to femmy guys–or at least guys who were sensitive, soft-spoken, and intellectual/artistic. The muscle-bound manly look doesn’t really appeal to me (although I do love gazing at healthy and well-toned bodies). And John can attest to the fact that I’m thrilled when he wears a skirt or makeup or when he’s pushing other social mores.

    I find it frustrating and a bit tragic that people are so ‘concerned’ about my husband’s sexual orientation and wonder why this should even be an issue…so I applaud John’s efforts to discuss on his blog and I appreciate all the comments shared by others on this thread.

  9. actually, my husband just changed his mind, apparently I am now simply “a gay man” with no qualifications…although if I actually had a penis, I might end up playing with it all day…

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