June 1999

Why is gay male top of mind when thinking of homosexuality?


    

 

 

  Yawning Bread receives a fair number of letters from straight persons. The one below I received last month, and I thought to myself then, it might be useful to share it with my readers. It's quite typical of the letters I get, though that doesn't mean that it is typical of attitudes "out there". The letter is supportive and understanding, and -- typically -- it is from a straight female. Among heterosexuals writing in, women outnumber men perhaps by 10 to 1. Among gay persons writing in, gay males far outnumber lesbians.

(In case you're wondering, I have the writer's permission to reproduce her letter)

 

Hi there,

I stumbled across your site whilst looking for some information on Singapore in general. I have to say that I find it very very enlightening and am pleasantly surprised that there is actually a fairly (using term very loosely) active gay movement in Singapore.

First, I am a Singaporean Chinese female, early 20s and am straight. My first brush with homosexuality was when I was studying in Perth, where two of my group mates are gay, and proud of it. They are both M'sian Chinese and at that time, I was very very ignorant. I asked alot of questions, and I am very thankful that they did not take offense to all my questions, which upon looking back, seemed very natural to me, but must have been tiresome for them.

You can't blame the rest of us for thinking that being gay is a choice, and that it is something which is wrong. This is because we have become acclimatised, so to speak, in thinking that way, just like people used to think that Aids was a "gay" disease, it takes a lot alot of education, which naturally involves time and money, to educate people that it is not a strictly gay disease.

I can understand the frustrations the minorities suffer, as studying overseas has really opened my eyes. In Singapore, being Chinese is a very "natural" state, by the fact that we are part of the majority. However, when I went to Australia, i became part of the minority, and that really made me feel weird. It's kinda difficult to put it into words, I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

In fact, I have many many gay friends in Australia, to me, the only difference was that we both like men. It was strange at first, but the strangeness was not because they were gay, but rather, they were different. Just like when I first made a friend who is left handed. It was strange because I have always seen right-handers and the first time i see some one writing with his left hand, it's quite strange.

I guess most straight guys have an aversion to the whole idea of "gayness" is because it is an unknown to them. To them, it means "ah kuas" who dress up in drag, in fact, they can't tell the difference because to them, they just lump it all under one category....not straight means gay, not manly means gay, not in men's clothes means gay.

I too, was guilty of thinking that someone can turn gay, either by choice, by circumstances, lack of role models...usual cliches...but this has changed ever since my social circles have included my various gay friends.

Anyway, enough about my ideas.

The main purpose of writing to you is to congratulate you on such an enlightening web site. Your essays are really frank and forthright, and if I was a really blur person before, then by reading through your essays, I understand clearer, what it means to be gay, especially in Singapore. In Australia, there are many support groups and there are many people who champion for their voices to be heard. I believe in Singapore, it will definitely be very much harder....without a doubt. But that doesn't mean that efforts should just die.

In my own little way, I am trying to "educate" my friends back in Singapore, and they are misguided. But i have to say it is difficult.

Nevertheless, please keep up the good work. I read your mailbits, and I thoght you may like to hear my two cents worth of thoughts. I do not have any gay friends in Singapore, in fact, I do not know any Singaporeans who are gay, or who are still in the closet. It is a constant uphill struggle. I do not know how the gay community here look upon a straight female hanging out with them, because in Australia, I am always most welcome, be it in a gay club or in the various strictly gay activities.

So there, that's about it. If u have the time to reply, then hope to hear from you soon. If not, then please take care.

Yours truly,

Sherlyn

I am grateful to Sherlyn for taking the trouble to write. It is always useful, and not least, flattering, to receive feedback. I also thank her for letting me share her thoughts with my readers. Some of my readers are in the closet, and they find it difficult to discuss gay issues with straight people. Letters such as Sherlyn's provide clues to the variety of attitudes, and the possibilities of understanding in society at large. I hope this aids the building of bridges.

There was another reason I wanted to publish Sherlyn's letter. It was that it touched on something which I have been wondering about for some time. Of course I don't have any answers; I am just musing about it.

When Sherlyn wrote about gayness, she had gay males in mind. She spoke about hanging out with them, about sharing an interest in other males. A big part of it has to do with the fact that the starting point for her letter was Yawning Bread, which I must admit, is extremely gay-male-centred, and from her own experience of having gay male friends in Perth. But from knowing other straight women, I can tell you, for sure, that in general, when they think of gayness, they think gay male.

Now, straight males are no different. When they think of gayness, they too think of gay males or cross-dressing ones. As Sherlyn pointed out, "not straight means gay, not manly means gay, not in men's clothes means gay."

Lesbians are somehow buried deeper in people's minds.

  

 In short, what I see is skewing, and when I see skewing, I get pretty intrigued. I shall list below some personal observations, perhaps you have more to add. They don't give us any clear answers, but they sure as hell provide food for thought!   

 

1 Gay males are more numerous than gay females. Most studies indicate a 3:2 or 2:1 ratio. This itself is another skewing, which raises another set of questions, but I would digress to go into it.
2 Gay visibility is even more skewed. If we look at the social scene or just count the out-and-proud males compared to the out-and-proud lesbians, the ratio may well be 5:1 or 10:1. Why is this so? And why has this been a constant throughout history? Possibilities I can think of: 
a Males whether straight or gay tend to be more public, louder.
b Patriarchal societies may demand more conformity from males, in order to preserve the power structure. Non-conforming males therefore are more exposed.
c Because non-conforming males are seen as more threatening to the established order, there are more strictures placed on them; the gay males then react more blatantly against those strictures.
3 Gay men often report that their mothers are more understanding, and eventually more supportive, compared to their fathers, who tend to react more violently to their coming out. (This begs a question: do mothers react more strongly than fathers to lesbian daughters?)
4 While many straight women are homophobic, those who are not and who enjoy gay company, are usually seen in the company of gay men, not lesbians. Go to a gay club of mixed gay men and lesbians, see for yourself.
5 Obviously the straight women who hang out with gay men must find their company interesting, otherwise why would anyone spend time with you? But here is a little question: for whatever it's worth, is there also an undercurrent of sexual interest on the part of the straight women?
6 Straight males tend to find gay males threatening, therefore they react more aggressively towards them. My theory is that all males are conditioned to see themselves as the sexual hunters; they get unnerved when the tables are turned and women take the sexual initiative with them. In (the unenlightened) straight males' minds, the very thought of gay males cause major fuse-blowing. Since gay males are males, they are seen in the role of sexual predators, but since gay males are interested in other males, then it can only mean that the intended prey is, Oh my God!, other males, which includes, Oh no! me!!!! You can imagine then that the straight guys' reaction is a mix of fright and fight.
7 By extension, according to the theory, a society that does not inculcate a strong sexual predator role for the male tends to be less homophobic. Is there evidence for this?
8 While some gay males can be very ghettoish, the more relaxed of them are quite comfortable with straight females. They sometimes describe a commonality of interests, a meeting of minds, a wonderful rapport.
9 In contrast, look at a typical lesbian group, and you often see barricades against straight males. They see straight males as very disruptive to the group. The reason for this is that a small number of straight males are sexually excited by the thought of lesbian sex. They seek out lesbians in the hope of satisfying this fetish. Either they want to watch lesbian sex, or have a lesbian as the third party in their heterosex with their wives or girlfriends. Naturally, the lesbians would hate to have this kind of intrusion that treats them as no more than sex objects.

 

 

 

 

I heard this story some years back; but I am not sure if I have got the details accurate: 

Many straight women who frequented a beach in Rio de Janeiro got sick and tired of being pestered by "macho" males. They then gradually migrated to a gay beach where they were, wonderfully!, left alone, ignored by the gay men. The macho males however soon followed the women to the gay beach, since they liked to ogle at the women in swimsuits, and since they couldn't believe they were not God's gift to womankind. The gay men and the straight men naturally did not mix well at the beach, and eventually the beach became so gay-unfriendly, the gay guys gave up. Net result: everybody lost. No more gay beach, the straight women as annoyed as ever, the straight males, as unwanted as before.

 

These interactions among the various genders -- and I haven't even brought the transsexuals into this discussion! -- are truly fascinating. They provide rich examples and pose intriguing questions. In exploring them, they offer far more clues to the nature of the sexes and the gender roles expected in our society, than a simple exploration of heterosexual boy-girl relationships.

Yet gayness is such a taboo subject, it is too often shut off from analysis. As a human race with an inquiring mind, we are all poorer for that. It's like trying to study geography while restricting ourselves to jungle terrains. Deserts, ice caps, alpine meadows and urban settlement must not be contemplated. Well, were it so, we'd be as knowledgeable as the orang utan living in the trees.

Yawning Bread 


 

 

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